“If you’re a director, your entire livelihood and your entire creativity is based on your self-confidence. Sometimes that’s dangerously close to arrogance.” – Trevor Nunn
This quote from the famous theatre director is apt for many working in the performing arts industry: you can quite easily replace “director” with “actor”. This was made abundantly clear in ITV’s Superstar programme less than two weeks ago with finalist Nathan James. Throughout the live shows judges such as Dawn French had registered their concern about his ego and ability to deal with criticism. This was then furthered by his VT on 23 July where he refused outright to wear a hat that costume offered him – this was amidst earlier reports that he reduced a staff member to tears over his “diva”-like behaviour. Andrew Lloyd Webber then criticised him for things he had written on Twitter and worried how he would cope in rehearsal with other star performers. He was booted out at the end of that evening’s show, causing people to take to Twitter defending him and calling it a fix. So was Nathan’s James’ behaviour acceptable? Or was it a misstep in the balancing of confidence and arrogance?
Actors traverse this line all the time – you need confidence in yourself and your abilities to put yourself forward for the endless auditions and equally for self-preservation from all the rejection you come up against. Confidence can go too far though, and it turns people off when it leads to arrogance. A case in point was the Joseph search in 2007: Seamus Cullen sang, “I have been promised a show of my own” during the elimination song Close Every Door, which made many glad he had left. Incidentally, he was part of the Superstar search but kept it a lot more low key that time round.
If Superstar had been a normal casting process taking place behind closed doors, Lloyd Webber would have had every right to dismiss James and maybe blacklist him from future auditions if he really disliked his attitude. Although Lloyd Webber put the decision in the people’s hands, it does seem suspicious that the man he disliked went out that night. So did arrogance cost James the role?
Singer Rebecca Caine, the original Cosette in Les Misérables, disagreed with judging someone on anything but the voice, tweeting on 23 July 2012: “I don’t care what someone tweets or what their off-stage attitude is. If I’m forking out money I want to hear the best singer.” Whilst Caine makes an excellent point, I can’t help but think that she expresses an attitude not acceptable in this technologically advanced world. The fact is, we do care what people tweet (note: Twitter joke trial) and thanks to social media, celebrities are no longer unknown enigmas – we are able to judge someone on their off-stage attitude.
At the end of the day Superstar is a TV show, so everyone’s profiles are raised and people are judged on their personality as much as on their voice, throwing the confidence vs arrogance debate into the mix. Was Lloyd Webber right to correct James for his attitude on live TV? And is this a public lesson in the strong need for humility as a performer?
Image credit: ITV Superstar website.