I found out first thing this morning that I have won the Sir Alec Guinness Memorial Award, hosted by the Catholic Association of Performing Arts. Sadly I was at the technical rehearsal for my upcoming show The Priory and was unable to attend the actual event. But nonetheless I was very proud (and so was my mum, whom I woke with a phone call at 7am to tell her the news).
Alec Guinness was a truly incredible actor. He is among the top three British actors of the 20th Century next to John Gielgud and Lawrence Olivier. In a career spanning nearly 70 years he appeared on stage and TV but it is in film that we still have access to his brilliance. He acted alongside a host of legendary performers from both sides of the pond in film after film, including many that are considered classics of cinema – Kind Hearts and Coronets (in which he played eight different parts), The Bridge on the River Kwai (for which he won an Oscar), Tunes of Glory (a film close to my heart as it revolves around piping), Dr Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, and Star Wars (“These are not the droids you’re looking for”).
Early in his career he became a Roman Catholic and his faith stayed with him throughout his career – he served as Vice President of the Catholic Association of Performing Arts and reportedly recited a verse from Psalm 143 every morning: “Cause me to hear your loving kindness in the morning”. I too have a morning ritual to set up my sprint for the day, which may serve as the topic for a future blog post.
It’s refreshing to learn of successful actors professing a strong faith. A lot of emphasis is put on performers’ mental and physical wellbeing, and rightly so, in my opinion, but as a practising Christian, I am pleased that there is provision for spiritual support too. Organisations such as the Catholic Association of Performing Arts provide a chaplaincy service for people working in the Performing Arts. They offer support, guidance and prayers for their members and the wider performing arts community. They encourage members to stage productions in aid of charitable causes, host pilgrimages and retreats. I am reassured to know that there is somewhere I can turn to (in confidence if need be) in the event of becoming spiritually lost.
Another place where performers can seek sanctuary is St Paul’s church in Covent Garden. Commonly called the Actor’s Church, it is situated in the heart of London’s ‘theatreland’ and often hosts plays and concerts (in fact, if my technical and dress rehearsals today finish in enough time, I will be heading there myself to see my friend singing sing Carmina Burana with Eclectic Voices.)
I have already seen for myself how the performing arts can paradoxically be a very lonely industry to work in, but it is important to remember that support is there – psychological, physical and, for those who want it, spiritual. I want to encourage actors who have a faith, firstly, that they are not alone; and secondly, in a predominantly secular industry, that they need not be ashamed of their beliefs. It is tempting to conceal, or maybe even actively deny one’s faith for fear of what people might think of you, but to paraphrase a well-known quotation (attributed to various people): ‘You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realised how seldom they do.’