Big Characters

As part of the last playwriting evening, we discussed characters. In particular, what makes some of the most famous theatre characters memorable. Those characters that tend to have a life outside the play. Examples include Blanche Dubois, a fictional character in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire or Johnny "Rooster" Byron in Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth.

Matt Grinter's view is that what makes these characters larger than life is the following, they

  1. often enter the story later
  2. have mythological qualities
  3. span several traditional archetype
  4. represent the theme or world of the play

I suggested to Matt that wrapped up in the last one, could be another:

they represent that moment in time

I used the example of Gene Hunt of Life on Mars. The character stole the show, partly due to his turn of phrase:

  • Gene Hunt. Your DCI. And it’s 1973. Almost dinner time. I’m having hoops.
  • You know, if you were Pinocchio, you’d have just poked my eye out.
  • He's got fingers in more pies than a leper on a cookery course.

I think he embodied not only 1-4 but also the moment in time. A time that was about to be lost. I'd suggest this impacted on his power as a character as they moved through the years as he was out of step.