John Barrymore – Actor, Legend, Seducer… Corpse. One of my favourite lines from this fantastic play and also a line that hints at the tragedy of this great man.
This is my first time acting (well, apart from my legendary Scrooge in Waid Academy’s Christmas Carol circa 1996) and what I’m finding fascinating about the rehearsal process is the character research (and the sword fighting!)
John Barrymore was an eccentric, a larger than life character who one could easily play as a ham. While a lot of this role is comedy that plays on that aspect of him, my biggest challenge in trying to get to the heart of JB is to portray his inner turmoil. He once said “The only time I’m at ease is when I can bury this damn profile of mine behind funny whiskers and a false nose. I need a barrier, something to hide behind.” While I’m trying to play him essentially hiding behind his “sterling attributes,” I also feel it’s important that his drunken eccentric demeanour is not the only thing the audience go away with.
Barrymore was a tortured soul as well as a bon vivant and he feels his chance to instruct Andrew Rally to play hamlet is his last lunge at “cosmic redemption.”
It is this side that I feel we can all relate to. We are all, in part, living behind our own barriers and the key to life is to break through them. Sadly, Barrymore’s demons got the better of him but he should be remembered and celebrated for being essentially human as well as his “legendary” status.
Here’s to you Blythe!
Dave (John Barrymore)