One personal attribute that I am very proud of is my punctuality. I have to be early. Whether it's catching a train, meeting a friend or going to an audition, you can always count on me being at my destination on time. My wife has always taken a great disliking to this because she on the other hand is consistently late. However, I think now after 12 years she has succumbed to my insatiable desire to be early, very early. I am writing this sitting on the Young Vic terrace. It's 16.39, but my official call time is 18.30. I have been moping around the building for about an hour or so doing nothing of major significance so I thought I’d get this done. We are about midway through the tour, having conquered the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a couple of awards and playing Glasgow, Oxford and Dublin. I am eagerly awaiting the next 6 weeks of performing in the most challenging play of my career.
I first received the script a few weeks before I was due to finish Headlong's ‘The Seagull', also a touring production. Initially I was slightly apprehensive about undertaking another lengthy project that would keep me away from my wife and kids for months. However, upon reading David Greig’s script there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a part of it. My wife agreed, having once been in the business and therefore very understanding of the nature of the work; she is, I must say, the most incredible woman. Furthermore, a two-hander is not something that presents itself to an actor very often. The script was one hundred and thirty pages, so I quickly worked out that this was going to be an epic piece of work with a running time well over two hours. I think it’s in an actor’s make up to rise to different challenges and this was one I felt I had to commit to. Oh yes, and there was the small matter of playing a multitude of different characters, one of which was the central character’s lesbian lover.
I got a call from my agent a few hours after my meeting with Ramin Gray with an offer. I was delighted, excited and terrified. I was looking forward to a break after ‘The Seagull,’ but no such luck. I was due to start rehearsals for ‘The Events’ on a Monday, with my involvement with Chekhov only concluding on the previous Saturday.
The first two weeks of the rehearsal process involved editing the script down to sixty pages from its initial one hundred and thirty pages. Lots of coffee was consumed during this period and occasionally Ramin would ask Neve and I to indulge in a playful scrap, usually ending in both of us breathless and broken on the rehearsal room floor. In preparation for the role of ‘The Boy,’ I immersed myself in hours of video footage documenting the events of Oslo, Columbine and Dunblane, which featured insights into the perpetrators’ motives and eyewitness accounts. As you can imagine this was very difficult viewing but was a journey I had to undertake.
One of the lines that survived the axe of the first few weeks of discovery was; “I follow The Paleolithic Diet…” Before I started rehearsals I decided to give this a go for a week. All I ate was Meat, green vegetables and leaves. All I drank was water. I felt light and energised but succumbed to a Beer on day 7, which was quickly followed by a curry. Anders Brevik famously took immense pride in a regimented diet and training regime in preparation for his act of terror. I began pounding the pavements four to five times a week and just being as body conscious as possible. The curry was an exception. If I drank alcohol, I’d always make sure I ran a little further the following day. A personal trainer was drafted in and I was quickly put through my paces and was given a crash course in skipping. Now, most men don’t have any rhythm, including myself, and skipping is all about rhythm. I practiced a lot until it became second nature because Ramin wanted me to deliver a speech whilst skipping. I have to admit to being considerably out of breath with various muscular aches and strains after just a short burst of skipping, but now I feel I’m now quite accomplished at it.
In general I have found this job an immensely immersive experience, both physically and emotionally. When undertaking any role I always try to build a mental framework of the character so I can really get under the skin of whoever it is I am playing. I have to think like them, and really believe whatever it is I am saying, because if I don’t believe it, no one else will. When I’m playing 'The Boy' I think like him, which is what I have found most challenging about this project.
I feel incredibly lucky to be working on such a special piece of writing. Sorry to sound clichéd but I feel lucky to be doing what I love, playing an elaborate game of pretend and getting paid for it. At home, sometimes I can get a little carried away with this game. This is much to the annoyance of my 3-year-old son whose complaint is always “Daddy stop. Just be Daddy now!”