Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.I had one line. All I needed to do was hold a set of hickories and successfully deliver my one line when Old Tom Morris, played by David Joy, gave me the cue.
But somehow this still made me slightly nervous as a I drove to Joy's house just outside of St. Andrews to pick him up for our performance. I told Joy I wanted to see his Old Tom Morris one-man show and he responded by recruiting me to play Old Tom's caddie and two-time Open champion Bob Martin for a show at the Links Clubhouse. Not only would I be the straight man in the show, I also served as driver as Joy either doesn't own a car or strongly prefers not to drive. Either way, I drove to his house just 5 minutes from the St. Andrews city centre, parked and walked through the garden and around to the alley to his back door. But when I came around the corner, I wasn't greeted by Joy, I was greeted by Old Tom Morris. This both startled me and eased my nerves.
A few days later I would try to discuss method acting at The Dunvegan, the pub where Joy and I are frequent patrons, with Joy. But I couldn't remember the phrase "method acting" and Joy didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Nevertheless, Joy is sort of an intermittent method actor. Probably St. Andrews' most respected golf historian, artist and actor, Joy doesn't really talk about Old Tom. He just goes into the character of Old Tom. I've heard Old Tom's opinion on various golf events from Old Tom himself, sort of. But my previous encounters with Joy as Old Tom in the pub hardly prepared me for meeting the man himself.
Joy didn't look like himself dressed as Old Tom. He looked like Old Tom. It takes him about 90 minutes to put on the makeup and hair he uses for the part. After that, it's just a matter of getting into 19th century garb, then he's in character. Up close, his hair and beard are grayish-blonde, which makes them appear more authentically grey to the audience, I suppose. Maybe that's why Joy's transformation surprised me. Perhaps I suspected the costume to be a little more department-store-Santa-esque. It didn't. It looked real. It felt like coming around the corner and meeting Old Tom.
Though Joy performed for only about 20 minutes that evening, it's easy to see how his one-man show could be entertaining for hours. He delivers the story of golf as a burgeoning sport, the birth of The Open Championship, the death of Young Tom Morris and the rise of competitive golf with first-person details and palpable realism. He punctuates his stories with a gentle, reflective chuckle that give the character a sort of burdened depth. But he's also quick with a clever line and physical comedy. At one point, he dropped a plastic "Whiffle" golf ball on the carpet of the dining room and gave it a whack with a rutting iron. Just in case any of the members of the audience missed it, or couldn't believe what they had just seen, he dropped another one and sent it sailing toward the 18th green on the New Course, just outside the clubhouse window. He must regularly put on his show at this clubhouse because none of the staff seemed to bristle about his using the carpet as a makeshift fairway and, luckily, his rutting iron shot didn't break anything.
And speaking of smooth sailing, I delivered my one line just as rehearsed.
"When did you win The Open, Bob?" Old Tom asked.
"Aye, 1876 and 1885," I said. And with no more than a four-word sentence, I could sort of fake a Scottish brogue.
From there, my only job was to hand Old Tom the club he wanted and answer "Aye" to any further questions.
And that's where Joy and I took off. He would ramble through an elaborate question for Bob, to which Bob would reply with a deadpan "Aye." By the second time I uttered a one-word line, the audience giggled. By the fourth time, it was a running joke and, apparently, hilarious. The audience laughed and that caused me to almost break the serious character I was attempting to portray.
Alas, it will probably be my last performance as Bob Martin. Joy claims I was trying to upstage him.

You May Like