Adam Best plays Raskolnikov in a new production of Crime and Punishment which tours to the Liverpool Playhouse next week. We talk acting, dreaming as your character and his experience in the Woman in Black.
What inspired you to act?
I don't know if I was inspired to act, to be honest. I did it because I enjoyed it as a way of socialising while I was at school, and over a period of time and getting experiences with various youth theatres and whatnot, discovered that it was something I'd love to pursue beyond social productions. It became something of a vocation I reckon. I ended up thinking that acting would be the only thing I could do that would make me happy and reckoned I needed to have a go at making a career out of it. And I'm still having a go, so that's excellent.
What would you have done if you couldn't make it as a performer?
I don't know. If I hadn't got into drama school, I would have gone on to study journalism at university. That's what I would have done at 18. As for now, if I stopped getting work after this production, say, I don't know what I'd do. I'd be pretty miserable, but then I suppose I'd have to get on with it. I reckon I'd maybe try to get work selling something. My dad's a salesman and I reckon I could do a good job at it. I don't know what I'd like to sell though. I don't think I'd like to sell houses. Cars maybe?
You balance theatre and TV but do you miss one when doing the other?
I don't know that it's perfectly balanced... I haven't done much telly in the last couple of years, but I've been doing theatre, so that's excellent. I love working in the theatre. I like the rehearsal process and the working as part of a company to get a production together. And then when a show is up and running, the playing of it and the fact that it (hopefully) develops and gets an immediate reaction from an audience is very excellent. Telly work is also awesome, and requires different things of an actor. In some ways I feel it's a more disciplined discipline. I'd very much like to do more of it in the future, and get good at it. That'd be brilliant.
What attracted you to Crime and Punishment?
I was really hoping to get a job in this production. I thought the script was excellent and the part I auditioned for was a great part. Also, with it being based in Glasgow, and touring to Liverpool, two cities I've never spent time in before, that was really interesting to me. I've worked in Edinburgh before and I really want to go back there, so it's great that the Lyceum is also a co-producer. A friend of mine Colin Richmond designed the show and told me great things about it before the audition came up, and also was really positive about the play's director, Dominic Hill. Meeting him at my auditions cemented my desire to get the job.
And the role itself?
Raskolnikov's a brilliant part. He's a really interesting, twisted up young man and those kinds of characters are a real treat for any actor to try to portray. I was very aware that if I got it, it'd be a bigger role than I had ever played and I was excited and daunted by the prospect. When I got the part, I celebrated, then was almost instantly wracked with nerves. I am so, so grateful to have been given the opportunity. This is the kind of part I had always hoped to get. To play him at theatres like the Citz, the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh and the Playhouse is the icing on a very nervous, but happy cake.
The production seems like an immersive experience. Is that a fair way of describing it?
I hope so, yeah. It's very theatrical in how it's presented. From the outset, we invite the audience into the world we're trying to create. My character spends a lot of time conversing with the audience, so it's almost as if the audience are a character in the play, or rather part of Raskolnikov's character. There's nothing hidden from the audience- all costume changes are done on stage, the music and sound-scape happens on stage, the props are all on stage from the start of the show. It's important for the audience to give themselves up to the production, so hopefully they are able to do that.
Has anything unpredictable happened during the run so far?
No-one's fallen out with each other, which no-one can ever predict.
When someone masters a language they say the dream in say - German. You have had a dream as your character, is that right?
I dreamt that I/Raskolnikov was giving a bald guy a hard time about being bald, which is a bit ridiculous given the current state of my scalp. I think this was born out of Raskolnikov's state of mind flitting between hating himself and hating everyone else. So maybe my picking on the bald guy was indicative of me self-flagellating because I'm bald too. I haven't had any homicidal dreams to date.
For anyone expecting a wordy translation of a hefty book, what would you say to counteract this view?
Come see it and we'll talk after over a coffee or a pint.
Dominic Hill's direction has been praised. Is it all his vision or did he get input from you as performers?
The whole process has been really collaborative. I think the production design was established before we started rehearsals, and certainly Dominic had a clear idea of the production that he wanted. But once we got into the rehearsal room, Dominic was really open to our ideas and allowed us all to explore the script and the design. Hopefully though, his vision of how he wanted the production has been realised. Also, the music in the play was developed on the floor. The music is a huge part of the production and the composer, Nikola Kodjabashia, worked it out as we rehearsed.
You have starred in The Woman in Black - a very sparse production in terms of set design - as it relies heavily on the audience's imagination. Was that hard to play?
It was a hoot to play. A lot of what the audience feel is what they make themselves feel. It's almost as if they know they've come to watch a scary play, so the auditorium is filled with that sort of energy before the play even starts. There are a lot of sound cues and lighting cues in the production, which are hugely important to how the audience is feeling. The job for the actors was to take them through the story and set up all the bumps and screams. When the audience are in to it, it's an absolute cracker show to be part of.
What's been your most memorable role that has stayed with you and why?
I think it'll be this one. Because it's my first meaty lead part and it's in a really brilliant theatre. I've loved every single exhausting minute of it. Aside from this play, my first job out of drama school will always stay with me. I was very lucky to get a job in the West End of London in a terrific production with a terrific director and a brilliant cast. It was called "By the Bog of Cats" and I played a the ghost brother of the lead character. It was ace.
With regional theatre producing some fantastic productions, why should audiences see this one?
I think they should all come and see it and if they don't like it, we can talk about why they *shouldn't* have come to see it over the beer or the coffee. If I was pressed to give a reason why they definitely *should* come and see it, I'd say because we worked our collective balls off at it and it'd be far nicer to play to busy houses than quiet ones. It's proper theatre, this.
What are your plans when the run is finished?
Hang out with my wife for ages, worry about what my next job is going to be, see my pals that I haven't seen since I left London in July, lament that this job has finished, go to the Portuguese cafe in Tooting market and eat feijoada, go to the Ramble Inn in Tooting and have a Guinness, bug Dominic Hill about giving me another job in Glasgow, bug Gemma Bodinetz about giving me a job in Liverpool, and Mark Thomson about giving me a job in Edinburgh, complain about Christmas adverts being on already, see how much of my hair will grow back, try to convince my wife to let me keep the terrible beard I've grown for the part.