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From Pete Dinsdale in Manchester:
I am currently involved with a community theatre in my area. The Scarlet Pimpernel is my all time favourite show so when I discovered it was being done nearby you can imagine my excitment, then further for me to audition and be cast as Percy! The role of a lifetime! I want my performance of Percy to be completely true to what you intended obviously with my own insight but I wondered if there are any main points of advice you can offer me that I should keep in mind when protraying my character. I consider things like his constant love for Marguerite despite the pain he feels at her 'betrayal.' What advice can you offer me? I have to say Douglas Sills for me is Sir Percy, I can't imagine what you thought when you first saw him. It must have been like you were seeing the person that the part was written for. Thanks So Much!!

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Dear Pete,

Thanks so much for your letter and I hope I'm not answering it too late for it to be of use. First of all, yes, when Douglas walked into the audition room, we all had that "Whoa!-Is-this-it?" feeling, but it was when we saw him soar through the obstacle course- a) Acting b) Singing c) Humor- that we knew he was our Percy. You must have had to pass the same sort of obstacle course to win the role for your community theatre production, so- congratulations to you!

Advice. Hmmm.. I only hesitate because I firmly believe in letting an actor bring his or her own instincts into a role when starting out. There's always time later to give little nudges in other directions if the director or writer feels the actor isn't quite getting the character. So, please take this with a grain of salt and trust first in your own instincts.

I think the key to Percy is to remember these two things about him: 1) This is a man, endowed with great natural wit, who has led a rather pleasant and leisurely life when suddenly he is called upon to find inner strength and courage which he never before knew he had. As he rallies his men, he is also rallying himself and learning that he can be the sort of man he's always admired from afar; 2) He has probably never been in love before. He's the sort of man who only truly loves once in a lifetime. When he finally finds the woman, he knows immediately and he never deviates from that path. And so, even when Percy discovers Marguerite's betrayal, he cannot kill his love for her, nor can he really kill his deepest inner belief that she is the woman with whom he fell in love. These are, I think, the two most basic keys to his character as we watch him develop during the show. (The Percy of the novel is a fairly different man from the Percy I've created in the musical).

The only other thing I would add is that you must never forget how important it is that we see Percy having fun with his charade as the idiot fop. What propels him is the constant desire to "get" Chauvelin, but he never stops reveling in the process- and when it works right, your audience should be doing a lot of laughing. If you have fun, Pete, so will they.

Lastly, I just want to thank you for saying that S.P. is your favorite show ever- you have no idea how happy that makes me. Best of luck to you and all your fellow actors in your production!


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