chapter  9
14 Pages

Rory Kinnear: Paul Prescott


What is Shakespearean acting? Does it require distinct equipment? How is Shakespearean acting any different than acting per se? Is the alpha and omega of a Shakespearean actor’s job to ‘communicate the play to the audience’? And what might that mean? Is it sufficient to have merely ‘a rudimentary understanding’ of the play you are in, or does Shakespearean playing, as Lewes insisted, demand ‘great flexibility of conception [and] nicety of observation’? And what of emotion and motivation? According to Mamet’s antiMethod polemic True and False (1999), the quest for a character’s back-story and inner emotional life is a con foisted on the student of acting by vainglorious quacks. Yet for Lewes, writing before Stanislavsky (let alone the Method), the ‘tangled web of motives’ must be untangled if the actor is to do justice to Shakespeare (and distinguish his own efforts from those of Charles Kean.) Lewes may also call for ‘constant verisimilitude’ – but verisimilar to what? This piece cannot hope to answer these questions, but they and the epigraphs from which they spring might be borne in mind as terms of reference throughout this account of one actor’s Shakespeare.