So, you’re doing The Seven Acts of Mercy, can you give me a brief synopsis?
Oh god, I have to get better at this, because my friends keep asking me and I’m like ‘it’s a thing!’… Okay, so basically there’s two worlds: there’s the world of Caravaggio when he’s making the Seven Acts of Mercy, then there’s the world of Bootle, and Leon, and his grandson Mickey. And, what it is, is basically there’s a real mirror between the two characters so Mickey is trying to do the seven acts of mercy for his grandad, who is sick and dying, and Caravaggio is doing it because he’s trying to make amends for the things he’s done in the past. So, on the way in both stories, there’s obviously loads of blocks and things that happen. I’m one of the characters that Mickey encounters when he’s trying to fulfil one of his acts of mercy.
You’re just in that side of the story?
Yeah, yeah I am, so it’s really nice because I get to watch a lot of the other sides.
Erica Whyman is directing it, isn’t she? How is that?
Yeah, she’s so lovely.
I’ve heard she’s very dynamic, what’s her style like?
Yeah, she’s a dream. She’s just very open to ideas and I really like that, because I think she’s very organic. You know, we read through the play a lot first and she asks a lot of questions that provoke thought and I don’t know, I think she’ll… I think if you said ‘I want to try this’, she’ll give you the space to do that and not everyone is like that. And it’s really lovely.
“[Anders] has a very brutal way of telling stories but they are essential to tell”
You’ve done some directing, haven’t you? I read about the RTYDS [Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme], so is directing something you’d want to go into?
Yeah, so this is the thing I’d never really thought I was able to do that, just because I hadn’t been to Uni or anything like that, then 20 Stories High – which is a theatre company I work with quite a lot, because I’m in their young actors – and I’d done an introduction to directing course a couple of years ago now, and I thought that was it that was lovely, then Julia (who was the Artistic director) was like ‘no you should do this RTYDS’ and like forced me to fill out the forms. So yeah, I was thinking ‘yeah I won’t get it’ and then I did and I did a three month placement, and it was an Assistant Director on their new piece, which is called I told my mum I was going on an RE trip and it’s a verbatim piece about abortion. It was really interesting… I haven’t done a lot, or got massive experience, but I really appreciated that time. It’s a weird thing, because since I’ve done that I observe directors a lot differently and take things on that, when I was an actor I was a lot more consumed in myself, but now I do. Even Alex, who’s the associate director or assistant director on this, he’s really interesting and I love the way he works as well. So, I kinda look at it from an outside view now. But acting is my priority I would say.
So you’ve also been involved in a lot of really hard-hitting pieces, with a lot of important messages, is that something you look for when you look at projects or does it just sort of happen?
It kinda seems to just happen. I really love that, I think that’s what I love about this play, when I read it, it really moved me genuinely. Anders [Lustgarten] wrote it – I’m a big fan because I saw Lampedusa, which he wrote as well and I cried my eyes out. And I told him, when I met him, I said ‘you destroyed me when I watched that’. I think he has a very brutal way of telling stories but they are essential to tell. It’s things that not everybody gets to experience and I really believe that people that don’t are the ones who need to see things like this. Just to give them that perspective, and yeah, but also it’s funny because I feel you then have a responsibility when you do plays with topics that are sensitive, because you’re not just an actor then, you’re delivering a message as well. But yeah, it’s really interesting.
Yeah, I get that. You mentioned earlier your theatre company is 20 Stories High, that’s really interesting, you do some really interesting things with them, can you tell me any more about that?
Yeah, so they do a lot of Hip hop theatre – is what they call it – so they do a lot of puppetry, beatboxing, spoken word, that sort of thing, they have a really unique way of telling stories. That’s their tagline, it’s ‘everyone has a story to tell and their own way of telling it’, what I love about them is that I think that they have a really truthful way of telling stories, but also in a unique and entertaining way. But they do tackle a lot of issues, like the abortion piece is absolutely brilliant. It’s coming out next year, I think it’s going to be touring from February/March. I think a subject like that – we have to talk about things like that – it’s just not spoken about. Especially as a young woman, I think it’s so important to talk about things like that, and it’s not just that they made it into some really morbid piece. It’s really funny, and it’s kind of got all these ideas and leaves it very open and stuff like that. So, yeah I really like the way they work. They have a youth theatre and then they have a young actors company, so I’m part of the Young Actors Company, which is a bit more like semi-professional and they pay you for shows and stuff like that. So, with the young actors company, what they do is different artists will come in for a few months and give you a different skill. So, someone might come in and do beatboxing with you, someone might come in and do physical theatre, and then you work towards a play. So, we just did a play in the Everyman over the summer, and it was really nice because we were in the main space.
That’s so exciting.
Yeah! It’s lovely.
Okay, read that you could do beatboxing, you just said it…
No! No! I’ll be ashamed!
Oh my god, okay… [Insert some pretty awesome beatboxing in this for yourselves, because Paislie is pretty impressive]
Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve just done that,
It was amazing.
It’s my little party trick.
Just had to hear it! Okay, so, it’s your RSC debut, that’s very exciting.
It really is.
“You can feel it from working inside, they [The RSC] just really care about you as a person, it’s lovely”
So you’re here until February with this show, do you know if you’re going to do anything with them afterwards?
There’s nothing guaranteed, but I think it’s lovely because a lot of the people who work with them go on to work with them again and I’d love to build on that relationship, I think they’re such an amazing company. You can feel it from working inside, they just really care about you as a person, it’s lovely. I mean, I think a lot of people do, but I think just having obviously the means to do a certain thing. I have a little boy, and they’re so supportive of that, and I really appreciate that because you don’t always get that. Not because people don’t want to, but because they can’t support you in that way. Yeah, it’s lovely, it’s really nice.
Have you seen any of their other productions that have been going on here?
Yeah, I saw The Rover.
Yeah, it’s so good, isn’t it? Watched it a couple of weeks ago. It’s the music it’s so amazing, it really just drives the piece. And obviously some of the people from Mercy are in The Rover so it’s really funny to see them being different people. But yeah, I really like it. I haven’t seen Kinsmen yet, I’m saving it. So, apparently that’s meant to be really good.
Have you seen King Lear yet?
No, I’ve got a bucket list. Because I’m here until February I have to bide my time with things. I really wanted to see Hamlet, because I saw the trailer, and I missed it and I’m gutted so I’m going to try and catch the recording. It looked like a really interesting take on it.
Yeah, that’s fair. So, how did you get involved with the RSC, how did that come about?
So, I had an audition in Liverpool… Oh my god, when was it? Feels like so long ago, maybe like May? It was just before the summer. I had a recall in London and there was a lot of waiting in between. So, I was cast – actually I think it must have been earlier – because I was cast at the end of May. So yeah, it was just auditioning, it was my first audition with them and I was shitting my pants, getting my mum like ‘help me practice! Help me practice!’. It was useful because I’d done the directing course, and one of the techniques we learnt really helped me. So that helped me prepare for the audition, I wrote down everything Jennifer says and why she says it, yeah so I feel like I had a good understanding of who I thought she was. Obviously it’s developed a lot now but…
So, you got involved with the casting process with RTYDS, so is it weird now doing casting yourself, now you know what they’re looking for?
Do you know, I think it really helped me actually, because you see things from the other side and you learn not to overly criticise yourself. Because, when you’re an actor you go and you meet these people for fifteen minutes and then you beat yourself up for four hours afterwards. But a lot of the time what I found, being on the other side, was that there were people who were brilliant but just some people fit well with others differently, or they fitted well to the piece. There’s so much that goes into it that isn’t about you as a person. But yeah, it was really interesting actually and it taught me to calm down a little bit, and just go ‘if it happens it happens’. Obviously things like this, when you’re really excited by a job and really want it, you can’t help but get like ‘urgh’…
“when the world is the way it is now, we need these plays, we need to be sending these messages”
You started in TV, didn’t you?
Would you go back to film, or are you on the play hype now?
I absolutely love the theatre, I think, I can’t explain it I am really passionate about it. Like I love to go see it as well. Yeah, I just feel it’s so important and necessary and the older I’ve got the more I understand why it is. And when the world is the way it is now, we need these plays, we need to be sending these messages and educating and empowering people through art. So, I have a really big soft spot for theatre, but I do really love TV. I did start like that, and I’ve just started to get back into that, like working on the Showreel and things like that. So, I would like to do both, I think is the answer. If I did go on to do TV, I don’t think I’d ever not come back to theatre. It’s what I love to do.
We’ve gone through all of the different aspects of it now, how about writing?
Yeah, you know what right, I think that’s where I have to say I’m not good at it. I just have to hold my hands up and go ‘that’s something you can’t do’. I have lots of amazing ideas, I do, but I think it’s so hard to construct that into words, or a structure for a play, I don’t know how people do it.
No, it’s just magical.
Yeah! It really is! But I love to read, I think if I was ever going to write I’d probably try to write a book. There’s just so much that goes into writing a play, creating a world, so yeah, I’d leave that to the experts.
Great, I think we are done now! Thank you so much.
I raced through them. We can chill now, yay!
Image: Michael Pollard