|Rory Kinnear with his Olivier for The Man of Mode|
Brief Encounter With Ö Rory Kinnear
Date: 2 June 2008
The son of the late Roy Kinnear, actor Rory Kinnear won Olivier and Ian Charleson Awards and was Whatsonstage.com nominated this year for his turn as the flamboyant Sir Fopling Flutter in Restoration comedy The Man of Mode. He returns to the Nationalís Olivier stage this week to play the bloodthirsty Vindice in Jacobean classic The Revengerís Tragedy as part of the Travelex £10 Season.
How did you feel about winning your awards?
I was quite proud, but it heaps the pressure on, especially if youíre just starting rehearsals (for another play). I guess I thought, hang on, now I have to keep being better each time. But Iíve always tried to think like that anyway so it hasnít changed anything in particular.
Were you surprised on Olivier night?
I was kind of horrified actually. I hadnít really thought about it and presumed I wouldnít win just because I thought other people would. You have to prepare something small just in case it is you, but then when it happens, itís like the last thing in the world you want, to have to go up and speak in front of 800 people or whatever it was. As soon as they said my name, I was just saying ďoh no, oh no, oh noĒ, and all way up to the stage I was thinking ďoh God, no, no, noĒ. After you come off stage, you get whisked off into the press area and you donít really have time to enjoy it or think about it. I was gone for about thirty minutes and my girlfriend, who was back at the table and didnít really know anybody, was just sat twiddling her thumbs. Itís only the next day when youíre able to phone some friend and people text you, thatís the nice bit.
Why is now a good time to revive The Revenger's Tragedy?
It wasnít done for 350 years so itís not very well known. The play asks: how do you engage with life and society and not be corrupted? Itís about a guy, Vindice, who holds on to his notion of justice in the face of everything happening around him and takes a divinely inspired revenge on a world that has let him down. He demonstrates an intolerance and a fundamentalism that might catch the ear for todayís audience. The original is set in Italy, but weíve excised those references so itís now an unnamed state and the clothes are a heightened version of real modern dress.
The production carries a warning for under-15s.
Thereís a lot of sex and a lot of blood. Itís gorier than most 15 movies. It would probably make an 18 movie, but because itís in a theatre, theyíll let you in if youíre 15. Without giving too much away, there are over ten deaths. Vindice doesnít hold back once heís found his niche murder-wise. He has in his nature an artistry that inspires ever more creative ways of killing people.
How do you get inside the mind of a murderer?
At the start, itís an easily get-in-able frame of mind because of Vindiceís great feeling of betrayal and love cancelled out, his betrothed having been murdered nine years previously. Thatís driving him and, scene by scene, the momentum builds. I think weíre all capable of it. Murders are normally a crime of passion or revenge. When you read about them, you see the centuries-old sense of justice in all of us, that if something is done wrong to you, you feel naturally aggrieved until itís perceived as being put right. In the end, Vindice recognises heís become a murderer and wants to face up to his crimes.
Presumably his name is where the word vindictive derives from.
Yes, Vindice is Italian for revenge. My sister is called Castiza, which is Italian for chastity, my motherís name, Gratiana, means grace, and then youíve got Lussurioso, the Dukeís son, which is Italian for luxury. The names are representative of a personís form and function in the play, and as a result, as an actor, you have to work against what could seem a stock character.
Whatís special about working at the National, particularly on the Olivier stage?
Iíve wanted to do a play in the Olivier since I was seven or eight, so it was so exciting when I first got my chance, doing The Man of Mode last year. I was taken here by my parents and seen things, like Ian Charleson in Hamlet and Anthony Hopkins in Pravda, that turned me onto acting and what a powerful experience theatre can be. I remember when my dad was here in 1985 doing The Real Inspector Hound. There was an actor who fell down the stairs and broke all the banisters every night. I thought, they rebuild the staircase every night, thatís amazing!
Though youíve appeared in new plays, such as Festen and Southwark Fair, these are outweighed by your classical stage credits which, in addition to The Man of Mode and The Revenger's Tragedy include Philistines, Mary Stuart, Cymbeline, The Taming of the Shrew and The Seagull. Do you prefer the classics?
No, I like modern stuff too, but having done an English degree, from tenth-century literature on, I guess Iím not scared off classic texts. I know you can read something and not understand it, but itís okay because you can read it again and there are books to help, whereas some people might just read it, think ďhow the hell am I ever going to understand that?Ē, and never pick it up again. Thinking of the literary continuum of the last millennium, the reward in doing plays from earlier periods is knowing that youíre part of keeping the sense of history and the timelessness of certain key tropes alive. Thatís what I enjoy. Whether youíre doing modern plays or ones from the 14th or 15th century, theyíre all based on the same aspects of human nature that people want to write about. In some ways it makes you feel less special - just because itís the 21st century doesnít mean that what youíre feeling is new - but at the same time it makes you feel more special in terms of recognising the commonality of human nature and the solace to be found in writers throughout history rather than just writers of today.
Are there any roles youíd really like to play in future?
Well, bearing in mind that once you say it, it probably will never happen, the ones Iíd say are Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and I wouldnít mind having another go at Cyrano de Bergerac, which I played when I was 15. Also Bobby in Company. Iíve always thought about doing a musical. I played the trumpet for about 16 years and I like playing the piano and singing.
NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner has promised heíll direct your Hamlet.
Yes, itíll be sometime after next year once everyone else has done Hamlet! I canít wait. I never fancied it before Ė it was Nickís idea Ė but now I do. I donít really set myself goal roles because youíre disappointed when you canít do them. Thatís how you get people in their 70s trying to play parts they wanted to do in their 40s. If a production happens and itís the right director, the right place and youíre right for it at the time, thatís the way it should be, rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into something.
Is Hamlet the ďultimate roleĒ for a young actor?
I think itís a great role, but I donít know if itís the ultimate one. It was kind of a surprise when Nick asked me to do it. Of course, Iíd done the play for A-level and studied it at university and had always found it immensely rewarding. I think itís one of the Shakespeares you can watch again and again in different productions because a) itís so personal to the person playing the part and b) itís such an incredible story. And yes, itís obviously a great part because thereís lots to do and lots to explore in terms of your instincts as an actor.
- Rory Kinnear was speaking to Terri Paddock
The Revenger's Tragedy, directed by Melly Still, joins the rep in the NT Olivier on 4 June 2008 (previews from 27 May). An abridged version of this interview appears in the June issue of Whatís On Stage magazine (formerly Theatregoer), which is out now in participating theatres. Click here to thumb through our online edition. And to guarantee your copy of future print editions - and also get all the benefits of our Theatregoersí Club - click here to subscribe now!!
** DONíT MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY
on 15 July 2008 Ė including a FREE drink at our post-show cast reception
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