At last night’s Outing to Love Song at the West End’s New Ambassadors Theatre, 100 theatregoers enjoyed a discussion with the all-star cast of American John Kolvenbach’s off-beat comedy at our exclusive post-show Q&A.

Love Song focuses on oddball Beane (Cillian Murphy). His well-meaning sister Joan (Johnston) and brother-in-law Harry (Michael McKean) try and make time for him in their busy lives, but no one can get through. After Beane’s apartment is burgled, Joan is baffled to find her brother blissfully happy and tries to unravel the story behind Beane's mysterious new love Molly (Neve Campbell).

Directed by John Crowley, Love Song received its European premiere on 4 December 2006 (previews from 25 November) at the New Ambassadors Theatre, where it will now finish its limited season on 17 February 2007 (See News, 11 Jan 2007). It has just been nominated for Best New Comedy in this year’s Laurence Olivier Awards (See News, 18 Jan 2007).

All five cast members from John Crowley’s production – Campbell, Johnston, McKean, Murphy and James Scales, who plays a bewildered waiter in one of the play’s funniest scenes – joined us for the post-show discussion, which was hosted by editor, Terri Paddock.

Highlights from the discussion follow…

On the play’s ‘comedy’ classification

  • Kristen Johnston: I wasn’t sure they should have sold it as a comedy. I mean, it is a comedy, but it doesn’t feel like your normal romantic comedy about a girl meeting a boy. So I think I complained about it. But I guess it works. I think it sets people up for the right vibe to come in here and embrace the world of it.

    On why they accepted their roles in the play

  • Michael McKean: I was on location in Utah and I’d been spending so much time away from my home in LA. My manager called and said, “well, the bad news is it’s a great play and you’re not going to be able to turn it down, but it’s in London”. And I thought, well, I love London, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out of town again and stay away from home for five months. Then I read the play and thought, she’s right, I have to do it. It’s a wonderful play. It’s not like anything else out there. And then I heard the rest of the cast, and I was trapped.

  • Cillian Murphy: I had worked with John (Crowley, the director) in the past. Fortuitously, this play came up and he said he wanted me to do it. I thought it was a great piece of writing and a great character, so I was in.

  • James Scales: I was skint and I needed the money…. No, it was a great opportunity to work with all these fantastic people. And also it is true, I was skint!

    On why they like to return to the stage

  • Cillian Murphy: I always try to do different types of work. I think when theatre’s in your blood, you can’t not do it. Also, the actors who I really admire are the ones who do a mixture of television and films and plays. I always think, after doing a play, no matter how good it was and how successful, it makes you a better actor. I know it’s a cliché, but I think it really does make you come out of yourself more as an actor.

  • Michael McKean: I went for a long time without being on stage while I was in LA. One thing that’s really nice about doing a play is that you get to hang out with the cast every night, and there’s also an enormous amount of freedom. In the theatre, it’s really just you (the audience) and us, whereas in film, even on a small set, there are 80 people standing there who are not allowed to laugh or applaud, all they can do is make sure they’re doing their job and it’s a totally different dynamic. To come here, to this lovely audience we had tonight, whether it’s part of that whole battery recharging thing or not, we have such a good time.

  • Kristen Johnston: I don’t take something because it’s on stage or film, I take it because I love the part. But the most fun I’ve ever had as an actor has been in theatre because in movies you’re given a lot less opportunities as a woman, whereas in theatre I’m allowed to play Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and then this, which in a movie would be given to someone like Joan Allen. I feel very respected and have much better opportunities here in the theatre than I ever would on film.

    On the appeal of London & the West End stage

  • Michael McKean: You people invented the language and everything, so it’s great to be in London doing a play. And you should see these dressing rooms, they’re hilarious. There are so many things about it that are just lovely and weird.

  • Kristen Johnston: I’ve never performed here before, but I was mostly struck by the fact I thought audiences here would be more snotty perhaps, or more removed from the experience like, “oh, we’re English, we don’t react”. But what I’ve found is that they’re so much more fun than New York audiences. And also younger people here come to the theatre. I hope that keeps happening because young people put such a shot in your arm. It’s so fun to perform for vital people who are here because they want to be. That’s been the best part about it.

    On playing an imaginary girlfriend

  • Neve Campbell: What I think is really great about the play is that it doesn’t matter whether she (Molly) is real or not, it’s the effect she has on the lives of the other characters. Actually, my mum said when she was reading the script, just before she got to the bit where you’re supposed to get that Molly’s all in Beane’s mind, she said “don’t tell me you’re not real?!” I think it’s nice that people don’t want to believe Molly’s not real. They want to believe in her.

    - by Caroline Ansdell