(Sher’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/7.)
“How do you learn all those lines?”
This question is the one that the public most frequently ask of actors. We laugh about it, laugh at them for being so shallow – as though learning lines was the great mystery in acting.
Well, I’ve stopped laughing. It’s an age thing. In recent years, I’ve started doing something which I’d have disapproved of before: learning all the lines before rehearsals begin. It’s the only way now. How, as a younger actor – as one of the Dirty Duckers in Stratford in 82, partying all night, rehearsing all day, performing in the evening – how I found time to learn lines as well, I’ve absolutely no idea.
When you’re young, it seems so straightforward: you learn the lines and that’s that. But when you’re older, you’re aware of a series of tests and obstacles ahead, each of which will put pressure on you, and the lines will often be the first casualty. So…