Monday, 26 March 2018

INTERVIEW: Peter McGovern, currently in West End smash hit The Comedy About a Bank Robbery by Mischief Theatre

Peter McGovern is currently playing Warren Slax in the West End production of The Comedy About a Bank Robbery.  His previous theatre credits includeThe Christmas Truce (Royal Shakespeare Company), Love's Labour's Lost, Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company and Theatre Royal Haymarket), Barnbow Canaries (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Nell Gwynn (Apollo Theatre), The Madness of George III (Apollo Theatre and UK tour), Squirrels (Orange Tree), An Inspector Calls,  The Shape Of Things, Vincent In Brixton (Theatre by the Lake), The History Boys (West Yorkshire Playhouse and UK tour),  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Royal & Derngate, Northampton),  Kes (Liverpool Playhouse and UK  tour) and Enjoy (Gielgud Theatre and UK tour). 

Tell us a little bit about the play and the character you play?

Well, I don’t want to give too much away to those who haven’t seen the play, but I can exclusively reveal that the play is set in a bank, it involves a robbery and it’s very funny! We follow a group of individuals all desperate to get their hands on a precious diamond.

I play Warren Slax. An ‘externally unfortunate man of 67 years old.’ I work in the bank, and have done so for the past 30 years. Unlike all the other characters in the play, I’m not at all concerned with getting my hands on the diamond. My personal quest is just to improve my life, find a friend, possibly get a promotion and maybe get a certain someone to fall in love with me.

What was the audition process like?

The audition process was pretty straight forward. I had an initial meeting where I met the writers and worked on a couple of scenes, and then a recall audition where several of us worked on a few scenes in small groups.

Toward the back end of last year I was training to be a spin instructor. Just before Xmas I got told that it wasn’t going to go any further as they felt my acting career would always come first and get in the way. I was gutted and dreading going home to see the family. An hour later I was offered this job, as I sat at outside Liverpool Street Station, crying into my second McDonald’s cheeseburger whilst a brass band played ‘Silent Night.’ I’ve never been a great believer in fate but this one did seem written in stars and I’m sure all the hard work training as a spin instructor probably helped me get the job!

The show is very demanding and looks like it could be quite dangerous. How have you been finding it?

The show is physically demanding and requires great levels of concentration in order to stay safe. Particularly at the weekends when we do two shows a day. The physical side has been the biggest challenge for me. I never expected to end up in a show as physical as this! There’s a part of me that wishes I’d done it in my twenties when my body recovered a little quicker than it does now! Still, it’s been a learning process and I never say no to a challenge. It’s all about warming up efficiently, resting well and eating the right meals at the right times.  

What is your favourite thing about the play?

I’ve always loved playing comedies. There is a great joy in being greeted with an audience that knows why they’re here, what kind of play they’re going to see and just wants you to give them a good time. Making people laugh is a real privilege and one which I relish at every performance.

The success of Mischief Theatre has been ground breaking. What do you think makes the company so special?

First and foremost I think you have to credit the writers. They have an incredible eye for what is funny and they’re unrelenting in their desire to keep people laughing. Secondly, I think they’re incredibly inventive and have fantastic imaginations. They think outside the box and always seek to raise the bar with each recurring joke. I think some of the montage sequences in this play are absolute genius. Thirdly, I think part of the success is down to the fact that the plays have been conceived by a group of actors that know each other well and enjoy working together. It brings a wonderful charm and spirit to the work and a brilliant sense of ensemble which has been passed down to the current company. The play itself is the star rather than any individual actor and I think that allows the audience to hear the story in a more satisfying way. 

You’ve not long finished working with the RSC in the West End. This is a little different. What have you enjoyed most about the differences between the two jobs?

I don’t think the difference is quite as big as you might think. I think a lot of people are afraid of Shakespeare or have bad experiences at school which puts them off him for life. I think that’s such a shame. Fundamentally, he’s a man that revels in high stakes, heightened storytelling. Much like the Mischief team. The difference is that he uses language and poetry to raise the stakes and heighten the storytelling where as Mischief use ropes, slapstick and flying seagulls!

The two productions I worked on were comedies, they contained lots of music and had a love story at the centre of the piece. Again, not all that different to the play I’m working on now. The big difference to me personally is that I was playing a 16 year old in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and now, all of a sudden I’m playing a 67 year old! I knew my casting was due to change at some point but I didn’t expect the jump to be quite so extreme!

What advice would you give to young actors aspiring to a career like
yours?

Do the work, show up on time and be nice. 

Do you have any dream roles you’d like to play in the future?

Oh yes, I have a list as long as my arm. I once played Vincent Van Gogh in a production of ‘Vincent In Brixton’ and I’d love to give that another go. There are also a number of roles in musicals and Shakespeare plays that I hope to play at some point in my career. But I try not to look too far ahead or obsess about the next job as I find it stops me from making the most of my current one. That’s something I’ve learned over the years. Unemployment is an inevitable part of being an actor so I think it’s very important that when you’re in a job, you enjoy the moment and cherish every second rather than worrying too much about what’s coming next. 

Tell us why people should come and see the comedy about a bank robbery?

I defy anybody to come and see the show and not have a great time. It’s slick, fast, charming, surprising and lots of fun. If you don’t come away smiling then there’s something seriously wrong with you. It has drama, danger, love, loss, deception, talking seagulls and lots of laughs. 


And finally, we’ve just celebrated our fifth anniversary here at Pocket. In celebration of this we’d like to ask you what theatre means to you. 

I think the wonderful thing about theatre is that it is a blank canvas with endless possibilities. The first day of rehearsals is always my favourite day as everything is up for grabs. Once you’re open and into the run each evening is a unique experience shared between that group of actors and that particular audience. Each moment that happens in the theatre will never happen in quite the same way ever again. I think there’s something truly magical about that and I love it.
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