Chapter 4

The psychology of acting

'This is no life for a grown-up person.' This remark has been attributed to various well-known actors who, in a moment of clarity, crouched in the dark at ten o'clock at night, their faces scrawled with makeup, have waited to launch themselves upon a brilliantly lit stage where, with nowhere to hide, they must flaunt their persons in some probably absurd manner before the acclaim or displeasure of hundreds of people, who at least think they are grown-up.

Why then do actors do it? For fame and fortune, the Break, the eternal optimism of humankind that has got it this far. Possibly. Certainly the reality, the statistics do not support that as sole motive. About 70 per cent of the acting profession is out of work at any one time, and about 30 per cent of the acting profession makes a living wage at acting alone. So, for every Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, there are a hundred actors in line at the unemployment office, and a hundred more waiting to stand and serve them in any restaurant in which they might want to sit down.

So what is it then? Is an actor a lusus naturae, one of the many little jokes God plays on humankind? Is it a genetic quirk that obliges actors to follow their star? Is there a psychological profile that marks actors off from their fellows? There is certainly a stereotypical opinion of the actor that seems to support the insight of our iconic actor, that it is not a way of life for a mature person. Actors are somehow irresponsible children who refuse to grow up and have no identity of their own. By definition, to have to pretend to be someone else for a living casts some doubt upon who you are, and is less than a recommendation of reliability.


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