I finished my last post with a memory of me trying to hold a tune in my head while I was actually on stage. Now this is not the time for that, obviously — when you are ‘on’, you should be in the moment. I usually am, given all the things there are to think about together.
I also believe that just before going on is not the right time. Learn it and dismiss it until you need it. Easier said than done sometimes. Especially with filming schedules. I just about knew two particular speeches when I had to learn them on the day of filming, and was pleased eventually to hear myself making sense.
The late Kenneth McClellan had a story on this subject. Ken had a fund of acting stories, some were ‘chestnuts’, and I can’t vouch for this one, not being able to identify the film from IMDb. But this is what he told me.
Ken was in a film, sitting waiting to be called, in company (distinguished company) with Derek Jacobi and Michael Hordern.
Sir Michael was playing a hotel manager, and was wheeling up and down the floor trying to reel off a speech he was about to have to give in the scene. It concerned the hotel’s enormous wage bill because of the necessary number of staff.
“There are the doormen — and the floormen — and the drivers — and the liftmen — the waiters — and the kitchenmen — and the boilermen …… and furnace men ….. and …. and the coal porters …”
“And the George Gershwins” Sir Derek reminded him.
“And the Noel Cowards” Ken obligingly contributed.
Hordern glared at them. “Thank you”, he acknowledged bitterly, “Most helpful.”