Humor Magazine

In the Shadow of a King!

By Davidduff

I have just finished a fascinating - well, fascinating to an AmDram actor like me -  diary of a year in the life of David Weston.  David . . . who? I hear you mutter, and yes, I'd never heard of him either until I read his book Covering McKellan: An Understudy's TaleIn it, the always modest Mr. Weston tells the story of working for a year on an RSC production of King Lear and The Seagull which opened in Stratford and then went on to tour Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, New York, LA and, er, Minnesota before returning to London.  Mr. Weston had two very minor roles, one non-speaking, because his main job was to act as Sir Ian McKellen's understudy as Lear.

I warm to Mr. Weston because he has the honesty to admit that he is probably viewed by others, particularly the younger members of the company, as "a boring old fart".  I share his self-perception!  The director of this mammoth enterprise was Sir Trevor Nunn, arguably one of the very greatest theater directors of his age, a man steeped in the classics but also capable of producing popular hits like Cats and 'Les Mis'.  Two things become increasingly clear during the book, first that McKellen is a great actor and also a good guy - they do not always go together.  Second, Trevor Nunn is a brilliant director but simply does not know when to shut up and go home!  It was interesting to read that gradually the cast - or at least, the younger element in the cast - gradually fell out with Sir Trevor and even took umbrage at McKellen who comes across as the very nicest of men.  Instead of being enthralled at the chance of working with two of theatre's greatest exponents, they became disgruntled and fed up - poor little darlings.  The fact that I have never heard of any them since speaks for itself!

But the man I admire the most in this theatrical tale is Weston, himself.  He is, to me, the ultimate professional actor.  A player who realised years before that greatness was never going to descend on him but whose love for theater and acting kept him going, not just because it was a job but because he just loved every minute of it - well, most of them, anyway!  If you have any interest in theatre, this is a must-read.


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