March 31, 2007, by Peter Kirwan
Old friends: Richard Goulding and John Heffernan
One of the satisfying things about seeing the entire Complete Works has been the opportunity to see actors – often in the smaller parts- returning to the stage again and again, excelling in parts and coming to audience’s attentions. Rob Carroll is a good example- a bit player in the ‘Antony’/’Caesar’/’Tempest’ company, who got to fully showcase his talents with an excellent performance in ‘The Rape Of Lucrece’ and in two workshopping sessions. ‘Regime Change’ gave several of the same company, particulaly Julian Bleach, Joseph Alessi and John Hopkins, an excellent platform to play very different parts. Harriet Walter’s appearance in ‘Venus and Adonis’ was a wonderful surprise; the brilliant Peter de Jersey has quietly appeared understudying in ‘Antony’ and performing ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’; Jane Lapotaire and Henry Goodman made unannounced returns in ‘The Rape Of Lucrece’ and ‘Regime Change; Curtis Flowers’ started the Festival with ‘Romeo’ and ended it with ‘Coriolanus’ and so on. Growing to know the work of these performers has been one of my highlights.
It was with pleasure last night at ‘King Lear’, therefore, that I saw two young actors sharing the stage with a highly prestigious cast- two actors who’d both appeared in smaller roles earlier in the Festival and had clearly been picked out for their talent. John Heffernan played a series of small roles in the ‘Romeo’/’Much Ado’/’King John’ cycle (his most memorable role probably being the Sexton in ‘Much Ado’), but last night he got a much more important role as Oswald, giving an excellent performance, veering between his cowardliness facing Kent and his would-be evil as he prepared to kill Gloucester.
Even more fascinating was the pleasant sight of Richard Goulding, playing a Knight and Messenger among other smaller roles. He had some of the meatier supporting parts, including delivering the news of Cornwall’s death and Lear’s killing of the Captain. As a friend of mine pointed out in the interval, however, he has also played a part earlier in the Festival- for one afternoon only, he was Prospero in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s ‘The Tempest’. He gave a solid and mature performance in that role, a performance which I certainly remember helped him stand out over the other (very good) students in the production. According to my contact, though, it was as a result of that performance (done while he was still at drama school) that he was handpicked out to join Trevor Nunn’s latest project and play in the biggest production of the Festival opposite Sir Ian McKellen.
If that is, in fact, what happened, then that’s a pretty amazing impact of the Complete Works Festival for one young actor- to be invited with his school to perform for one afternoon in the Swan and in a couple of local schools, and as a result of that to close the Festival at the Courtyard Theatre under Trevor Nunn. He was seemingly undaunted by the task, and played excellently, particularly in his grief over Cordelia. I look forward to seeing him as Konstantin in ‘The Seagull’, and hope even better things come of this for him!