Phil Willmott: 10 Things I Look For In An Actor

September 29, 2016

For the past few weeks I've been performing in Crime and Punishment at the Scoop in the evenings and rehearsing a revival of Queen Lear for the Tristan Bates Theatre during the day. A schedule that should have felt gruelling, and which I was rather dreading, has actually been a pleasure, mainly thanks to two companies of actors who are not only talented, fearless and creative, but also lovely people. The Crime company is very young – appropriate for a show about student alienation – and the Lear company is more established, but somehow both teams share the same work ethic.


Companies don't always gel as successfully as these two have, and it got me thinking about the kind of actor I prefer to direct, although I realise it may highlight my deficiencies as a director as much as anything else. Here are 10 things I hope any actor I cast will be able to bring to the project.

  1. Enough intellectual curiosity to start rehearsals having read and thought about the whole play and not just the lines.

  2. The bravery to begin the rehearsal process with an open mind and not arrive with a preconceived performance the actor may struggle to leave behind.

  3. A willingness to fully participate in group analysis of the play, characters and dialogue and to take this as a starting point for the performance.

  4. The courage to bring a fledgling performance, based on these group discoveries, to the rehearsal process that can be refined and polished. This is much more interesting for everyone than just showing up to be told what to do.

  5. The ability to learn lines, or the generosity to struggle with line-learning demons at home, so company rehearsals aren't lost to coaching the actor through memorising the text.

  6. The skill to retain and reproduce blocking, and the character's motivation (which fuels it).

  7. A voice and a body that's adaptable enough to convey anything the actor desires, uninhibited by speech impediments or lack of coordination.

  8. The courage to take a developing performance to raw and vulnerable places within the safety of the rehearsal room.

  9. An understanding of other cast members' needs and processes, and the ability to embrace them alongside the actor's own.

  10. An appreciation of how important every single performance is and the desire to give each audience member an experience that will engage him or her with theatre for life.



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