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Paul's comments about RADA

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:23 pm    Post subject: Paul's comments about RADA Reply with quote

From Offstage: 100 Portraits Celebrating the RADA Centenary
With photos by Cambridge Jones

Paul McGann, 1979-81

Paul and I met at the Alphabet Bar in Soho and had fun. It’s as simple as that. He’s a terrific person to photograph.

I did Clarence’s speech from the Tower in Richard III, really badly. This priest at my school had jimmy’d me on to apply, so he chose my pieces for me, and the only modern piece he had on his shelf was My Fair Lady. Not Pygmalion, but the film script. So I ended up playing the dad. I did the worst cockney accent they’d ever experienced at RADA, plus I kept forgetting it, and needing a prompt. It was really embarrassing!

After the embarrassment was over, I just thought ‘sod this’ and legged it, ran out of the building. This lad who had been helping with auditions followed me into the street and shouted, ‘Where are you going?’ and I said, ‘I’m going home, I’ve had enough. This is horrible!’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know you were crap, but they’ve seen something!’ So I went back in the afternoon and the principal was there and he told me I had to do it properly. I did it again for him and got in.

I was really in two minds. I didn’t know if I wanted to be an actor or not. When you’re a teenager you’re always thinking ‘I dunno’. It would be great to think that we all had this religious acting zeal, but we didn’t.

I think I came from a real non-vintage term. The term below us were considered the best for years and years. That was the term with Ken Branagh and Fiona Shaw, people like that. The best actor that was there, the actor’s actor, was Mark Rylance. A fantastic actor. Even then, everyone could see that he was the one. We’d all go and see him when he performed.

What I think RADA is good at is sending out level-headed actors. It’s a really practical place. It tried to simulate real—albeit ideal—working conditions. They taught you how to speak, you could have a sing, and there was a piano in every room. I learned to play piano there. I could sing really well. I think I was a better singer than I ever was an actor.

I didn’t work very hard. If it had been an academic course, I would have scraped a 2:2. There were one or two high-fliers, of course. I remember I used to stand at the bar with my fourth or fifth pint and stagger across the fire escape to see that there was still a light on in one of the rehearsal rooms: Ken Branagh or someone, working after hours.

At RADA they insisted that you learn to speak Standard English. I was terrible! I remember the voice coach saying, ‘You are the only person to leave here with a stronger regional dialect than when you started’. I think I wore my scouser-hood as a kind of badge, fearing these jazz-handed Southerners were going to steal my soul. I couldn’t be posh. I was the home-grown, grim-up-North type.

I fell madly in love with my Juliet when I was Romeo. And I was crap, because every time she’d come on stage I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak the lines. The most insipid Romeo in RADA history.

I wanted to be in movies. That’s all I ever wanted to do. Most of us become actors to be in the movies. The day I got in a movie, it was one of the happiest days of my life. It was Withnail and I. If I’d never done another picture I’d have died happy

The Genius (West End); The Seagull (Liverpool Playhouse); Sabina (Bush); The Little Black Book (Riverside); Mourning Becomes Electra (National); The Gigli Concert (Finborough)

Withnail and I; The Empire of the Sun; The Rainbow; Dealers; Alien 3; The Three Musketeers; The Merchant of Venice; Queen of the Damned; Gypo

The Monocled Mutineer; Drowning in the Shallow End; The Merchant of Venice; The One That Got Away; Our Mutual Friend; the Hornblower series; Blood Strangers; Lie With Me; Kidnapped

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