The actor is currently starring in the English Touring Theatre production of The Weir. He spoke to Love London Love Culture about the production.
Hi Sam – thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Love London Love Culture. How is the tour going so far?
Tour’s going great! What a pleasure to be taking this show around with this bunch of actors. Stephen Rea talks about how actors should think of themselves as a band who, after each gig, talk about what was good and what was getting a bit ‘off key’. So, we’re doing that; keeping it tight and trusting each other to keep an eye on things. Audiences are responding brilliantly. And all my digs have been clean which is a great bonus.
Do you enjoy touring around with a production?
I love it. I’m a filmmaker as well so the time around the show is a great chance to wander around these towns and take photographs and gather stories. I’ve met some amazing people. I get up first thing and have a full day of photography and writing all before the privilege of doing the show in the evening with the most intelligent and talented (and photographic) bunch of actors you could ever hope to be on this adventure with. Couldn’t be happier.
For those who aren’t familiar with the play – how would you describe it?
The Weir is Conor McPherson’s brilliant play about a small group of people in a rural Irish pub telling ghost stories through the night. It’s an exploration of loneliness I think and how a sense of community, however fraught, can bring about great truth and catharsis. It’s very moving and very funny.
Were you familiar with the play and what it was about when you were first approached about doing the production?
I loved McPherson’s work. I was a huge fan. I remember seeing the Seafarer at the NT a few years back. So good. This play is 20 years old and stands up extremely well. He’s a genius with a brain that I’d like to borrow.
What drew you to the play?
I hadn’t done a play in a long time. My recent acting career consisted of bits of US TV playing Nazis and Terrorists. In the last few years I’d been directing more and more. I recently won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the East End Film Festival with my debut ‘Killing Ruby’ so acting in a play was the last thing on my mind. But the lure of a Conor McPherson and the adventure of a tour was enough to convince me to jump back in. Making decisions for my ‘career’ stopped a long time ago. I now decide to take a job based on how it will inspire me artistically and personally. I’m delighted I’m doing this.
Could you tell me a little bit more about your character Brendan and how he fits into everything that happens?
Brendan is the owner of the pub in which they have all ended up. He’s a man on the precipice of change in his life but in quite a mundane way. He’s the facilitator of the evening, the catalyst that allows these characters to exorcise their demons. As such, he’s the only character who hasn’t got a story to tell and I think that’s quite deliberate. He balances the story. He’s the lukewarm water between the fire and ice.
Is there any other character in the play that you would love to play and why?
I’d like to play Valerie. She’s the most interesting character for me. I have a theory about her that I’d like to put into practice. They’d have to flip the casting so it’s 4 women in the pub and then a man arrives. Like that new Sofia Coppola film. I like this idea…
What have you enjoyed the most about working on The Weir?
The unique fraternity between actors is something that I’ve missed. Actors are beautiful human beings. They’re also nuts. They all end up in this job for various reasons, some deeply personal and some utterly trivial. But they always care so much and the best of them care more about the show than their part in it. This gang certainly do. We look after each other out there and can flag up respectfully when things are getting flabby. Show wise. Not physically. We’re not that close.
If you were to try and persuade someone to see the show – what would you say? Audiences have told us how they felt they were in that pub with us for the night. I think that’s what it does very well. It lets everyone in the audience become part of this little community for the duration of the play. So if you like a roaring fire, a few pints, some great stories and a taste of melancholy, then come on down. It’s also very reasonably priced and you’ll be out of the theatre by 9:15!
What have you got lined up after The Weir?
Well this finishes in March so nothing acting wise. I’m hoping to shoot something while we’re touring and write something that I can shoot after we finish. But I prefer to stay in the moment rather than thinking too far ahead. Keeps you grateful for what you’re in at that time, which, with this lovely job, I certainly am.