Aaron Neil is currently appearing in Richard Bean’s fast and furious new play, Great Britain.
Aaron Neil in Great Britain. Photo by Johan Persson.
Who do you play in Great Britain?
Sully Kassam, Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Describe your character in 3 words.
Well-intentioned, honest, ‘unlucky’ (there are some more unkind words to describe him, but I’m playing him, so I’m his biggest fan).
Is there a scene you particularly enjoy performing?
There is, but I can’t tell you about it because it’d spoil the surprise. But if you’ve seen the show, it’s the last scene I do.
Who is your backstage hero?
Our stage manager Shane Thom. No matter how crazy the technical rehearsals got, or how hectic things are backstage, he has always been scarily calm with a huge smile on his face. Stage management at the National are amazing. They know the building inside out and make you feel very secure.
What’s the most memorable on-stage moment you’ve seen or been part of that has made a lasting impression on you?
There are so many. Watching Mark Rylance play Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in Jerusalem. He seemed to take acting to another level. Seeing Stephen Dillane in The Real Thing at the Donmar had a similar effect. Katie Mitchell’s Uncle Vanya at the Young Vic with Stephen Dillane and Linus Roache, was the most complete production of that heartbreaking play that I have ever seen. And for sheer joy, Richard Eyre’s production of Guys and Dolls in the Olivier which I saw four times. I could watch Clive Rowe singing ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat’ for ever. And Imelda Staunton shimmied over to where I was sat in the second row and dropped her garter belt into my lap. I still have that somewhere, which is possibly a bit creepy.
Clive Rowe in Guys and Dolls during 50 Years on Stage in November 2013. Photo by Catherine Ashmore.
What’s your favourite spot at the NT?
Oooh there are so many. The balcony of the backstage bar after the show is wonderful; always so many people who are buzzing from having seen one of the three shows. And for similar reasons the foyer on the ground floor around 7 o’clock is great. There’s such a buzz of anticipation. There is nothing to match it in any theatre in the world.
If there was one play you would recommend and it was the only play someone would ever see, which would it be?
King Lear has everything in it and is my favourite play, although if it’s the only play you ever see it might give you a very depressing view of what theatre is. If you were only ever going to see one play, then it should be something that makes you laugh uproariously. I think laughing is a bit underrated in the theatre. People always put comedies second to tragedies, even though making a good comedy is fiendishly difficult. So I’d say something like One Man, Two Guvnors or even, ahem, Great Britain.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I like to get to the theatre stupidly early, maybe around 5pm. I am a bit superstitious about warm ups, so I make sure I have time on the stage. And I always need a shower. That makes me sound terribly precious about it all, but it’s really just that I find some sort of routine to be very comforting.
What would be your dream role?
I used to get a lot more attracted to roles when I was younger – these days I’m just glad to be offered anything at all. The best roles are the ones that creep up on you, where you don’t realise how good they are until late in rehearsals, or until you get it in front of an audience. I feel that way about Sully Kassam. But I suppose if you were to hold a gun to my head, I’d say anything in a Chekhov, especially Uncle Vanya. I love that play.
If you could watch a play with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be?
I’d love to watch a great modern production of a Shakespeare play with Shakespeare himself. I’d like to think he’d love all the innovation, but I’d be just as entertained if he was a grumpy old man, sucking his teeth and tutting at what those whiny upstarts were doing to his beautiful writing.
The ensemble of This House. Gosh I miss that show. (photo from Cristiano Castellitto, drummer of Acoustic Jim & the Wires)
4 of 4 - 2010 06 07 - After The Dance by Geraint Lewis
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Caption : After The Dance by Terence Rattigan,directed by Thea Sharrock.With Benedict Cumberbatch as David Scott-Fowler,Nancy Carroll as Joan Scott-Fowler. opens at The Lyttleton Theatre at The Royal National Theatre on 8/6/10 Credit Geraint Lewis
After The Dance by Terence Rattigan,directed by Thea Sharrock.With Adrian Scarborough as John Reid,Benedict Cumberbatch as David Scott-Fowler. opens at The Lyttleton Theatre at The Royal National Theatre on 8/6/10 Credit Geraint Lewis
Date created : 2010 06 07
All the Way. Christopher Acebo.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Greta Scacchi and Charles Edwards as Amanda and Victor in Private Lives at Theatre Royal, Bath (2005)
How shall this bosom multiplied digest the senate’s courtesy? Let deeds express what’s like to be their words:
'We did request it, we are the greater poll, and in true fear they gave us our demands'
Program with cast list for Hamlet, National Theatre, 1963. Another deep sigh.