Ed Barr-Sim’s Frost/Nixon rehearsal diary: Part One – Across the Easter Break

Art & Lit Stage

Ed as Frost

Ed, let me introduce you to a friend of mine – Sally.”

“Hi Sally,” said Ed, extending a hand, “pleasure to meet you.”

“You too, Ed,” said Sally, “God, it’s funny, you really remind me of Michael Sheen.”

“Well, it’s funny you should say that, Sally, I’m actually playing David Frost in Frost/Nixon, coming soon to a Union near you.”

This is how most evenings start for me now.

Yes, it is a great privilege to be playing David Frost.  My initial impressions are rather hopeful. The character and play are incredibly exciting – even if I have concerns. Despite my best efforts, I am not Michael Sheen and I am doing a degree. This means I don’t have the six months of research a pro-actor would expect, and, inevitably, essays or some other shite will preoccupy me at some point.

And yet, the first thing you generally ask yourself when taking on a project at University is: Can we reasonably achieve this? Will it look good, or will my mother stop loving me after they boo me off stage? At the moment, I would have to say: “No. It feels entirely achievable.” The character doesn’t look like a summit to an ill-equipped mountaineer, or a screaming flanker to the fly half or a <insert appropriate daunting metaphor>. I like David. I like his bravery/stupidity, blissfully ignorant of the beast’s claws as he strokes it. And his charm, his love of people, is something I’d like to echo in my performance. It’s also a David and Goliath tale – in more ways than one! Because of his name? Get it? (Christ alive, Ed…)

An intellectual overcoming – just like what I sometimes feel when I, a mere Brookes boy, get quizzed on Isherwood and sort of sound a bit smart because I seen that film what got done made from his book or some-fing like dat. In other words I sympathise already. And I look like Michael Sheen.

Josie and James (the directors) are also doing a really interesting thing, which I’ve never heard done before, where we’ve had the cast split into groups: ‘Frost’ camp and ‘Nixon’ camp. Lovely though Aleks is, he’s playing Nixon, and we literally can’t get too close. Aleks is in a different world, a different team, a competitor! I have no idea what the effect of this will be come first night, but it’s definitely doing something to the friendships and conversations of the actors already.

It’s all at arms-length at the moment – all initial impressions.   No crushing recrimination or bitterness, just a very unspecific, genuine excitement. Time to cement those lines and dive even further in.

PHOTO / Frost/Nixon