Sharing a room with superstars
The other day I was on the wireless speaky box on The Kiosk, Phantom FM’s arts and culture show, reviewing Jane Eyre at the Gate and the Proustian enigma within a riddle within a self-obsessed bubble that is Fade Street.
Inevitably, while discussing the former, the question came up about star names in theatrical productions, and whether it was a good thing or a bad thing that Andrea Corr is playing the lead in Jane Eyre, and what effect does having the likes of Alan Rickman playing a lead role over in the Abbey, in John Gabriel Borkman, have?
The question was not so much a judgement on both actors’ performances – Andrea Corr acquits herself well in the role and while I would have reservations about the production, they wouldn’t be related to Corr’s acting. Similarly, I though Borkman was a fine production with some flaws, but Rickman handled the role effectively and convincingly. The question was more surrounding what the effects of having a superstar in the cast are.
Sara Keating, my fellow guest on the show and a critic with his newspaper, made the point that Rickman’s performance had led to a surge in comments on the Abbey’s online discussion forum, which is usually a useful source of information and banter; however, most of these comments were directed at just how gorgeous Mr Rickman is in the flesh (no doubt Stephen Brennan is having the same problem in Jane Eyre) and how utterly, unbelievably fantastic the show is.
So, in the glare of his leading lights, much of the chatter, and indeed the media coverage, has been hijacked by the fact that the Sheriff of Nottingham is in the room. And indeed, every person who heard I had seen Jane Eyre wanted to know how she of the diddley-eye music got on.
All things been equal, I love the fact that big-name actors still find the time to earn their keep on the stage, and it is terrific for audiences to get the chance to see these actors up close. Film and theatre are such radically different beasts that you get a much greater appreciation of just how bloody difficult acting is when you see it in the same darkened room, as opposed to on an indifferent screen (in the same way that you get a much better idea of how good a musician is when you are at a gig, as opposed to enduring an episode of the Po-X Factor). Audiences get an appreciation of the craft, and actors get to hone their skills. Win, win.
Also, the notion of these A-listers treading the boards seems kind of quaint when you take it out of context. Could you, for example, imagine a famous musician taking the time to play gigs with a local band for an extended run in his local venue? How great would it be, for example, to pop down to the Workmans in Dublin or Crane Lane in Cork and see Steve Earle cutting it up with a crack covers outfit?
There are, of course, cold hard cash concerns to be considered. I’m pretty much in the dark when it comes to how much actors are paid at the theatrical level, and no doubt most A-listers do the theatre gig as a steady, perhaps lucrative earner in-between the larger cash-cow films; but surely musicians could do the same between albums and touring? Yet apart from the odd side-projects (that are often, let’s be honest, sub-standard) this doesn’t appear to be the case.
So come on Steve, when are you going to set up that covers band? Oh, and if you need a bass player, I might be free.