Thursday 17 March 2011

TP was always keen to discuss his craft and he was a gift to any journalist wanting some lively copy. 

Here are a selection of quotes from the press files in which TP talks, amongst other things, about horses ("they don't like me!"),  a fear of failure ("I hate first nights") and his idea of food heaven ("crispy bacon ... every morning!").

The Perfect Anti-hero:  “I like to think I specialise in ‘disillusioned’ parts.  I’m just not the conventional juvenile lead type, I’m the perfect anti-hero.  I like to play a part with an edge to it.”

Acting with Norman Rodway:  “It’s great playing opposite him.  He’s the most unselfish actor I’ve ever appeared with.”  TP on lifelong friend, Norman Rodway.

On being Tee Pee:  "Those initials are one of the banes of my life.  I was always called 'T.P.' as a kid, although so many people in the theatre business think it's an affectation I added later."

Heaven in Granard:  "I had a wonderful time in Granard.  I was put up with a family which was famous for keeping bank clerks.  We had wonderful crispy bacon and egg every morning and after St.Pat's it was like heaven."

Horse-play:  "I've fallen off more horses than I've had hot dinners.  I was always fallin' off on my arse in the Phoenix Park.  Horses don't like me."

What's Next?: 
"I have no time for cuttings and professional souvenirs. My only interest is in what I am doing next."

Breathing Space: "A place like the Abbey gives the actor breathing space, a place to settle down and learn his trade in a quiet way, not cramming it.  I must have taken part in over a hundred productions while I was there; a marvellous training ground." [TP's credits at the Abbey actually number 70 productions.  Perhaps, by the end, it was beginning to feel like a hundred!]

'I couldn't claim to know him':  "The director, Tony Richardson, uses me on occasion simply to look into the camera with an expression of disbelief on my face.  Richardson ... I adored him although I couldn't claim to know him.  He's a mystery man, an enigma, he doesn't let people get to know him - especially actors."

Breaking Free:  "Leaving the bank was like severing you umbilical cord.  It was a courage born of desperation rather than any intellectual conviction."

An Actor - Pure and Simple:  "Theatre management?  I don't think my ego stretches in that direction.  I don't regard myself as a sort of Dublin theatrical saviour and I'm very distrustful of people with messianic complexes.  I'm an actor pure and simple."

First Night Nerves:  "I hate first nights.  When the tensions are over, then it's great.  The real joy of acting is after that, when you can settle down to enjoy it and explore the character, the play."

Early Avengers:  "They are a highly professional pair, very script conscious, cutting things to essentials." [TP on Steed and Cathy Gale aka. Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman.]

On the too slim figure:  "If I was on a desert island with Twiggy for a month she would be quite safe."

Flab Fighters:  "We were all different shapes and sizes: Ian Hendry, Ian Bannen, Ronnie Fraser, Kenneth Haigh and me; and we never stopped worrying about our weight." 

Cut it out II:  "I had a hell of a job with some of the character actors who couldn't wait to do their oirish accents.  I told them, 'Don't'.  I gave them the cadences of Synge and got them to pronounce their 'ings'.  In Kerry, where the Playboy comes from, and along the West coast, people have a strangely correct way of speaking.  They never say 'me' for 'my'."  [TP speaking after making his directorial debut with The Playboy of the Western World at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1967]

Breaking Free II: "I got so used to the weekly pay-packet that when I was asked to be in the London production of 'Stephen D.', I was terrified to take the risk."

Spectacular??:  "It's called 'Holocaust' and deals with the Jewish pogroms - and I've heard it, I promise you, described as a 'spectacular'." [TP's alarm at the language of Holocaust's US producers]

Pop, pop, pop music ... : "Pop music is complete noise to me.  If there's anything I really can't stand, and I'll jump over four tables to turn it off, is Country & Western music."

Liberated Narcissus:  "I didn't begin to act well until I was over thirty.  The fact that I had stopped worrying about my appearance had something to do with it.  A narcissus may perform, but he can never act.  Seeing myself on film for the first time cured me of all that. 'Forget it, boy, you'll never be a film star,' I told myself.  And it was a kind of liberation."

Dirty Dancing:  'This guy was dancing on a table with a naked lady, and the table broke,' laughs McKenna. 'They both fell on me, and I went flying backward through my chair, smashing it into bits, and fracturing my shoulder in three places. I remember later on running into Kenneth Williams who said "Ooooo the black sling is soooo sinister." I said "Sinister my arse! I broke my effin' shoulder!'"

On Anew McMaster:   "He was the only actor in the world who could be marvellous in the first half of a line and terrible by the end of it."

The Abbey Style: " Technique was a dirty word around the old Queen's,  but the greatest exponents of the old Abbey style were masters of brilliant technique. [Ernest] Blythe didn't recognise this and confused it with naturalism."

Ireland and the English: "I will not tolerate the odium of the word 'stater'.  De Valera is not one of my heroes although he dominated my childhood. I think he was the man who conceived of Anglophobia.  It came through in the economic war against England.  There was a tacit support for Hitler right through the last war, even though we were neutral, and there are seeds of it today ... I find it appalling."

Approaching a role:  "I think, I take notes, I define what the job is, asking just what I am doing in this or that scene.  I daren't going on stage for a first night without having found total physical relaxation,  this inner rhythm of the character.  I know when I've found it.  I lose all self-consciousness."

Mightier the pen?! "The cult of personality journalism has produced far more primma donnas among journalists than actors."

Death hath no sting:  "I have no fear of death.  I don't know why.  Mostly because of the pain.  As one doctor said to me, you've done your purgatory in this world.  You won't need it in the next."

Dieing to Act: "You have to get the muscles moving again, you have to feel an audience out there wathing and listening.  Otherwise you go dead."

On McMaster II:  "We did five shows, each got a week of rehearsal and then straight on to the stage. 'Louder and faster' was the only direction he gave us.  A year later I joined the Abbey company and had to come down about ten octaves.  But I'd not have missed McMaster for all the world."