The actor is currently starring in the West End transfer of Mary Stuart, playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre. He spoke to Love London Love Culture about the production and bringing it to the West End…
How much are you enjoying being part of Mary Stuart again?
Hugely. I love the play, the company, the role, the director. It’s a dream job.
What attracted you most to playing the part of Mortimer?
Mortimer is a complex individual. He has taken on an extreme transformation and has ambitious plans for the future. He has an unwavering focus and drive to achieve his destiny and the mission he has been handed (by God.) Upon reading Rob’s adaptation, it appeared to be very different to anything I had undertaken before. It also terrified me. The character’s extreme psychological traits, the role’s complexity and the role’s contrast to my previous work was what spoke to me.
What interests you most about the character Mortimer?
His determination and self-confidence.
Given the play’s success at the Almeida and now the West End transfer – what do you think makes Friedrich Schiller’s play so appealing to audiences in 2018?
First of all it’s a fascinating period of history. Secondly Brexit has left our country on the brink of political isolation. In Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I has just been excommunicated by the Pope which ultimately means she has become an enemy of the Catholic Church. With large swathes of Europe still very much Catholic in the late 16th Century, England became more and more distant from a European alliance. The line ‘A Majority doesn’t prove a thing is right,’ normally gets a few raised eyebrows.
How would you say audiences have been reacting so far to the production being in the West End? Hard to say really. The tension that we build on stage certainly manifests itself through to the auditorium. We can feel that. There is a different relationship between actor and audience here in the West End. The stage is essentially End-on, whereas at The Almeida last year we were surrounded by people. Also, we’ve got more side lighting here which means less of the audience are in view. Both set ups, here and at The Almeida have their benefits. One thing I do miss is the flood of reactions you can hear in the bar after a show at The Almeida, good or bad. In the West End the theatre bar is often closed so people tend to go on their merry way. So really I have no idea how what the audience think because I’ve not spoken to any of them. Friends and family are all coming soon,,. so I’ll grill them when I see them.
What appealed to you the most about joining the production initially?
In my opinion anything at The Almeida Theatre often results in work of the highest quality. You know that the work will push every actor and creative to their limits. The Almeida is a workplace for artists to create, imagine and innovate. It’s purely about the work with no sense of institution or bureaucracy. That in combination with the opportunity to work with Rob Icke again who I have an enormous amount of respect for having worked on Oresteia and 1984.
Did you have to carry out much research about this period of history to help you develop your character? Did you discover anything interesting?
I read loads. I met a Catholic Priest. I went to Rome. It bugged me that when we did it at The Almeida I didn’t have a proper memory of Mortimer’s travels whilst on his Catholic exploration of Europe. I had some time before rehearsals began for the West End run so I got a cheap flight out to Rome. I witnessed The Basilica and The Sistine Chapel amongst other incredible buildings in The Vatican. Now when I talk about my travels in the play, I have a real memory with real emotions to draw upon. I discovered the power and beauty of Catholicism. It’s utterly theatrical and completely seductive.
How would you describe the show for potential audiences who are perhaps slightly apprehensive about the historical element of the play?
If history isn’t your thing then it doesn’t matter. The play gives an insight into the often unseen and unheard private emotions of The Establishment and Leaders in general, facing very difficult political and moral dilemmas. Also go and see it for two power house performances by Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson. Also an original song by Laura Marling. Three very talented female artists.
Mary Stuart will play at the Duke of York’s Theatre until the 31st March. To book tickets click here or visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, ATG Tickets , See Tickets.com and Encore Tickets.