Sir John Gielgud on Acting

“In playing Shakespeare one is bound to be conscious of the audience. The compromise between a declamatory and a naturalistic style is extremely subtle, and needs tremendous technical skill in its achievement. In Chekhov, provided one can be heard and seen distinctly, it is possible, even advisable, to ignore the audience altogether and this was another reason why I suddenly felt so much more at ease in playing Trofimov than I had in Romeo.
“I have extremely good eyesight and am very observant. From the stage, if I am not careful, I can recognize people I know eight or ten rows back in the stalls, even on a first night when I am shaking with nervousness: latecomers – people who whisper or rustle chocolates or fall asleep – I have an eye for every one of them, and my performance suffers accordingly. I once asked Marion Terry about this difficulty and she said, ‘Hold your eyes level with the front of the dress circle when you are looking out into the front.’ It has taken me years to learn how to follow her advice. But in Chekhov, whose plays are written to be acted, as Komisarjevsky used to say, ‘with the fourth wall down’, I have always been able to shut out the faces in the front, even when I look in their direction and am conscious of no one but the other characters.”
~From “Actors on Acting”, pages 398-399
Brendan King

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