Speed Dial Casting

October 23, 2013



The curtain went up on A Woman of No Importance this week, but doesn’t anyone else feel like it’s getting a bit like Groundhog Day over at Cavendish Row? The show marks the ninth time since 2009 that Stephen Brennan has stepped into a leading or major supporting role at the theatre. It’s Ingrid Craigie’s sixth turn getting the cherry off the parfait during the same period and, while not appearing in this production, Owen Roe has also appeared nine times, with John Kavanagh, Barbara Brennan and Barry McGovern all matching Ingrid’s six.

When I spoke to Joe Dowling recently, regarding his own unusual casting of The Dead, I asked him specifically about the Gate. He’s directed at all the major venues in Ireland and spoke of the relative ease in which shows can be cast in this country. “In the States, if it’s not a Hollywood name, quite experienced actors a long time in the business will audition for roles. Here, where I have a history with a lot of these actors, it is fairly easy to just make offers and see if they are available. If someone is really good and is very good from an audience point of view, then why not cast them. We are always looking to use the highest possible standard.”

What’s good for the goose (the director) and good for the gander (the box office) might not be good for the chick, the part itself, which gets pushed through a cookie cutter of style, so it’s often the same tricks used to create different characters. Such security meaning that our biggest actors coast from part to part with what can seem like relatively little thought.

And when you say you cast the best actor for each role, what does it say about actors aged 50-70, when the same crowd is being rotated around each other repeatedly? Is it not time to stop casting by speed dial?

Originally published in the Sunday Independent in July 2012

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