Welcome to Michael’s ‘Intimate With Strangers’ Page 2
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Mr Bannister is the first low comedian on the stage. Let an author present him with a
humorous idea, whether it be of jollity, of ludicrous distress, or of grave indifference,
whether it be mock-heroic, burlesque, or mimicry, and he embodies it with an
instantaneous felicity. No actor enters so well into the spirit of his audience as well as his
author, for he engages your attention immediately by seeming to care nothing about you.
The stage appears to be his own room, of which the audience compose the fourth wall:
if they clap him, he does not stand still to enjoy their applause; he continues the action,
if he cannot continue the dialogue; and this is the surest way to continue their applause.
The stage is always supposed to be an actual room, or other scene, totally abstracted
from an observant multitude, just like the room in which I am now scribbling: an actor,
therefore, who indulges himself every moment in looking at the audience and
acknowledging their approbation, is just as ridiculous as I should be myself, if I were to
look every moment at the reflection of my own smiles in my looking-glass, or make a
bow to the houses on the other side of the way.
How would Jack Bannister cope with ‘Sit-corn’ on television if he were alive today?
Apart from the obvious disadvantage of being over two hundred years old, he would
have a studio audience heard - but not seen - at home and be surrounded by cameras,
microphones and scores of technicians going about their various tasks while he tried to
remain absorbed in the scene and speak and listen to his fellow actors as though