Feature extracts of the week: Jamie Parker, David Morrissey, Johnny Flynn, Derren Brown, Christopher Hampton

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Jamie Parker, currently starring in the transfer of Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls to the West End’s Savoy Theatre (pictured above), interviewed by Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard.

jamie-parker-simon-lipkinMountford writes: “Guys and Dolls caps the end of a glorious year of musical theatre for Parker, 36. He started 2015 by starring in Jamie Lloyd’s much-praised revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory (pictured labove with co-star Simon Lipkin) and then moved on to High Society at the Old Vic, taking in a couple of Proms en route. Check out the YouTube clip of him singing I Won’t Dance from the Sinatra Prom — it’ll bring a smile to cheer the dullest day. It has been, he says, “a year of saying ‘yes’”.

Mountford goes on:

Few performers manage to move as fluidly between straight plays and musicals as Parker; Bertie Carvel is another example but there aren’t many others. Parker feels the two genres are unhelpfully demarcated, with an unmistakable bias towards the former. “I think you need to be very careful of getting ‘stuck’ in musical theatre,” he says. “People in the industry like to know what product it is that you’re selling.”

He worked hard not to get “stuck” after graduating from Rada and in recent years has garnered fine reviews for a diverse range of classic roles, including Prince Hal and Henry V at the Globe. Nonetheless, he is wonderfully self-deprecating about the musicals that “got away”, including American Psycho, “possibly because I sang a Whitney Houston song at the audition!”

Parker says he’d like to “branch out a little bit”, in directions as yet unspecified, and indeed he nearly pulled off the branching-out coup of the decade by making it through to the final round of interviews to succeed Dominic Dromgoole as artistic director of the Globe Theatre, a job that eventually went to Emma Rice. “I didn’t expect to get to the final round,” he says. “That entire experience was the most unremittingly positive one of my entire working life.”


david-morrisey-hangmenDavid Morrissey, currently starring in the transfer of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen from the Royal Court to Wyndham’s, interviewed in The Guardian on November 27 by Sarah Crompton, on what his parents thought of his acting ambitions.

Crompton writes, “His passion for acting was forged in his early years as a working class lad in the Everyman youth theatre. He instantly knew it was more than a hobby, but his parents were worried. “When I told them I wanted to be an actor it was like telling them I wanted to be an astronaut. Not because it was highfalutin but because it was a world they didn’t know. They were worried about the unknown.”

His father died just as he was starting to find success. “Obviously that was traumatic for me, but it also opened the way because it meant that I suddenly saw that life was short, that I had better get a move on and go for what I love and what I want. I did that thing everyone advises you against. I just put all my eggs in one basket. I thought, this has to work.”


johnny-flynnJohnny Flynn, currently also starring in Hangmen, interviewed in the Sunday Times (behind paywall) on December 13 on the virtues of honouring Shakespearean verse speaking, when he appeared in the Rylance productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III. Louise Wise writes,

The Rylance Twelfth Night was a notable success, not least for being in period dress and design. To Flynn, it was “quite revolutionary to do that, in a time when people are trying to sandwich Shakespeare into concepts”. He is sceptical of those versions; he thinks they tend to yield diminishing returns. (“I think Shakespeare done in a patronising way, you get that back”.) He also thinks “the sense of the verse only works if you speak it properly, and if you pay attention to it. It’s bit like 12-bar blues being played rhythmically — you enjoy when each thing is meant to come, when it comes, because of how it’s laid out.” Trust the folkie to champion good old-fashioned verse-speaking. But when I ask if he feels modern, he has a robust response.

“I get really confused when people say what I’m doing is old-fashioned, because I see what I do as looking forward. I’m very much in the here and now. I just do certain things because it’s in my nature, or instinct, to do so.”


derren-brown-miracleDerren Brown, currently starring in the West End in his latest show Miracle, interviewed in the Sunday Times (behind paywall) on December 13, by Lynn Barber.

Barber writes:

I am startled when he says he is writing a book about happiness, because he doesn’t strike me as a particularly happy man — rather the reverse. There is a sort of flatness to him, a general lack of vitality; I can’t imagine him ever leaping out of bed saying, “Hey, it’s a beautiful morning, let’s go for a walk.”…

So what exactly will he be saying in his book on happiness? Is he trying to tell people how to be happy?

“I hope so. Part of the problem is that we think happiness is some kind of commodity we’re entitled to. But that’s a very modern idea. Before the Enlightenment, people never, ever thought of it. I prefer the old idea of just seeing it as tranquillity. It’s more about removing the obstacles to happiness, the pointless frustrations that come from trying to control things you can’t control.”

Has he spent a lot of time looking for happiness?

“I’ve never been a searcher, but I’ve found the writings of the stoics and the Epicureans useful. Seneca, for instance: learn to desire what you’ve already got, not desire things you haven’t. I’ve always been like that. Never had any ambitions to be on TV or to be famous, or anything like that. It’s about being in the moment. I find that helps a lot.”


les-liaisonsChristopher Hampton, whose version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is being revived at the Donmar Warehouse this week (where it opens officially tomorrow December 17), interviewed in The Observer by Liz Hoggard on what differences to expect: “We just want to take advantage of the intimacy of the room. Apart from the fact that I’ve had very happy experiences at the Donmar in the past, I chose it for this revival because it’s so electric for an audience, just that sense of being in the room with the actors. Dominic [West] and I first started talking about it three years ago. We’ve been circling each other. And hopefully a new audience will come because it hasn’t been on for such a long time.”