As someone who has performed in the odd play or two, I tend to look at a play and decide what would be an interesting part for me to perform – what character represents a challenge? How to meet that challenge? What is the emotional journey? The character quirks and flaws that I can explore? How can I convey these feelings, the subtle thoughts, the motivations, the projected back-history and bring the audience into an empathetic bond with my character? My wife, however, believes I look for the beard. Or indeed for The Tempest, “The Beard” – it deserves capitalisation!
Let me explain, my wife loves me – she loves not The Beard. The fact that The Beard is a part of me, seems to escape her loving notice. It does not, however, escape her critical, disdainful notice. The Beard is routinely and frequently condemned, The Beard is publicly denounced, The Beard is not welcome in our home and especially not in our bed! The kisses we once enjoyed are now both perfunctory and accompanied by disapproving noises. How I suffer for my art!
It is not that I have never performed sans facial hair. Indeed, I would suggest that the majority of my characters have comfortably displayed a totally naked face to the audience and the wider world. But my wife only remembers the “scratchy” roles – Sir Toby Belch or Dromio, for example. But I digress….
The character of Caliban would appear to require The Beard, even demand The Beard. Caliban has lived a life lacking in civilised veneer. Prospero and Miranda have tried to domesticate, educate and latterly, incarcerate the poor fellow. But the wild untameable facial hair is in microcosm what Caliban is in his essence – it grows where it wants, it goes where it wants, it neither looks nor smells good. In fact, if The Beard could speak, it would go on stage without me and perform the part to a much higher standard.
You may ask, how do I, the owner of The Beard, feel about it? I sometimes think that The Beard sees me as a parasitic necessity. The Beard holds and stores food that I require. The Beard also holds and stores fluids (don’t ask!). But the thing is, for many weeks or months, I was hardly aware of its presence – because, I don’t carry a hand mirror and I can’t see it from my view. Fortunately, my wife has been there to remind me –on a few occasions – each hour. But in more recent times, it has turned on me with prickly intent, delivering sustained itchy irritation. A focus, just beneath my chin, that feels as if a hot needle has been driven into my skin – I am beginning to hate The Beard!
Finally, the look. Well, I was hoping for a wildness, a suggestion of the untamed savage, a life free of restraint. What I have achieved is the look of a refugee from a ZZ Top concert with a white ruff. Ho hum – I hope you like my Caliban, I have suffered for my art and cannot wait to employ the razor!