My Week: Peter Eyre
First-night nerves mingle with concern for Jude Law as the actor takes on the role of the Ghost in a new London production of 'Hamlet'
Saturday 06 June 2009
Everybody's tired as we did previews and rehearsals all last week for Hamlet at the Donmar, in which I'm playing the ghost of Hamlet's father.
Everyone is getting a bit twitchy about the opening on Wednesday. In the afternoon we have rehearsal. The director, Michael Grandage, is the reason I'm in Hamlet; I worked with him twice before and he's such a marvellous person to direct you and rehearse you. He doesn't allow the actors to have friends in previews because he thinks if they tell you that you look hideous in that hat or something, it can destroy your confidence.
I am in a complete state of anxiety because when I came home last night I discovered I had no broadband connection. I spend most of the morning on the phone to someone trying to get it connected.
You have to really tune up your voice and your brain and your body. I arrive at the theatre for another rehearsal and when people look at me funny I tell them that I'm having a technological breakdown. A friend of mine is coming to the show tonight and while I don't get nervous with friends coming, there are certain people you want to please. After the show he sends me a text and I wonder if I should ring him to discuss it. Then I remember what an old actress told me years ago, that if anybody ever gives you a compliment then just accept it and change the subject because if you go on asking questions, they'll end up saying something negative.
It's opening night. You have to be very aware that on opening night the audience is much more nervous. You have to appear to be relaxed, then you relax the audience. It's a big responsibility. I get nervous but I give myself a talking to. I don't read my cards from the cast until after the performance because they can make me incredibly upset. Afterwards, there's a big party. It's also Penelope Wilton's birthday, who plays Gertrude, so we all go out for a celebratory dinner.
Unlike a lot of actors, I read all the reviews. If somebody says something horrible it is rather upsetting and if someone says something nice you have a little glow for about 10 minutes. I really read them for Jude Law, who's playing Hamlet. I know he was getting a lot of publicity and speculation about whether he could handle the part, which I think is absurd as he is a complete theatre actor. I've known Jude for years, he and I were on Broadway doing shows near each other. He's one of the most open, emotionally free people and actors.
Another performance today. Playing the ghost of Hamlet's father is more complicated than the two other parts I've played previously because the part consists of two very long incredibly complex Shakespearean speeches. You have to work very hard to make the language come alive. It's quite a challenge.
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