So here we are, five months since the first day of rehearsal, four months since we opened on tour and three months since we opened in the West End. For someone who, when asked what I wanted for my 18th birthday, asked only for X-Men on DVD, this has been a pretty special few months. What is hard to put into words is the amount I have learned from working with my co-stars Ian, Patrick and Owen and our director Sean Mathias.
When you come off-stage for a few moments and fancy a quick toilet break, make sure the microphone is switched off. Don’t ask how I learned this pearl of wisdom.
It has been a wholly fluid production of tiny, almost imperceptible differences each night which I believe has enriched the characters and the story, allowed us to delve deeper into Pinter’s play, and made me a better actor.
Ian’s costume is full of hidden detail. From the rips on his cuffs to his dirty plimsolls, every thread tells Spooner’s story.
But what have they learned from me? These actors who have done it all are now entering into territory where I am the veteran. I have appeared in two NT Live productions, so I am waiting patiently for Ian, Patrick and Owen to knock gently on my dressing room door on 15th December at 6.45pm to ask for advice and encouragement.
1. The previous night we’ll have performed in front of 800 people. On 15th December, we will perform to more than 100 times that number, and even more via NT Live Encore screenings. That’s the equivalent of playing to nearly five times the capacity of the Hollywood Bowl. Or more than 13 times the capacity of Sydney Opera House.
2. But once the show has started, the audience in the theatre is what we need to pay attention to. This is a live broadcast of a play, not a film of the play. If the audience in the theatre is laughing, then audiences in cinemas around the world are laughing too.
3. The NT Live Sound team can hide that microphone pack anywhere, and I mean anywhere. The microphone itself might be hidden in your hairline or inside your collar, but I’ve often had the battery pack (about the size of matchbox) lodged securely in my flesh-toned briefs.
4. Remember that your microphone is always on. When you come off-stage for a few moments and fancy a quick toilet break, make sure the microphone is switched off. Don’t ask how I learned this pearl of wisdom.
5. We will hopefully receive standing ovations all over the world, all at the same time. And then, when you’re in the bath and least expect it, a standing ovation might be taking place at an Encore screening in 2017.