“Just because society, and government, and whatever was different 100 years ago, doesn’t mean that people didn’t have sex, pick their nose, or swear.”
As we look at a season filled with stories either set or written long ago, it’s interesting to think about how much or really little we have changed. 100 years ago was not so much different then us, 400 years ago was a little different, but people were people, they ate, drank and slept the same as us, felt pain, love, anger and loss, the same as we do.
I personally have a tendency to put more antiquated roles on a pedestal and look at them through an ‘age filter’, if that makes any sense. History classes teach us to see people of the past as agents of some event or zeitgeist, when in reality they all fell in love and had shitty days and disappointed people they cared about and read books and had a favorite flavor of something and probably thought some of their contemporaries were total assholes. We often define historical figures by the time in which they lived, but to them it was just another ordinary day, not something to react against. A bit obvious, yes, but food for thought nonetheless.
Also, including David Tennant being grumpy in something Shakespearean. I love watching him bring these great and hallowed roles to a real, playable level. He makes Hamlet someone you could bump into on the street.
We as actors have to think that way as well, Juliet is just another angsty teen, Billy Bigelow is a hard working man who has bad days like the rest of us, and Bilbo Baggins is all of us everyday we step outside our door. We can’t put these characters on pedestals, they are that kind of special. To show everyone how special they are we need to be true to them and make sure they have bad days, pick their nose and swear.
That is the art of acting, that is what makes theatre so special.