Monday, August 18, 2008

So you want to be an actor?

If you do, then do your own thing, and do it as well as you can. Forget about becoming a star. Some of the stars are not very good, they just had the right contacts or the right family.

Be true to yourself. Do good work and you’ll get a following of real people, even if you’re not on the front page of some awful newspaper. Don’t give up. Samuel Beckett said "Try again. Fail again. Fail Better".

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What we've done

With the run of More Lives than One in Edinburgh finishing, it seems a good moment to think back over everything we've done so far. Since the company was formed in 1991, we've put on following plays (if there's an asterisk before the title then it means we did the show in both English and French):

*One for the Road by Harold Pinter

Love Scene by Robert Coover

*Summer Lightning adapted from PG Wodehouse by G. Havergal and B. Bray

*Faith Healer by Brian Friel

Herman by Stewart Conn

Lunch & Harry's Christmas by Steven Berkoff

*Abigail's Party by Mike Leigh

*The Hothouse by Harold Pinter

*The Clearing by Helen Edmundson

Not I, Rough for Theatre 1 & 2, Play, Footfalls, Krapp's Last Tape, etc; by Samuel Beckett

Art by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

The Misanthrope by Molière, adapted by Tony Harrison

Ashes to Ashes and Monologue by Harold Pinter

The Dinner Game (Le Dîner de Cons) by Francis Veber, translated by Barbara Bray

Brighton Beach Scumbags by Steven Berkoff

Trial by Jury by Gilbert & Sullivan (musical)

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness

A Slight Ache and Ashes to Ashes by Harold Pinter

Alfie by Bill Naughton

84 Charing Cross Road by James Roose-Evans

More Lives Than One - Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More reviews of More lives than one

This one has some extracts from the show, and is referenced here, where they were supposed to review us, but didn't.

Cecil Boys takes a shine to the chaise lounge here, with a glance at my socks to boot:
With a smooth and mellifluous voice Clark gives Wilde lovers an informative and well researched show, peppered with excerpts from the great writer's plays. As the actor says, 'Today, Oscar would be tickled pink by his current respectability' and Clark matches this with his vibrant socks. An enjoyable and revealing evening for any Oscar Wilde fan.
Claire Smith is a bit less complimentary. Some of her readers disagree however, bless their socks.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cats on stage

I remember being in a dreadful production of “Andromaque” by Racine when stray ginger cat, bushy tail in the air, come strolling across the stage several nights in a row (they could never catch him) and wailing in a perfect imitation of the leading lady.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Horror stories #3 and #4

So what else can go wrong? I was once two floors above the stage when I heard my cue over the intercom. The audience waited.

They also waited when I was 15 minutes in to my one-man-show Un Gros Câlin (Cuddles) in French when all the lights fused. I carried on for an hour, in the dark, while the audience waited for the lights to come back on. They stayed, but I suppose they couldn’t have found their way out anyway.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Horror story #2: Props

As George in a production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? preparing to come on with a gun behind my back to pretend to be about to blow Martha’s brains out, when I found there was no gun! Stage management cock up. All I could find was a hammer. You should have seen the faces of the other actors who were expecting me to do a number with a gun.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Horror story #1: Drying

To dry is to forget your lines. I can remember dryng stone dead twice in The Business of Murder at the Grand Opera House, York: enough said.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Another review

Can't seem to find this review online, so here it is in its entirety, with thanks to Stewart Conn for letting me reproduce it here:

AUGUSTINE'S (VENUE 152) 41George IV Bridge ... 4-10, 12-17 Aug 08 7.25pm

Dear Conjunction Theatre Co. presents
MORE LIVES THAN ONE: Oscar Wilde & the Black Douglas
Written and performed by Leslie Clack : Directed by Patricia Kessler

In pools of light are a chaise-longue, a stool and a chair, a table bearing a large tome and on a plant-stand, an elegant vase of flowers. The varied social milieus these signify reveal themselves throughout the action. Similarly, in a series of transformation scenes as seamless as they are mesmerising, Leslie Clack encapsulates the personalities not only of Wilde but of those central to his downfall.

Dramatically conjured up are the malevolent Lord Queensberry, father of Wilde's beloved 'Bosie', and whom he had the folly to sue; and at his trial the implacable Edward Carson, a former friend at Trinity but now an adversarial defence counsel,

As a counterpoint to Wilde's tragic progress comes a crisp mosaic of witticisms and fictional vignettes. Dorian Gray reels back from his portrait. In the classic scene from The Importance Of Being Earnest an aghast Lady Bracknell utters the word, 'handbag'. It is a joy to experience the text's lucid gathering of momentum allied to the poise, insight, impeccable timing and sheer intelligence of Clack's performance. This finds a perfect match in the clarity and pacing of Patricia Kessler's production

As the threads unravel, the play becomes profoundly moving, not least in a letter Wilde's mother wrote after his prison term, begging him – at whatever price – not to leave the country; and a religious order's blunt rejection of his plea for sanctuary. Heightening the emotional impact are the total stillness accompanying The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and the tracing of Wilde's last days, to his death (or the last of his deaths...) in Paris.

The real triumph is that Clack's theatricality never aspires simply to dazzlement for its own sake. We come out indelibly reminded that the grounds on which Wilde (be he good or bad) was persecuted were not moral but basically – and brutally – political.

Stewart Conn
6th Aug 2008

Getting started

Why become an actor? Even as a child I was a bit of a performer, though only among my familiars. In both my mother’s and father’s families there were and are many very funny people, natural raconteurs, entertainers. As I lost my father very young, these uncles, aunts, grandparents were my role models. I was always a raconteur, a joke teller, but suppressed my desires to become an actor and went into teaching. Only at the age of 32 when living and teaching in France did I kick over the traces and join a theatre group. I won a Conservatoire award, gave up teaching and have never looked back (or is it forward?) since.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An audience of one - the sequel to the sequel

When I first played the Edinburgh fringe in 1978, the first night I played to an audience of one. He wrote to me afterwards to say how much the show had affected him and that he'd taken up acting and performed at Edinburgh himself.

In these days of google and instantaneous information, you forget how it used to be. I knew he was a solicitor in a small English town, but how to get ahold of him? I had a job for the BBC on Crimewatch, recreating interesting and gruesome crimes for the viewing public. We had police advisors on the show and one of them came from the same small English town. So in the pub after a long day looking shifty and suspicious, I asked him to bring in the phonebook the next day so I could look him up.

‘Who are you looking for?’, he asked.

‘It’s such a common name, I won’t even bother to tell you’, I said.

‘Go on, try me.’

I told him.

There was a silence. Bloody silly question, how many people can there be in the world with that name? Hundreds, thousands even.

‘The solicitor?’

‘Er, yes.’

‘He’s my son-in-law.’

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A reviewer writes (in French)

Emily Eells also came to last year's production of More Lives than One and wrote a review of it in French. If you can't read French, she says that's a jolly good show and you should come and see it. Actually, she was very pleased about the French extracts, saying:

Le texte, rédigé en anglais, est ponctué de touches françaises, notamment lors d’une longue scène extraite de Salomé, jouée entièrement en français par Les Clack. Sa pièce va jusqu’à surenchérir sur la façon dont Wilde parsème son texte de mots français, car il emploie un anglicisme anachronique pour désigner le succès du jeune Wilde, qui est reçu ­ et adulé - à Paris comme 'un people'. Cet audacieux néologisme, qui consiste à mettre au singulier le mot collectif 'people’, est une autre façon d’illustrer le titre de la pièce, en disant que Wilde possédait plusieurs visages, et qu’il a vécu plus qu’une seule vie. Espérons que cette pièce aura ‘more lives than one’, et que le projet de la rejouer à Paris au printemps se concrétisera. A ne pas manquer.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An audience of one - the sequel

Two years after I last played the fringe, I received a letter, via my director in Paris. The letter said Dear Mr Clack, in 1978 I was the only spectator at the world premiere of your play Cuddles at the Edinburgh Festival. It is still the funniest play I have ever seen, and since I saw you I have taken up acting and this year performed at the Edinburgh Festival…

This was a great lesson for me. Often when audiences are small, you really don’t feel like going on. But you never know who’s out there and the effect you might have on them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A reviewer writes

A review! Maria Kesia Greenwood came to an earlier run of the show and reviewed it for, an "Electronic Journal for the Exchange of Information on Current Research, Publications and Productions Concerning Oscar Wilde and His Worlds." Goodness. She has some nice things to say :

When Les Clack gives us a scene from The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell comes over as far more sinister than Dame Edith Evans ever played her (in A. Asquith's film classic), a kind of sussurating serpent who assesses the man who wants to marry her daughter with a stupidity so crass that its cruelty is masked by laughter.

Here's that scene from the film:

Now of course, you need to come to the production in Edinburgh to see our version.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Life and death on the fringe

In 1978, the first time I played the fringe, I totalled 18 people in my first week of my run. I was the only show at the venue (The French Institute) not to have had a reviewer from The Scotsman. Well…unknown actor, unknown author, play, director…who’s interested? So in desperation on the Tuesday of the second week I went to the phone box on the camp site where we were staying, and putting on my best Scottish accent, phoned The Scotsman.

I asked for the editor and incredibly, they put me through. In character as an irate Scotsman I told him that I’d seen the best show so far in the Festival (mine) and that the poor actor performing (me) was dying the death from lack of audiences, due to lack of review etc. etc. and it was scandalous that he hadn’t sent a reviewer along. Damn me if he didn’t apologise and promise to send a reviewer asap. Which he did. It was Robin (or Robbie) Dinwoodie, who gave me a good reviw, and I got great audiences…for the last three nights.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

An audience of one

It was thirty years ago that I last played the fringe. Difficult, not to say hell. I was a complete novice.

I had translated a French monologue Un Gros Câlin after the novel by Emile Ajar, and driven all the way from the south of France with wife, two small children and director. The only accommodation we could find was a caravan on the site at Port Seton, alongside Cockenzie power station. Opening night produced one man on stage and one in the audience.

As I had never even done a run through, we decided to go ahead. The man was great: did everything right - laughed in the right places, gave the right sort of silence when moved, applauded all on his own at the end. We chatted then that was that. Off he went.