From: Davina Tung
***transcribed from the album "Matching Tie and Handkerchief"***
Now it's time for Great Actors, introduced as usual by Alan Semen.
Alan: Sir Edwin, which has been for you the most demanding of the great
Shakesperean tragic heroes that you've played?
Sir Edwin: Well, of course this is always a difficult one, but I think the
answer must be Hamlet.
A: Which you played at Stratford in 1963.
E: That's right, yes, I found the role a very taxing one. I mean, er, Hamlet
has eight thousand two hundred and sixty-two words, you see.
E: Oh yes. Othello's a bugger too, mind you--especially the cleaning up
afterwards, but he has nine hundred and forty-one words less than Hamlet.
On the other hand, the coon's got more pauses, sixty-two quite long ones, as
I recall. But then they're not so tricky, you see--you don't have to do so
much during them.
A: You don't.
E: No. No, not really. Andd they give you time to think what sort of face
you're going to pull during the next speech so that it fits the words you're
saying as far as possible.
A: How many words did you have to say as King Lear at the Aldwitch in '52?
E: Ah, well, I don't want you to get the impression it's just a question of the
number of words... um... I mean, getting them in the right order is just as
important. Old Peter Hall used to say to me, "They're all there already--
now we've got to get them in the right order." And, er, for example, you
can also say one word louder than another--er, "To *be* or not to be," or
"To be *or* not to be," or "To be or not to *be*"--you see? And so on.
E: And of course inflection. In fact, Lear has only seven thousand and fifty-
four words, but the real difficulty with Lear is that you've got to play
him all--you know, shaky legs and pratfalls and the dentures falling out,
'cause he's ancient as hell, and then there's that heartrending scene when
he goes right off his nut--you know, "bliddle dee dee diddle deebibble dee
dee dibble beep beep beep," and all that, which takes it out of you, what
with having the crown to keep on. So Lear is tiring, although not difficult
to act, because you've only got to do despair and a bit of anger, and
they're the easiest.
A: Are they? What are the hardest?
E: Oh... um, fear.
E: Mmm, yes, never been able to get that--can't do the mouth. I look all
cross--it's a very fine line.
A: What else?
E: Apart from fear? Er, jealousy can be tricky... but for me, the most
difficult is being in love--you know, that openmouthed, vacant look that
Vanessa Redgrave's got off to a tee. Can't do that at all. And also I'm
frightfully awkward when I try that happy prancing, you know. Which is a
shame, really, because otherwise Romeo's quite good for me--only three
thousand and eight and quite a lote of climbing and kissing.
A: Sir Edwin--get stuffed.
E: I've enjoyed it.