For too long, too many people took Graves to be little more than a pretty face. Either that, or they glanced at the roles he took on and confused actor with character. Take Scudder, the bit of rough who captures the heart of Maurice in the eponymous Merchant-Ivory film. EM Forster's character is so ridiculously idealised as to be virtually unplayable, but Graves just went for it, accent and all, as he'd done with the insufferably bouncy Freddie in A Room With a View. Even there, he gave the character depth and heart.
His stage career has been more mixed. 'Tis Pity She's A Whore at the National was a mistake, but watching him opposite Vanessa Redgrave in A Madhouse in Goa you suddenly realised that they share an approach. They hurl themselves into roles, no holds barred. With Graves you're unaware of the safe mechanisms of technique. His wholeheartedness gives off a tremendous sense of energy. Which is what acting is all about, isn't it?
'The Iceman Cometh', is at the Almeida, N1 (0171-359 4404) Day seats and returns only.