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
Thursday, 8 June 2006
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!