Jimmy Whiteaker on playing Caliban in FairyMonsterGhost

Jimmy’s background in acting

My background is in theatre; I trained in acting for theatre (acting for theatre is quite different from acting in television or film or radio) and, after finishing training, have only worked in theatre.

Jimmy explains why he enjoys acting

I enjoy acting for the same reason any of us do – we all act all the time, we all play about. Acting in the theatre means that I get to play about and help create a work of art too.

Why Jimmy enjoys acting in theatre

Acting in the theatre also means that half of the show is made up by the audience; for example in I, Caliban it’s set on an island that only Caliban lives on – but Caliban’s telling the story to the audience. The audience have to use their imaginations and feelings and ideas to create the island and the story. That’s something that only theatre can do – you can’t do that in television or film.

Jimmy’s favourite role

My favourite role was James in a show I wrote with another person. It was a show we made up from stories and memories out of our own lives, and then messed about with, using our imagination. It was a very funny and very sad show that only I acted in, and it was my favourite role because I had such a big part in creating it.

Why Jimmy was drawn to the role of Caliban

I wanted to play the role of Caliban because he is a bit of a filthy monster (which is always fun to play), because he’s a bit wild and makes me laugh – but he’s also smart, and feels things deeply, and finds things beautiful and sad. Even when I’m playing a character that’s got some real sadness or anger on the inside, it’s still got to be fun to play.

Jimmy on Caliban’s appearance

Caliban knows that other people find him ugly, but he uses it to poke fun at himself and everyone else. He also uses that knowledge to explain something about himself when he says, ‘Well, you’d be ugly too if you’d had a life like mine.’ Caliban sees things clearly, and doesn’t take himself entirely seriously.

How Jimmy thinks Caliban feels about his mother

In my mind, Caliban loves and misses his mother.

Jimmy discusses how Caliban feels when he is left alone

A mixture of relief and regret because Prospero’s gone. Although Caliban hated Prospero, Prospero showed him kindness at first and taught him many things.

Even though he had a hard time when everyone was on the island with him, so many extraordinary things happened it must have seemed like a bit of a carnival, a bit of a circus. He may be a monster, but he likes being around the colour and noise of other people. Without anyone around him, he probably has too much time to think about his sad memories.

Jimmy speaks about Caliban as a person

As an actor, whatever role I’m playing, it’s essential that I find out what my character thinks and feels is right and true – even if I don’t agree with that. Although Caliban tried to do terrible things, and thinks terrible thoughts, it’s not my job to judge him. It’s my job to understand what makes him tick, what he wants and doesn’t want.

I don’t believe that anyone is a bad person or a good person, but that we all act according to what we think and feel is best at the time. If put in a terrible situation, we might all be capable of doing something terrible.

What Jimmy thinks about I, Caliban compared with Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Shakespeare gives us descriptions of Caliban through the other characters in The Tempest: he is a slave, a fish-man, a puppy-headed monster – but he is also capable of great poetry and beauty in his speech and thoughts. In Tim Crouch’s play, Caliban loves beautiful music, and is capable of real love and tenderness toward his mother. In some ways, Tim Crouch’s portrait of Caliban is more playful and has more obvious sympathy toward him.

Jimmy remembers his first encounter with Shakespeare

My first encounter of Shakespeare was going to see Twelfth Night at the National Theatre in London as a child. I couldn’t really understand what they were saying, and they seemed to be saying a lot to each other without doing anything. I fell asleep, so I don’t have much of a memory of it.

My first proper memory of Shakespeare was reading Henry IV, Part One when I was twelve, at school. I remember being amazed at how much the characters lived – not just how alive they came to be in my imagination, but how much they went through. They lived deeply, felt deeply, created havoc deeply. After that, I loved Shakespeare.

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