We spoke to actor George Blagden about his role as Presley in the Shoreditch Town Hall production of The Pitchfork Disney.
What was the most challenging aspect of the play as you read it, that surprised you in how well it unfolded live?
The language. When you read Philip’s work for the first time, your imagination takes you to a million different places of where this sort of story-telling could work effectively. If you didn’t have the luxury of having Phil there (which we did!), you could interpret his writing in lots of different ways, and different productions of this have done the play in a number of different ways. But this is the genius of it. It is applicable and meaningful to a variety of different social/political settings. I think that is why it is just as engaging to an audience now as it was when it was first produced in 1991.
Do you generally have the same expectations for/ of your director from project to project?
Absolutely not. I think the role of director is so important because they are essentially the “chief story-teller” – we are telling whatever story it is that the director would like to express. And this can often be totally different to how you interpreted the piece when you first read it. It’s why one of the most important jobs of an actor is to trust in the director of the film/episode/play you’re doing and wholly engage in their process, because you are a tool in making their story come to life. And not having any expectations going into something is what makes our job so exciting – to be surprised and inspired by people makes you want to follow them into battle.
Much of the commentary regarding the play pays tremendous credit to the direction of Jamie Lloyd. How/ when did you become aware of his work? What separates his productions from others?
I had heard of his productions and knew that his work had inspired a lot of talented people in our industry to want to work with him. But I am so embarrassed to say that I had never seen any of Jamie’s work before this production! So when he asked me to do it, I suppose I had the luxury that I mentioned above of not having any expectations! The only thing I think I knew, from hearing about his previous work, was that I would be working with a very brave director.
Adding to the previous question, have you noticed these distinctions in Lloyd’s work altering your performance or outlook in any way?
Absolutely. When you work alongside people who are fearless in their approach to the work, it is infectious. And I feel much braver as an actor than I did before I started working with Jamie.
What made this particular project so immediate/ relevant /appealing to you at this point in your life and career?
I have wanted to work on stage for so long, and never been given the opportunity until recently. The idea that I could work with this incredible cast of actors on a Philip Ridley play with Jamie directing as one of my first professional experiences in theatre was too good to be true. It was an opportunity to challenge myself in a way that I haven’t been challenged over the last few years, and I knew it would definitely be a very rewarding experience.
What has been your favourite memory of The Pitchfork Disney that wasn’t onstage?
There were a couple of times in rehearsals where we were reminded (in amongst the chaos of trying to put on a play in 3 weeks!) of why we do this. Some real “pinch-me” moments. In an industry where you can easily get lost in focusing on stuff that isn’t about story-telling, there were times when I realised that this project is exactly why I do this. Being part of one of the best creative teams in our industry to tell a story every night that affects people in some way. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Want more? Watch our behind-the-scenes film.
George Blagden can be seen in The Pitchfork Disney, on now until 18 March 2017 at Shoreditch Town Hall, London (UK).
As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Photographer: Jessie Craig