I recently had the privilege of working with an old friend of mine, James (Jimmy) Hayes.

Jimmy has done more shows at the National than any other living actor and has written a fabulous book about his 50 years in the industry, called Shouting In The Evenings.

We were playing Stephano and Trinculo respectively in the RSC’s Tempest.

Jimmy is full of incredible stories and nuggets of wisdom and threw this particular gem out quite casually one night in our dressing room

‘Grace and Pace’. It really caught my ear.

What he was referencing was the necessity for us as actors speaking Shakespeare’s words, to deliver the language with a sense of drive (I want to say speed but that’s not quite right) and lightness of touch.

I thought that was a brilliant little motto particularly for the speaker of Shakespeare.

There is a tendency in all of us I think to lean toward either slow, ponderous delivery in a bid to let every thought land or a rapidity that makes everything a bit staccato.

What Jimmy was advocating is a deftness of touch with the text, a selective landing on certain key wording and energy through the line. Carrying the intention right the way through to the culmination of a thought rather than breaking it up.

The Italians have a fabulous term for a particularly popular sense of style that they have. It’s called ‘sprezzatura’.

Isn’t it wonderful! It essentially means a ‘studied carelessness’. Having recently visited Rome I can say with full confidence that the men out there have it down pat, they look effortlessly cool.

This, to me, is what we are after when we say grace and pace. A commitment to the analysis, understanding and learning of the language and a lightness of touch on delivery will make it sound like the character is making it up on the spot. But that sense of carelessness doesn’t come about without the study.

Grace and pace takes preparation, discipline and effort. Studied carelessness.


To you, the artist.