Sunday, 20 May 2012

An interesting look at the Method.

My dear friend Penny Noble who is a psychotherapist & counsellor has had an article published in Universal Film magazine, entitled “Scenes of the Method-ological nature” it can be found here: & is a very interesting read for all who are interested in the performing arts.
Her article begins on page 55.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Latest addition to my Chris website.

I’ve just updated Virginia’s Christopher Eccleston Website with an interview entitled “Acting Tough” from Sunday Times magazine December 2001. It can be found on the Interviews page here: there’s also a lovely black & white photo.

Another photo from Telegraph interview.

Another photo from the Telegraph interview, taken from the actual newspaper rather than the online version of the interview.

© Telegraph.

Christopher Eccleston interview: "This is why I became an actor"

Christopher Eccleston will appear in Antigone at the National’s Olivier Theatre 

With his new play, Antigone, previewing at the National’s Olivier Theatre from next week, former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston tells Dominic Cavendish why theatre means so much to him.
Christopher Eccleston will appear in Antigone at the National’s Olivier Theatre
By Dominic Cavendish

7:00AM BST 16 May 2012

Were he to suspend me by the ankles off the concrete battlements of the National Theatre, crying “For the love of Larry, I want to do more theatre!”, I couldn’t get the message more loudly and clearly from Christopher Eccleston.

Though we know him best for his high-calibre British TV and screen work – whether it’s his breakthrough performances in Jude, Shallow Grave and Our Friends in the North or, more recently, as the first in the new batch of Time Lords on Doctor Who – the man himself is quite adamant. Eccleston won’t be happy with the way his career has panned out unless he treads the boards a lot more.

“I’ve neglected theatre,” he says, quiet certainty matched by emphatic vigour, his Salford accent pressing flinty personality into the words. “That’s a shame. It’s why I went to train as an actor. And for the next 20 or 30 years I’m going to do more and more of it. That’s the plan. I’m determined!”

He flashes me the sort of determined look I imagine will come in very handy when he plays Creon in Polly Findlay’s new NT production of Sophocles’s Antigone. The autocratic Theban king refuses to hear the pleas and humane arguments of his niece when he refuses burial for her treacherous dead brother Polynices and sets on punishing her.

There’s a quality of steadfastness about Eccleston, 48, both in person and as exhibited in many of his performances, that looks like the perfect fit for a ruler who invites gathering outrage at his remorseless intransigence, conducted in the name of the state. “I’ve played a lot of conflicted men,” the actor says, with some understatement.

For all the willing and wanting to get back into theatre – his last major outing was 10 years ago as Hamlet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse – the National job came out of the blue. It might almost have been heaven-sent, because this was the theatre where he started out. He appeared in fleeting roles in a Shared Experience show, Abingdon Square, that transferred to the Cottesloe, and Martin Sherman’s Bent, at the Lyttelton, in the 1980s. Earlier in that decade, he was a young usher. The job helped him pay his way through drama school, and opened his eyes.
“I was an impressionable student and I’ll never forget seeing Anthony Hopkins as Lambert Le Roux (in Pravda) and Ian McKellen playing Coriolanus,” he says. “I had a really extraordinary experience of seeing Hopkins dominate the Olivier then eat beans on toast in the canteen. That was fascinating – seeing the transition, the quietness of him, then the hugeness of him in the same day. What solidified in my mind was the thought, 'If you play a big classical role on the Olivier stage, you can go no higher in British theatre.’ The Olivier was where I always wanted to work.” He gives a grin. “Thirty years later, that’s been realised.”

Although he only set upon becoming an actor while retaking his O-levels, he displayed early thespian leanings, he reveals. “I was a real mix as a school-kid,” he recalls. “I was obsessed with playing football, but I also spent a great deal of time on my own being Sean Connery’s James Bond. And I used to be a character called Old Man in the Rain. When it rained, I’d sit on this old fishing basket, and pretend I was this old fellow looking out over his life.”

His parents – his father worked as a warehouseman – backed the youngest of their three sons when he announced that he wanted to become an actor. “They were mightily relieved, because they had no idea what I was going to do – it was so left-field, they said, 'That actually makes sense.’ ”

Having discovered his vocation, he read everything he could about “the greats – Richardson, Gielgud, Olivier. For me on a council estate they were larger than life. The way they voraciously played the classical roles – that’s what I wanted.”

There’s a warmth to Eccleston in person that sometimes hasn’t translated to public perceptions of him. In conversation, he often cracks open wide smiles – and declares a secondary unfulfilled ambition to do more comedy. He’s in awe of the way Olivier could play Oedipus and Mr Puff (in Sheridan’s The Critic) on the same day.

Some of his facility for comedy was evident in the grinning eccentricity he brought to Doctor Who. But that only lasted a series. And puzzlement continues as to why he left before he had a chance to own the role.

When prodded to speak further about this, he is amicably terse. “I know what went on and the people who were involved know what went on – that’s good enough for me.”

He half-smiles, half-grimaces. “My conscience is completely clear. I’ve lived my life, particularly my working life, on the basis that I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror about the way I behave. It wasn’t a bold move, it was an entirely natural one. I’m hugely grateful to the children who to this day come up and talk to me about the show.”

His TV career has shown no sign of a let-up since that departure. Later this year, he stars in a new drama (provisionally called The Fuse) in which he plays a local politician and recovering alcoholic whose ascendant career is haunted by the spectre of a past murder.

“It’s quite Greek in a way,” he reflects. “It’s a why-dunnit rather than a who-dunnit – the audience are ahead of the character.” It’s topical, too. “We’re obsessed with politicians at the moment, and quite rightly.”

Creon is cut from the same cloth, the politician who over-reaches himself. Might Antigone, which originated almost two and a half thousand years ago, be a play for today, too?

“Absolutely. This will have strong resonances,” he affirms. “Creon has a failure of the imagination. The central argument in Antigone is the same as the one you might have had with George W Bush. America had an opportunity to assume moral gravitas in the world by not reacting [after 9/11]. That idea is central to this play.” He pauses. “You can’t revenge yourself on a corpse.”

'Antigone’ previews at the National’s Olivier Theatre (020 7452 3000) from May 23, as part of the Travelex £12 season

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Interview: Christopher Eccleston–Time Out London.

By Caroline McGinn Posted: Mon May 14 2012

Christopher Eccleston has reached the summit of his career at the National Theatre, he says

Actor Christopher Eccleston, the hawk-faced star of some of our best British TV dramas, was the first man to bring Northern grit to the RP BBC icon 'Doctor Who' in 2005. Now he is travelling back to 441BC at the National Theatre, in the implacably tragic vehicle of Sophocles's 'Antigone'.

He plays Creon, a politician who destroys his family in his efforts to establish order after civil war. It's great casting. Backstage, eating sarnies in his tracksuit bottoms, Eccleston still speaks like a working-class lad from Salford, but from the neck up he looks, with his big hollow eye-sockets and raw bones, like a tyrant from the ancient world.

The National is clearly a big deal. 'Playing a major role in the Olivier,' says Eccleston, in his intense and straightforward way, 'is the height of an actor's career.' In 1983, when he moved to London to study drama, NT stars John Gielgud, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Bryant made a deep impression. 'I worked as an usher at the Olivier,' he recalls. 'Hopkins used to come on as Lambert Le Roux and he'd be explosive, huge, riveting - but then you'd see him in the canteen having beans on toast and he'd have disappeared again. That was very interesting to see; front and back.'

The youngest of three sons, Eccleston was raised on a council estate, where he excelled at football rather than schoolwork and discovered drama late, as a teenager at Salford Tech.

Why did he become an actor? 'Wine, women and song,' he says, succinctly. 'It was running away with the circus. My parents and brothers all had jobs which were nine to five and drew great dignity from work, but I sensed frustration in all four of them.'

Instead, he fell for the romance of the knights of the theatre, devouring biographies of Richardson and Olivier. 'They were so vivid and different from the environment I was coming from,' he explains. But the classical roles he dreamed of failed to materialise after he graduated.

'I didn't work for three years,' he says. 'I'd been well cast at Central but I didn't pick up an agent. I couldn't inhabit
the roles I was playing. But that unemployment was very important. When I got my chance, [playing Derek Bentley in the 1991 film “Let Him Have It”], I worked really hard.'

Becoming a TV and film actor happened by default. But in the late '80s and '90s it was easier to find roles that resonated with Eccleston's background and aspirations. 'That window is closing now,' he says, 'because TV is being eaten up by reality shows and so-called talent shows.'

Eccleston has a reputation for being outspoken and there was a lot speculation about why he left 'Doctor Who' so rapidly. Did a bad experience contribute to his frustration with the medium? 'There's no one incident in my career that dictates anything,' he says, 'But there's more money and power in film and TV so people inevitably behave worse. And I've always been a person who, if I think something's wrong, will say so.'

The proudest moments of his working life, he says, have been in Jimmy McGovern's Bafta-winning 'Hillsborough' on ITV, and playing Hamlet ten years ago at West Yorkshire Playhouse. 'Hillsborough' (in which he played Trevor Hicks,
whose two teenage daughters died in the football disaster) is, he feels, 'the most important thing I've done.'. And he remains close friends with the real Hicks: 'I was best man at his wedding when he re-married. Him and his ex-wife Jenny, their bravery in surviving that loss and having their government lie about them and still be here fighting for the truth, it's an inspiration really.'

As for 'Hamlet': 'I'd not been on stage for ten years when I did it and it was not a good performance,' he admits. 'But it took a lot of balls and I was better by the end of it. The kind of naivety and nervousness I had then is absent from “Antigone”.' His ambition now is to do more theatre in London. Compared to the can-and-cut process, rehearsing with a troupe of theatre actors is more like being with the circus. But, at the age of 48, it's no longer all about wine, women and song. 'In TV you act in a vacuum,' he says. 'Theatre is an actor's medium where you rely on
each other. Now I'm older I've realised acting's just a desire to communicate with other human beings, that this is how it feels to be alive.'

He's mildly boggled when I ask him if he's concerned about his legacy: he's evidently a romantic at heart. But that's a class issue too: 'I've spoken to a number of my peers from working-class backgrounds,' he says, 'And we've wondered why we didn't assume that we could run buildings, set cultural agendas, and address some of the imbalances.'

Opportunities for working-class kids are fewer now than they were in Eccleston's youth. Most don't get anywhere near the theatre - which is one reason why he's so pleased to be doing this short, sharp 90-minute Greek tragedy in the NT's democratically priced Travelex season, which has £5 tickets for under-26-year-olds and £12 to £32 tickets for everyone else.

Personally, it has helped renew his teenage ambition to 'play clearly all of the major classical roles onstage'. But,
for Eccleston, acting is more about living as fully as possible in the moment than achieving some spurious immortality: 'I think about how I'm going to live my life, not what I'll leave behind,' he says. 'If I have a go at these big theatre roles, I know I'll feel used when they put me in the box.'