Ron Cook belongs to a group of actors that everyone knows, everyone loves but not everyone can name. He doesn’t often headline projects but invariably gives the stand out memorable performance: his Mr Crabb was the earthy soul in Mr Selfridge, Trelawny of the Wells wouldn’t be half as good without his sparkling talent and his sir Toby Belch is still the best I have seen.
In the last fifteen years, he has regularly worked with the Donmar Warehouse under three different artistic directors (a big achievement in itself), and the company’s digital team have gone through the archives and put up a collection of photographs in their facebook pages.
The digital print (not really a photograph) that caught my attention was Rae Smith’s sketch from the Juno and the Paycock, 1999. The caption simply says: Ron Cook as ‘Joxer’ Daly and Colm Meaney as ‘Captain’ Jack Boyle (1999). Rehearsal sketch by Rae Smith.
The role led to an Olivier Best Supporting Actor nomination for Ron Cook (hard to believe but this is his only nomination so far). Rae Smith went on to design War Horse and you can see that production’s sketchbook at the National Theatre website.
But this sketch brings together so many things I love about theatre: the actors in rehearsal through the eyes of the designer. The abstraction of pen on paper and the utilitarian approach of the rehearsal. The actors caught between being themselves and someone else, and the words at the background forging the bond.