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5 minutes with: Tom Bateman - 'Josie Rourke cast me while I was still in school'

Currently appearing in Father Comes Home from the Wars, Tom talks about working with Catherine Tate and David Tennant, and the part he's always wanted to revisit

Tom Bateman
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

When I was younger, I spent the summer with the National Youth Theatre. We did Much Ado About Nothing for their 50th anniversary. I vividly remember going back into school when I was about to start my A Levels and thinking "I'm not really interested in anything here, I just want to go back and do that". The NYT gave me a sense that acting can be something you can do for a living. I went to a normal school doing plays in a normal school hall, and all of a sudden I was doing a play at the Hackney Empire.

Josie Rourke was doing Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate and for some reason, she thought it would be a good idea to cast me. I played Claudio. I wasn't even out of school and I got a bit of a head start; I was on a West End stage with a part I could show off in. I noticed a change in my career after Shakespeare in Love - because I didn't leave the stage, it was my sort of show. That was when people would call me in a little bit more.

Tom Bateman in Father Comes Home from the Wars
©Tristram Kenton

Suzan-Lori Parks has done a wonderful job of making a modern Greek telling of a story we've all come to know – the liberation of slaves. It follows one slave – Hero played by the wonderful Steve Tussaint – who is promised his freedom by his master, only if he serves his master in the war against the north (who were trying to liberate the slaves). It's that argument between fighting the wrong side to get your own freedom and to what extent someone is willing to, to quote the play, "cut out his own soul for freedom". When we meet my character, Smith, he has been captured by a Southern slave owner. He's a soldier fighting on the side for the north to liberate the slaves of the south. I'm not sure how much I can give away, there are lots of twists and turns. My character has a lot of secrets to be revealed. If you come and see, you'll find out there's more to me than meets the eye.

A part I've always wanted to revisit is Coriolanus. At drama school, I did it to the best of my abilities and absolutely loved it. But that was five years ago.I'd love to have another go because I feel like I have unfinished business with it. I'd like to settle the score with that one.

Father Comes Home from the Wars runs at the Royal Court until 22 October.

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