After rising to the challenge of playing Salieri in Amadeus for the Arundel Players, Hunston’s Philip Amor now climbs an even higher mountain.
Philip reckons Salieri is the greatest role he has ever tackled. But faded music-hall star Archie Rice in The Entertainer by John Osborne is the more difficult of the two, he believes.
The show, staged by the Regis Players, runs at Felpham Village Hall from Thursday to Saturday, April 24-26 at 7.30pm.
Directed by Barry Jarvis, the piece is famously the show that Laurence Olivier demanded Osborne write, as Philip explains.
“Arthur Miller came across when he was still married to Marilyn Monroe and wanted to see a play in London. He saw that Osborne was doing Look Back In Anger, and he thought he would go to see that. But Olivier was very sniffy about it because it was very anti-establishment and Olivier wasn’t really up for that. Miller went anyway, but on the night Olivier turned up as well, and after the show they went backstage and spoke to Osborne. Olivier said to him ‘Darling, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would like you to write a play for me!’ I think he even gave him the subject, about a tragic musical-hall character.
“But when Osborne wrote it, Olivier was so disgusted with the Archie Rice character that he wanted to play Billy Rice, the father, instead, a character far more patriotic than Archie. But eventually he played Archie, though he insisted on some judicious cuts of disparaging comments on Eton and anything that he saw as unpatriotic.”
The challenge for Philip will be a question of ‘doing badly well’: “In the music hall where Archie is performing, the equation is a parallel between the demise of music hall and the demise of the great British empire. That’s the comparison that is drawn between the two.
“Archie Rice is fighting angrily, very angrily, and he is very bitter. Steve Wallace is immense playing Archie’s father, Billy. Billy is the epitome of the music-hall character. He is a brilliant performer. Billy is one of the music-hall greats.
“Archie is trying to step into his father’s shoes, but pretty unsuccessfully for two reasons. One is that he is not good enough. The second is that music hall is dying. You have people still going to see music hall, but they are only going because they want to see the nudes. They are bored to tears with Archie Rice, and he is aware of that. He takes it all home with him. He sees his home life as a continuation of what he does on stage. He feels he can disarm people with his patter and his bad jokes, but he can’t, and he is very bitter. I think bitterness is his characteristic, more than anything, and unfortunately the man just does not know how to direct these things.
“Salieri was the greatest role I have ever done, but this is the more difficult role. I have this situation within the family where I have to be one character, and then I have to be a completely-different character on stage. I am singing and dancing, and I have to show in my performance that it is falling apart.
“He has great affection for his father, but he is bitter that his father was so much better than he is.”
The show also features Billy Rice played by Steve Wallace; Jean Rice by Victoria Waldron; Phoebe Rice by Sandy Knight; and Frank Rice by Jed McBride. Tickets: www.wegottickets.com/theregisplayers