Yesterday, I went to see a local amateur dramatic company's production of Up Pompeii by Miles Tredinnick, which was directed by a friend. The cast rose to the challenge incredibly well. Not only did they have to contend with the notoriously difficult timing of exits and entrances on which such farce-type comedies rely, but there were risqué costumes and saucy clinches that might be embarrassing when they meet their co-stars at the next parents' evening. Added to this was the challenge of performing in a show that everyone thinks they know from the television series. They really went for it, particularly the actor playing Lurcio, the character made memorable by Frankie Howerd.
What's an actor to do in a situation like that–imitate Mr. Howerd, or try to put their own stamp on the role? It was written in such a way that it demanded at least some of Frankie Howerd's mannerisms and verbal style. How to play the role was indicated by the skill of the playwright. However, without Frankie Howerd's example how would Miles Tredennick have written it? Is limiting the options of the cast, directors et al a good thing? Of course, you have to write roles in a way that suggests or reveals character, but how far should you go?
William Shakespeare created some of the world's greatest plays and memorable characters, but one of the main reasons his work has survived is that it can be reinterpreted not only by each generation, but each production. Unless you're adapting an iconic television series, perhaps it's better to allow the actors room to act.