Character Questions with Mike Dodge
1) Pick three adjectives that describe your (major) character and explain why you chose them.
My role is Sir Oliver Surface, uncle of Charles and Joseph Surface, and long-time friend to Sir Peter Teasle.
Three adjectives to describe this recently returned gentleman from India after 15 years away:
Eccentric: Sir Oliver has been “in the East” for a decade and a half, has had no direct contact with his family, friends, and social stratum in that time. As a result, when he appears in the play it is as an outsider, somewhat removed from the standards and mores of behavior current in upper class London. His dress is somewhat extravagant, unusual, and his opinions and actions do not conform to aristocratic expectations. Hence, he is viewed as different, which gives him a peripheral stance from which to view the “scandalous” goings-on.
Shrewd: Sir Oliver’s nephews have been a study in contrasts while he’s been away. Though supporting both of them from India, he is returning home to, in part, decide which of his nephews will become his heir. The elder, Charles, maintains a strenuous pretense of virtue and probity, while concealing a predatory, malicious character. The younger, Joseph, is a professed rake and aristocratic ne’er-do-well, but with a charitable streak that persists in spite of financial difficulties. Oliver has the knowledge and appreciation of human nature that allows him to discern the two young men’s differences and discover their true natures by the end of the play.
Playful: To uncover the various plots and counter-plots, Sir Oliver takes on the role of provocateur as well as assuming two different identities in the midst of the games and tests devised to reveal the true character of his nephews. His delight in these acting adventures shines through and, though the goal is serious (naming of an heir), Sir Oliver seldom forgets to appreciate the absurdity and random nature of human existence.
For an actor, it is a joy to play a character that brings a worldly, realistic perspective to the antics of the play, and to provide it with a moral center that helps drive the climax.