|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: October 21, 1993
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
Since Shakespeare talked about all the world being a stage, the idea of the actor's role has often been used as a kind of metaphor for the roles we play in life. What do you think about that?
I would like to find the psychologists who suggested that this is a true dynamic in interpersonal relationships, or even one's relationship with oneself. The whole idea of role I think is a misconception. Borrowed probably from theatricals but a misconception of theatricals. What role? What's my role? Who am I? At the moment I am an interviewee. You know, tomorrow, I could be an interviewer. Or if I take my camera along, I can be a photographer. I can be a husband to my wife, I can be a father to my child. What is my role? We are ... each of us has many roles. I think Alfred Kreymborg tried to knock it on the head early when he said, ‘I am four monkeys. One hangs from a limb, tail-wise, chattering at the earth. Another is cramming his belly with coconuts. The third is up in the top branches quizzing the sky. And the fourth, he's chasing another monkey.’ And he says, ‘How many monkeys are you?’ Well, strictly speaking, I'm not four monkeys, I am 104 monkeys, 57 monkeys, depending on what job I undertake or what function I serve to do — my wife sees me occasionally as a curmudgeon. Now who would believe that?
What do you do when she sees you as a curmudgeon?
[laughing] ... I think I understand what she's driving at.
So, but in the theatre there are specific roles.
No, they're illusions. Yes, they're called roles, they're called roles. Another thing you might call it is characterisation. But for the actor to role-play, well, many actors enjoy doing that as their ... comfortable way of being able to operate. And that is one motivational technique. Fortunately, there are about 45 other ways of getting the performance done as ... at least motivationally. To identify with a character is to help you feel as the character feels. But you can arrange to feel at least 45 other generalised techniques, each of these techniques probably having thousands of ramifications. So strictly speaking, it need never be necessary for any actor to go stale during a long run.
Which particular set of illusions though would you like to create in what's called roles? Is there any great or famous character that you would like to create?
Well, I think when I was very young, going through the romantic stage, I think I'd liked to have played Cyrano de Bergerac, aside from the fact that I was a fencer at the time, you see. I also felt that this was what I wanted to say to everybody. I never did get to play it. But, wot the hell, Archie. Wot the hell.
Do you believe in fate?
It depends on what you mean by fate. If you mean accident, well, yes, I believe there are such things as accidents and my relationship to an accident is to make a very good evaluation of it and see if I can use it, take advantage of it. It's like opportunity knocking on the door. But if you mean that everything is pre-ordained, no, no. To quote my favourite playwright: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are thus or thus.’ To that extent I ... I think we're the Germanists.
You think we make our own fortune?
I think so.
And what kind of a fist do you think you've made of making your own fortune?
I'll die and look up from hell and see things happening and then I think I can make up my mind.
[end of interview]