Saturday, December 21, 2019

Language, Language --- Day 8/257

Walk: Hood pre-rain errands
Distance: 5 Miles, Yoga

So, what do these distinguished actors have in common: 

Ray Milland
Richard Burton



Matthew Rhys
Shape Shifting Christian Bale

And, of course,
Sir Anthony Hopkins

and
Jonathan Pryce

 Give up?  They are Welsh.
As she watched Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes. Ciwt started to think about the Welsh acting tradition and training and wondering if there are aspects of them that sets them apart. Hopkins, as always utterly inhabited, just owned, the role of Pope Benedict.XVI.  He was completely grounded, not one false flicker, riveting.  But it was Pryce who transfixed Ciwt.

Not three months ago Ciwt saw Jonathan Pryce on Broadway in The Height of the Storm. He played an aging literary lion in some stage of dementia and was as English as unimaginably dressed, homebody, garden-loving English can be.  Naturally, Ciwt had him filed in her brain as quintessentially English.

Then, there he was at the beginning of  The Two Popes in the streets of Buenos Aires wearing ecclesiastical garb and orating in Spanish! to a large, public assemblage. Clearly an Argentinian and just a completely different man from that Englishman in Ciwt's mental filing.  So different that Ciwt kept waiting for Jonathan Pryce to enter the movie - until she finally realized this was Jonathan Pryce in the role of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (who is now the current Pope Frances).  

Bergoglio/Pryce soon went to Rome to join the College of Cardinals in electing a new Pope.  In Rome, he spoke Latin! (really) and Italian (fluently!). Again, long, fluid conversations.  When he returned years later for an audience with the then Pope (Anthony Hopkins), he spoke English with a perfect Spanish accent.  Never, for one moment, would you doubt that he was a Spaniard.  

Except for English, all of these languages Pryce conversed in were new to him. Apparently he mastered them in a matter of months.   Now, to Ciwt, This is acting.  And this gift (and probably love and respect) for language seems to Ciwt to set Welsh actors apart.  What's it all about?  

It may have to do with Eisteddfods, Welsh festivals of literature, music and performance dating back to at least the 12th century. Still today, the most important festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe is the National Eisteddfod of Wales, eight days in August of competitions and performances entirely in the Welsh language.  Competitors typically number 6,000 or more and overall attendance generally exceeds 150,000.  There is also a large annual youth festival, Eisteddfod Yr Urdd, which involves Welsh children from nursery age to 25 in a week of competition in singing, recitation, dancing, acting and musicianship.

Other smaller festivals exixt, and, while they do not explain the talent of the actors pictured above or the many Welsh actors in leading roles of such series as Masters of Sex, Game of Thrones, it does suggest a unique national premium on language and acting.  Meanwhile, Ciwt will not be surprised if Jonathan Pryce receives nominations for both a Tony and an Oscar this year.  


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