Interview with Ger
Posted by quinn on August 13, 2009, 5:51 pm
Message modified by board administrator August 14, 2009, 9:31 pm
from : Canada.com |
From vampires to the Bard: Geraint Wyn Davies has done it all.
By Jamie Portman, Canwest News Service
August 13, 2009
STRATFORD. Ont. - Geraint Wyn Davies is sitting outside a Stratford restaurant, tucking into a salad in the late afternoon sunlight, and reflecting on an eclectic career which has seen him play vampires, military heroes and terrorists on prime-time TV while also treading the boards of some of the world's most famous stages.
He knows he's not an easy actor to categorize.
“It's really interesting doing all sorts of things,” he says by way of explanation. “I mean I've worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Chichester Festival, the Welsh National Theatre as artistic associate, the Shaw Festival and here at Stratford.” Then he grins impishly. “And in the middle of all that stuff you get Airwolf!”
Airwolf was the '80s television helicopter series in which he played intrepid U.S. Air Force pilot Mike Rivers. There was also his role in Forever Knight as vampire turned police detective Nick Knight - not the first time he was called upon to display a blood lust, having previously played a vampire in Dracula: The Series. And of course, there were his ventures into the world of international skulduggery as a cyber-terrorist in RoboCop: Prime Directives and giving Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer a sleepless night in a recent season of 24.
Yet this is the same Geraint Wyn Davies who returned to the Stratford Festival a few seasons ago to deliver an exhilarating performance as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and who this summer is appearing in its three Shakespeare plays.
Not bad for the Welsh-born son of a Congregationalist minister. Furthermore, Wyn Davies is a keen cricket player and his festival friends are banking on a sterling effort from him on Labour Day when Stratford and the Shaw Festival meet in their traditional annual match.
When Wyn Davies was with the Shaw Festival in the 1970s, Stratford always seemed to lose, but the 52-year-old actor says that was long ago.
“After 20 years away, I started on it again four years ago, and it's great. It's good fun. But I'm the oldest guy on the team. And there are a lot of good young people playing this year.”
He's happy to be back at the festival, working with its company and doing three roles in repertory. And he recently purchased a home in Stratford.
“I moved to California for 14 years and then was in New York City for the last two-and-a-half. And then I decided it was time to have a place back here in Stratford.”
Right now, he has two things very much on his mind. One is a donkey. The other is Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
Wyn Davies, who's already on view this summer as Julius Caesar and as the doomed King Duncan in Macbeth, opens Aug. 21 in A Midsummer Night's Dream in the role of Bottom, the talkative weaver who ends up with the head of an ass and finds himself the object of Titania's lust.
“It's a fascinating part,” Wyn Davies muses. “There are so many different ways of coming at it.” Furthermore, this is someone who's still alive at the end of the play, unlike Caesar who's bloodily assassinated on stage and Duncan who is foully murdered by Macbeth. “I've lost count of the number of times I've died on stage.”
Bottom is one of the great comic characters in the Shakespeare canon. And since the start of the rehearsals, Wyn Davies has enjoyed working on various approaches - an exercise which has revealed to him the remarkable complexity of the part. Meanwhile, there is also the crucial question of the design for the donkey's head - and Wyn Davis is tight-lipped about what this summer's audiences should expect.
“There's definitely a new take on Bottom's head,” he promises with a grin.
But the actor is also thinking a lot about Dylan Thomas these days - more specifically the one-man show, Do Not Go Gentle, which he will be performing in Manhattan's Harold Clurman Theatre starting in November.
The script was originally written by the late Leon Pownall, a close friend and longtime Shaw and Stratford colleague. Pownall, a distinguished Canadian actor who died in 2006, performed it himself in one of its earlier versions.
Wyn Davis, who worked with Pownall on later revisions, has also done the material on stage, including an earlier successful New York run. But what's happening in November is special - as much a tribute to his old friend as it is to the life and art of a great but self-destructive poet.
“Just before Leon passed away, I was up here with him. He asked me if I'd do it again, and I said I would if a producer came and asked me. I have a feeling that this will be the last time I do it.”
“It's for Leon that I'm doing it, actually. But it is a wonderful evening. For me it's being Welsh and loving the writing of Dylan Thomas. It's the way Leon marries the relationship between Dylan Thomas's work and Shakespeare and deals with the turmoil within the artist, the struggle of the artist. As an actor you get to do the whole gamut. It's funny at times. It's very lyrical. It's moving.”
As for Midsummer Night's Dream, he is having a “fantastic” time working with British director David Grindley on Shakespeare's magical play.
“He has encouraged everyone basically to explore as much as we can . . , to throw lots of things against the wall to see what sticks. I think David likes to collaborate with actors and that's a huge plus. He nurtures people as they go along.”
Wyn Davies also believes this production will respect the integrity of the Festival Theatre's famous thrust stage and the vision of its legendary designer, Tanya Moiseiwitsch. At a time, when there is concern both within and outside the festival about the future of the stage, Wyn Davies has come out 100 per cent in support of it at a time when many directors working on it treat it like a proscenium space and there is talk of major renovations.
“It's great when a director approaches it in the spirit of the thrust,” he says. “The great thing about the Tanya Moiseiwitsch stage is that it has stood the test of time, and another 50 years of it would be great.”