(Ben Hoyle's interview appeared in The Times of London, October 13, 2009.)


Young actors too impatient for success, says Dame Judi Dench

Too many young actors are bent on achieving instant screen stardom and fail to develop their craft by learning from their predecessors in the theatre, Dame Judi Dench believes.

The Oscar-winner and unofficial national treasure rarely gives interviews and almost never criticises other performers. So the people who came to listen to her at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival were surprised to hear her scolding the new generation of actors for showing so little interest in the history of theatre.

Her comments brought an instant response from Rupert Goold, the most in-demand young director in Britain after a string of strikingly bold productions of everything from Shakespeare to Oliver!

He told The Times that it was already hard enough to find fresh ways of doing things in the theatre because “most of the audience is middle-aged, the critics are all middle-aged” and it often feels as if “you are seeking to win the approval of your parents all the time”. The result can be a caution that “strangles theatre [and] having a senior actor saying things like that could further strangle it”.

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(The following article by Benedict Nightingale appeared in the Times of London, October 13.) 

Rupert Goold is wrong: Judi Dench is not 'strangling theatre'

To claim that Dame Judi Dench is “strangling theatre” by suggesting that younger actors ought to have a bit more respect for the traditions to which they belong, as Rupert Goold has done, is insulting, absurd and maybe even self-serving. The director is hugely gifted, but he’s surely guilty of Year Zero, clean-slate thinking.

For him, freshness is too often about imposing his own clever-clever ideas on plays, not in discerning and fulfilling an author’s aims and intentions. And that’s not a generational problem, as Goold must have discovered when members of his own cast rebelled against his reinterpretation of King Lear, with the result that it was a bit more Shakespearean when it moved from Liverpool to London.

On the other hand, he’s right to defend younger actors from any inference that they’re less able than their predecessors. He’s equally right to add that they’re more physically adroit than, say, many members of the Gielgud generation. One can only judge the quality of actors from their performances on stage and my own recent experiences tell me that the future of acting and therefore of the British theatre is very bright indeed. Just last month I went to the little Bush Theatre in West London to see a play called 2nd May 1997, was delighted by a mainly young cast, and thrilled by a total unknown, a recent RADA graduate called Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

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(Michael Simkins's article appeared in The Guardian, October 13.)

Is Judi Dench right – are young actors only obsessed with fame?

Wannabe stars don't always understand the importance of theatrical history, but it's showbusiness that's to blame

The American star Jason Robards once told me about the first time he ever walked onto a stage to rehearse a professional part, requiring him to enter through a door and deliver his first line. He'd no sooner turned the handle and put one foot through the doorframe when the director screamed from the stalls, "ALREADY BAD!"

To young actors jostling for a space in the acting profession, this must seem typical of how they're regarded by the oldies. Experienced performers are always bewailing the shortcomings of young actors, the most recent of them being Judi Dench, who, in a rare interview last night at the Cheltenham literature festival, lamented the fact that, although talented, young graduates show no interest in developing their craft through studying their predecessors or the traditions of the profession.

(Read more)


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