Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?
Our stories are inevitably linked to the people around us. We are social creatures: from the family members and friends who’ve known us since childhood, to the coworkers, service providers, and strangers who populate our world (and, at times, leave an unexpected mark on us).
The most interesting person I’ve met so far this year. Well if we have a loose definition of ‘met’ then earlier this year I went to my first Sydney Theatre Company Pier Group Lunch.
These are organised by the STC Pier Group as a fundraiser. You get a nice lunch (at the Bar at the End of the Wharf), a glass of wine and a chance to talk to some of the creative people involved in one of the STC productions. I think they have four a year. This one was the ‘Macbeth’ lunch and I had a chance to listen to Andrew Upton, director Kip Williams, Melita Jurisic (who played Lady Macbeth) and Hugo Weaving (Macbeth himself).
I think one of the aspects of star quality, and make no mistake Weaving has it in bucket loads, is that they have a presence that is larger than life, they just seem bigger. I think I first noticed this when I met Cate Blanchett (again briefly) at an STC dinner for Giorgio Armani. The same was definitely true of Weaving, there was a glow, a presence that the other three did not have. He filled his space.
He came across as warm and friendly as he sat there answering our questions about playing Macbeth. The unmistakeable yet indescribable voice. The presence, he was entirely there and entirely grounded.
He’s been quoted as saying “I think when your image becomes so big that it’s hard for a viewer to see a character, then I think you’re in danger as an actor of being unable to perform what you should be doing.” but it has to be said that he is such an actor that when he was on stage as Macbeth or Vladimir in ‘Godot’ it took mere seconds for you to forget “My god, that’s Hugo Weaving”.
Last year when being interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald to promote ‘Waiting For Godot’ he said “I love the immediacy of theatre but I also love the intimacy of film. So I really want to keep working in both. I hope to do at least one play a year.” So this year it has been ‘Macbeth’. Next year he will be back to Beckett with ‘Endgame’.
But back to that afternoon at the Wharf. After we had lunch the four people came in and sat on a slightly raised dais. The director and actors had come from rehearsals and were all casually dressed. Weaving wearing a long, dark coat that I’m sure I had seen on him somewhere else, or perhaps in a picture. It looked and seemed like it was habitual wear, perhaps he had worn it constantly for years in rehearsals. It was part of his skin.
His answers to questions came quickly, intelligently and with some thought. Intelligence, love of his craft and understanding of theatre came through strongly. Here was a man experienced and confident in his craft without being cocky, indeed almost humble and confident at the same time.
In the same Herald interview he said “I want to do Shakespeare, Beckett and Chekhov, increasingly, I want to explore these amazing pieces of writing. They’re like wells you can’t quite fathom, endlessly challenging. That’s why they’re classics and that’s why as an actor you do them.” Can you hear the love and interest in theatre and acting in those words. For me they were there in that room.
As he was talking that afternoon he didn’t really smile, he was more considered than that but a couple of moments there was a quick grin, one of fun and pleasure. He mostly sat back in the chair but once or twice as he was talking he leaned forward. I have an image of him, arms on his knees and talking eagerly, warming to the topic.
He seemed interested and involved in the answers from Williams and Jurisic (Andrew Upton really only spoke to introduce the other three).
Then the question time was over and he was moving through the room. Friendly and open, he even managed a real smile for a couple of iPhone selfies. I stopped him with an “excuse me” and asked him a question about “Waiting for Godot”, I’m not even sure what I asked, but there was a slight pause and then a considered answer to a simple question.
He was there as a promotional and fundraising task, a chore that had little to do with the performance on the stage. Hugo Weaving’s warmth and manner were real, he seemed pleased that the people at the lunch were interested in the upcoming play, his performance and the theatre.
I could have met a “star” that afternoon but instead I met an incredibly interesting man and talented, intelligent actor.