Completely stunned.

When offered out of the blue to accompany my friend to the Lyric Theatre at The Star (formerly known as The Star City Casino), I was filled with some trepidation. I’m probably as far culturally and philosophically from Casinos as a person can get – and also I’m not one who is utterly obsessed with celebrity (perhaps that’s why I like theatre.)

I don’t know much about Al Pacino. I’m not a fan that sits and adores ever word that tumbles out of his mouth. In fact, I don’t have a sense of hero worship around film actors at all. Most actors, most real actors are much more than their celebrity. I know that the film actor is a very different artist to the stage actor. The stage actor has to contend with repetition and boredom and lack of spontaneity, and also spontaneity in the form of unpleasant surprises and misadventures on stage. Misadventures in film can be edited out or ignored – the actors work is then filtered and selected by editor and/or director.

To me, a film actor on stage in an armchair has limited appeal, unless s/he has a brilliant string of things to say. Malkovich, earlier this year at the Sydney Festival, did. Al Pacino on stage at a Casino the other night, didn’t.

Pacino, though referencing theatre quite a bit, was talking to a room full of film fans, who hadn’t seen any of his theatre work. So those stories fell flat. So much so he identified and admitted that we were the type of crowd who were keen for the uglier, smuttier stories – and he indulged – tuning in and playing up to toilet humour, and a brand of arrogant misogyny which seems to be rewarded in American culture as “bad boy attitude.” Frankly him expecting applause from the audience after each drop of a name or each reference to a film seemed, well over-fraught with neediness. The ego was palpable. “Hey I’m Al.” He exclaimed. As if that could excuse him from his dull stories. Surprisingly as well, he spoke to us the audience as though he was in America – asking us, had we been to certain venues, seen certain shows? Was he kidding?

As I was sitting there i thought what a magnificent study in ego and self-importance this was.

How the actor is more of a “Star” than “actor” because his identity wrapped up in his own fame was more important than the anonymity for the sake of transparent performance. Each film he is in, is burdened by the awareness that this is “Al Pacino in the story which tells about the life of such-and-such character” not “this is a story about this character.”

The ironic horror – that his life is NOT about acting, as he claims it is. It’s about his star persona, because, frankly he will never be able to escape his stardom to be authentically anyone else but himself.

And for all the doe-eyed acting students, who ask top three questions like “what are the top three things an actor needs?” or “what ‘s your favourite top three films?” “Who is your favourite leading lady?” (The latter question he couldn’t remember any of their names – and then got the question confused with women he had bedded)

To tell you the truth, this One night only was not only boring but at also embarrassing.

Embarrassing at how much Pacino clearly was doing this as an ego boost – not to give to an audience but to take their adoration. Not to give insight, or of himself, but to take cheap laughs. Not to offer thanks, but to lap up praise.

And more embarrassing that people gave it to him.

I wondered if we would accept the same level of arrogant sexism from a woman, or an Australian, or an indigenous actor, or a theatre actor, or from anyone? I marvel at the power and potency of celebrity and how it, like power, makes monsters of people. And how sad that is, that we as an audience are complicit in that creation – how we are responsible for it’s creation. And knowing that for one night only, I was complicit in that act, made me choke with disappointment.