Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Mark Ravenhill

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

“They can be quite unnerving,” Mark Ravenhill says of the Secret Theatre company, suggesting that their 12 months of working together has given way to a kind of openness he hasn’t come across in many rehearsal rooms. He elaborates further: “On the whole, everyone in British theatre is on these short contracts so everyone makes this big effort. And although you might think it’d be nice to be rid of that, it’s actually a little bit disarming for the first few days because they’re quite neutral. They’re very calm and centred. It takes a while to adjust to that.”

Ravenhill is a late addition to the Secret Theatre ensemble. He joined the company after Lyndsey Turner (who directed his adaptation of Candide at the RSC last year) suggested he write to Sean Holmes asking to be involved – “You don’t know if you don’t ask”. Continue reading Interview: Mark Ravenhill

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Interview: Ben Power

*Originally written for Exeunt*

The access to the Stage Door of the National Theatre from the riverfront is currently blocked, meaning that in order to enter you have to walk around the entire building, much of which is a literal building site. You make your way past colourful panels and promises of a bigger, brighter ‘NT Future’ before finally arriving at the east side of Denys Lasdun’s monolith. The National is now in its final stage of development works, and talking to Ben Power about his adaptation of Medea which has just opened in the Olivier, it strikes me that alongside this aesthetic overhaul, the building is also undergoing a somewhat less visible but just as radical shift in its programming.

“The thing that I think is fantastic,” Power enthuses as we watch over a glorious summer day on the Southbank from a fifth-floor window, “has been the emergence in the last three or four years of a generation of directors who can direct big plays on these stages.” Continue reading Interview: Ben Power

Interview: Lucy Ellinson

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

To say Grounded took last year’s Edinburgh Fringe by storm may be a bit of an understatement. For about a week, George Brant’s play about an American pilot who finds herself sat behind a desk manning a drone was the only show anyone spoke of, with five star reviews across the board and a buzz which still hasn’t quite died down. At the heart of it all was Lucy Ellinson who, trapped within a gauze box throughout the entirety of Christopher Haydon’s exquisite production, recounted to us the Pilot’s hilarious and heartbreaking story. Now, before a visit to Washington DC and an upcoming tour, Grounded is back at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre, the place of its inception.

Did any of the team expect the response to the show? “No, no, not at all,” Ellinson tells me a few hours before press night. “I knew it’d be interesting to people because of the insight it gives you into a very secretive form of warfare, and a very secretive transformation of our armed forces. But I didn’t imagine for a second that it’d be received as well as it was.” Continue reading Interview: Lucy Ellinson

Interview: Heather Christian

*Originally written for Exeunt*

It’s difficult to find the adjectives to describe Heather Christian’s extraordinary voice. “Like an emphysemic angel,” some have said. Others prefer describing it as “a crazed rubber band”.Variety suggested that “Christian howls like a werewolf with a voice made of molasses”. Whatever your preferred descriptor, it’s impossible for anyone with ears to deny that this songstress owns a voice of staggering quality. Her varied and extensive CV as a songwriter for her group The Arbornauts and as a theatre-composer is therefore unsurprising. In the UK, she’s perhaps best known for her work as Miss Atomic in The TEAM’s Mission Drift, which took the Edinburgh Fringe by storm in 2011 and triumphed at the National Theatre’s Shed last summer. Her “big European adventure” this year is of a similarly American flavour, as she takes on the challenge of playing Curley’s Wife in and composing the music for West Yorkshire Playhouse’s production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Due to the book’s status as a set-text in American schools, Christian was highly familiar with it before she began work, though she admits she finds it “very difficult to get through”. Continue reading Interview: Heather Christian

Interview: Allie Butler

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

Considering the snobbery with which many people and media outlets in England discuss the concept of Scottish independence, it’s unsurprising that many of our neighbours in the north are looking for a way out. Some want the chance to redefine their national identity as a separate entity rather than in relation to the UK. Some want to reassert their cultural heritage on the world stage. Some just want to be rid of David Cameron. Whilst Scotland wrangles with these thoughts, however, England remains largely silent. But why does it all matter anyway?

“There’s something really satisfying, isn’t there, about identifying with and feeling part of a tribe, and having that represented; Continue reading Interview: Allie Butler

Interview: Katy Stephens

*Originally written for Exeunt*

It may be hard to believe, but Katy Stephens wasn’t particularly into Shakespeare before joining the RSC in 2006. “I thought Shakespeare was for posh people,” she tells me, “It was for academics and intellectuals. I didn’t realise it was truly for me until I joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and started to investigate Shakespeare myself and found these things that really touched me.” Since taking on the roles of Margaret of Anjou and Joan of Arc in the now-historic Histories Cycle, Stephens has been in a “love affair” with the Bard (“Oh, why don’t you just marry Shakespeare?!”, her son says).

She was a member of the two long-ensembles under Michael Boyd (“a hero as far as I’m concerned”), Continue reading Interview: Katy Stephens

Interview: Es Devlin

*Originally written for Exeunt*

Those who have seen American Psycho at the Almeida will distinctly remember a moment when assembled guests at Evelyn’s house strike a series of poses in super-quick succession, giving an impression of a nouveau-riche flickbook being speedily rifled through. After the event, however, it can be difficult to find this image anywhere but in the mind’s eye, as media photographs of the performance only capture a singular moment.

Designer Es Devlin, however, is showing me a doctored picture which truly captures that moving image, layering photographs over the top of one another to give an impression of slick, sexy fluidity. Continue reading Interview: Es Devlin