Excerpt from Beginning featured on the RADA Centenary website
'Hello, Kenneth. Hugh Crutwell here.'
Jesus - the principal of RADA.
'Now look, I'll be quite frank. All the others want to offer you a place here.'
This was too much. I sat down.
'The thing is, I'm not sure. So look. What I suggest, if you're willing and interested, is that you come back with a different audition speech and you and I will have a work session on it. How's that?'
If he'd asked me to dance naked in Gower Street I'd have agreed. I was breathless with excitement, and terrified to boot. Another speech. What? And what was it he didn't like? Everything, it seemed, and yet he was prepared to give me another chance.I took to Hugh Cruttwell at first sight - a sharpish face with the aspect of a wise old eagle and a strong, wiry body. He was instantly commanding and completely honest. I started on my speech from The Glass Menagerie several times, but he stopped me continually and made me go back to the beginning. His criticism was very direct - he was saying exactly what he thought, not to wound or play power games, but because it was patently true.We carried on for half-an-hour and it was exhilarating. I found myself acting in a way I had never done before and, as Hugh pointed out, I'd had a tiny glimpse of the difference between being a performer showing off and an actor actually serving a character. At the end of the session he said, with great precision, 'You've absolutely convinced me of your potential to work in the way I think is important for you.'
I still hadn't cracked it, or at least I wasn't sure, but it had been a wonderful morning, and it was proof, if ever I needed it, that acting was the career I wanted to follow. It had also shown me that there was a place to go where I could really learn, and a person who could really teach me. On that one magnificent and humbling morning, acting stopped being simply another means of escape for the working-class Belfast boy adrift in English suburbia. It was no longer to do with aspirations to fame and having nice things said about you. An enormous area had suddenly opened up where the attempt to plumb the mystery of real acting offered a lifetime of attractively elusive satisfaction. A profound shift had taken place in my mind and I was absolutely certain that RADA was the place, and Hugh was the man, to start me on this immense journey.