Off-Cut Twenty Two

Actors often approach me saying that there experience and training has all been theatre based and so they have great difficulty making the transition to television.

But when GRETA SCACCHI was interviewed by Michael Cathcart on Radio National's "Arts Today" (16th February 2001) she explained that her training had all been from a classical theatre base but that she had no difficulty applying that training to the other mediums of film and television. So maybe the style/type of the training actors pursue is a significant factor in ultimately practicing a process which works in all mediums.

Her original passion was for theatre which came she believed through having poetry read out loud to her and also having to read it out loud as a child. It was the love of words and speech and poetry which first inspired her. She finds that in film the scripts are not very carefully worded and there isn't a great reverence for the writer in the way there is in the theatre. In America for example she says actors will constantly change the dialogue without even asking the directors permission. There is this view that acting is more important than writing and so the actor can, as they would say, "make it my own" - but in the theatre there is the view that the text is sacred and that you enhance the text but you respect it and don't change it.

At this time GRETA was for the first time in her career working on a Harold Pinter play. The fascinating thing about "Old Times" for her was that not only was every comma and full stop important but the length of pauses was also defined. It was she said a rigorously strict text to follow. Despite this it was scary because although the script was strictly adhered to there was such vitality in the poetic choice of the words that each performance was quite different in what has been going on underneath the lines. She said therefore even though they were now approaching opening night she didn't get the feeling as she normally would at this stage that she knows exactly what she was doing. The performance is more precise than in any material she has ever worked on but how it is going to live, where it is going to take her and if it is going to take the audience anywhere is still a mystery for her. As the writing is very subjective the play becomes a different experience for each member of the audience - it's like an abstract painting. This is writing of extraordinary flexibility and ambiguity.

In explaining the play GRETA was trying not to be too literal for things which were true one minute in the play would not be true the next. She explained that one thing which was true for her character Kate is that she doesn't like definitions. GRETA explained that Kate says at one point that "I don't care for harsh lines". Kate likes the sea because you "can't say where it begins or ends" so she finds things easy where they are not defined… she doesn't want boundaries. Although GRETA was trying to explain why she was finding it hard to be definite about some aspects of this character it also feels as if simultaneously she is giving a wonderfully poetic description of the ingredients of a good performance.


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