Playing Figaro...or how I learned to love skipping
It’s hard to believe that The Marriage of Figaro has finally ended. I’ve been together with this cast, on and off, for six months, in Sydney and Melbourne, and it has been a wonderful experience. In particular, Peter Coleman-Wright (who plays the Count) and Kanen Breen (Basilio) have kept me laughing, usually at totally the wrong moment. Individually they are very funny. Put them together and they are almost impossible. In the most wonderful way. They are great artists but they can make you crack up and still keep a straight face themselves.
Playing Figaro has been a big change for me. When I last did the opera (in Washington DC) I was the Count. I can't look at it from where I'm standing but people say it seems to suit me doing Figaro. Perhaps it depends on the production. I was really nervous doing Figaro because I thought it was a comic role, which is not necessarily me. But the great thing about working with Neil Armfield was that he showed me Figaro isn’t a comic role. Figaro is real. The Count is the fall-guy and Basilio is, in this production, the show-stealer.
Neil Armfield is amazing to work with, even though he pushes me out of my comfort zone. For instance, I think it’s fair to say I’m not much of a skipper. I don’t skip. No. When Neil Armfield asked me to skip as part of the stage business in The Marriage of Figaro I fought it. But he insisted, and he was right.
It’s an example of how much you have to put your trust in people on the stage. You become very self-conscious in the rehearsal period because everyone's watching you. You throw yourself in and feel like it's terrible, it's not working. But if you don't throw yourself in you look even more ridiculous because you look half-hearted. Eventually you have to throw away all your inhibitions and trust your colleagues, trust the director and the choreographer and the conductor. They trust you to perform it well, and you have to trust them that what they see is right. Because so often what you perceive is not how it's perceived out front.
At one point in Figaro Neil had me sucking on a lollipop. No kidding! I had this lolly that I have to suck - all part of my routine -- and I fought against it, black and blue, and said it wasn't really me. But I lost. It's in there, and it works, so there you go.