As I told in one of my latest posts from London, I was at the Old Vic on 29th December to see A Flea in Her Ear by G. Feydeau. I was so excited to be there on my own! I was quite proud of myself for the first time in that prestigious theatre and going to attend a performance of two actors I had admired in some of my beloved costume dramas: Tom Hollander, I had seen in Wives and Daughters, Cambridge Spies and, of course, Pride and Prejudice 2005 , as well as Lisa Dillon, who was one of the lovely protagonists in Cranford. But my enthusiasm was soon cooled down by the announcement of Mr Hollander's absence for a sudden indisposition that night.
If the start was so disappointing the end of it was total enthusiasm. If the success of a farce is based on how much the audience laugh, that performance of Feydeau's play was definitely and hugely successful. I couldn't stop laughing and neither the rest of of the audience!
The pace of the performance was really fast, the cast brilliant, the rythm and timing almost perfect: each door was slammed just at the right moment, each gag and paradoxical situation were manifactured with convincing energy, the sequence of misunderstandings were escalatingly hilarious, though stereotypical the characters were all extremely involving. My favourite ones were the jealous manic Carlos Homenides de Histangua, interpreted by volcanic John Marquez; Camille, the protagonist's nephew, whose speech impediment (being unable to pronounce consonants) leads people to lose their patience with him , played by a sparkling blond talent, Freddie Fox; and, last but not least, the young excellent understudy who substituted Mr Hollander and carried out the hard task so stunningly well that I forgot my initial disappointment, Greg Baldock, who was both Victor Immanuel Chandebise and his look-alike drunken hotel porter, Poche. Young Mr Baldock substituted a great name with great talent, so I wanted to congratulate him but first I had to get to know his name, which I hadn't caught during the announcement of Mr Hollander's substitution. Now I know his name and even something more about him, since he was so kind to accept to answer some questions of mine about himself, that evening, his career and dreams. Yes, I interviewed him!
MG: Hi Greg! Glad to make your acquaintance, though only via the Net. First of all, I must congratulate you for your performance as Chandebise/Poche in “A Flea in Her Ear”. I was there at the Old Vic few days ago, in the audience, and I was one of those who booed a little when Mr Hollander’s sudden indisposition was announced. Honestly, I was disappointed. Then, you appeared on stage after some minutes from the beginning and I thought “O my God, he’s so young! It won’t work”. Well, after a while I had completely forgotten you were the understudy. You were so self-confident and … brilliant! I enjoyed myself so much. I couldn’t stop laughing, I think I’ve never laughed so much at the theatre.
Now, it’s your turn, Greg. Can you describe your emotions on that evening? Was it your first great occasion or had you already worked on an important stage like the Old Vic?
GREG: Firstly, thank you for your compliments. This is my first, as I only graduated from Rose Bruford College Of Theatre And Performance in September 2010, so this is all very much exciting and amazing work for me to have achieved in such a short space of time. The emotions for that evening were a very heavy combination of adrenaline and an incredible amount of reaction to the great performers on stage.
MG: How did you keep yourself ready to substitute Mr Hollander any time it was needed?
GREG: Really you just need to be on the ball all the time. As an understudy, I find it very important to keep watching the play every single night, and constantly make sure I’m updated with any new moves or changes to the structure of the performance. The real trick is to be off script when the play goes up in the preview nights, and then it’s just a roll of the dice if you have to go on at any point.
MG: The double role of Chandebise & Poche must be extremely exhausting both mentally and physically. You were very good at giving a different posture, stride, speech to the two characters. Was that the most difficult aspect of this performance?
GREG: Not at all, the script informs you of the characters with their different language rhythms and your physicality sort of develops from their speech patterns. I would actually say for me that the most difficult part of this job is to stay energized for the entire performance. I am a trained beach lifeguard, and that requires 16 lengths in under 8 minutes and a length and a half non-stop underwater, amongst other skills. In comparison, performing on stage for the most of the 2 hours in a farce is by far a lot more exhausting. I am usually drinking a pint of water between scenes, a banana before the play starts and one at the interval, and a whole host of multivitamins and isotonics wherever I squeeze them in. Because of cramping in my thighs, I’m also licking salt from the back of my hand just to get some into my system because I sweat it all out.
MG: What is your relationship with the rest of the cast?
GREG: Pretty good actually. They are by the far best cast I have ever worked with and they are all very very supportive, not to mention utterly professional to a standard I have never seen before.
MG: In Feydeau ‘s farces the secret of success is … ?
GREG: Tempo, tempo, tempo. You must never drop the rhythm. It’s not quite like an English comedy, where you can afford to wait for laughs, but, instead, there is a ‘pressure cooker’ idea which builds and builds and builds, which is why by the time it gets to the third act, the speed is like lightning.
MG: Have you substituted Mr Hollander again after 29th December?
GREG: Yes. In fact I substituted him on Tuesday, on the night before. I will be covering him all the way up to Saturday 8th January. Apparently he will be ready to go again on the following Monday.
MG: Now, Greg, can you tell us briefly something about yourself?
GREG: I’m only 23, I trained for 3 years at Rose Bruford College Of Theatre And Performance, and I’m originally from Merseyside. I’m a big fan of poetry, movies and music from the 1980s, and playing the electric bass guitar.
MG: As a promising young actor I’ll keep an eye on you and your career. Sooner or later I’m sure I’ll see you on one of my favourite BBC dramas or in a new period movie. Why period, do you wonder? Because it’s my favourite genre. LOL! However, would you like to work on TV or would you rather go on with the theatre?
GREG: Hmmm. Well, I would like to do some more TV and possibly film, as I actually find them a little easier. If doing theatre is like running a marathon, then I would say TV is a bit more like sprinting. It’s great because you can sort of condense all your work into one brief moment. However , theatre is your art really, and it always gives an actor the opportunity to explore, play and constantly make new discoveries.
MG: What is your greatest dream as an actor?
GREG: For me? I’m pretty realistic, so for me, I would love to play a long term character on a long-running drama series for television. A lot of American television drama series can afford seasons with lots of hour long episodes. Either that, or a couple of stints at the Royal Court would do me just fine.
MG: What’s next? I mean, after finishing at the Old Vic?
GREG: I have no idea. My agent is inviting as many casting directors as possible to the show this week, so I will have to see what crops up. I imagine I will get some understudy offers, but hopefully there will be a chance to get to grips with a character of my very own.
MG: Good Luck, Greg, for anything in your private and professional life. Thanks for finding the time to answer my questions.
GREG: Thank you!