There is a particular feeling that accompanies the portrayal of someone who actually lived. It’s difficult to articulate. It isn’t quite so grandiose as to merit the label of “responsibility”, nor should it be cheapened with the label of “challenge” or “thrill”.
Perhaps the best way to describe it is to reference a child walking in to an antique shop filled with fragile items of a bygone age: intense curiosity accompanied with a sense that if you aren’t careful you might find yourself face to face with a lot of very angry adults.
That feeling was with me throughout my preparation for Siegfried Sassoon in The Burying Party.
The thing is, being overly careful means you are more likely to break something, as the child in the antique store is probably able to confirm, so at a certain point in time you have to let go as a performer and just do your job.
It’s a fine balance to strike, and one that no actor can achieve on their own. As with all productions, there comes a point in time where a leap of faith in to the director’s vision is required. Sometimes that leap of faith is justified, sometimes not, and all the actor can do is their best.
Every so often, a project comes along where the leap of faith happens almost without one noticing, so total is one’s belief in the team of people surrounding you.
The Burying Party is one such experience.
From the first read-through, the sense of apprehension all but vanished, and I was able to enjoy the ride. What a ride.
I am not prone to superstition, but film is not unlike sport in that one can train and prepare for every minute detail, and the ultimate difference between success and failure will be entirely outside of your control. As such, over time one comes to notice the moments of chance during a production, and whether they seem to be aligning in one’s favour or not.
To say they aligned in our favour would be an understatement. It was the sense of every slight bounce and ricochet of the ball going our way. It is hard not to feel as though success is somehow pre-ordained under such circumstances.
It is a joy to be able to say that chance seemed to favour a story in which I have become so invested. These lives mattered. These people and their viewpoints mattered. As I have said before, we are living in alarming times, and turning our eyes to a century ago when the shortsightedness of nationalism led to the decimation of a generation seems advisable.
We know where these roads lead. We have been told by those who have walked them.
Perhaps we should listen.
- Sid Phoenix
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