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Aidan McArdle on Leopoldstadt in the West End: 'Stoppardian text is actually sort of Shakespearean'

The historical award-winning play continues its run

Aidan McArdle (Hermann)
© Marc Brenner

Aidan McArdle has joined the cast of Leopoldstadt for its West End return – but between appearances in the mammoth Tom Stoppard epic, had a chance to answer some of our questions!

What had you heard about the show – had you seen it before the lockdown and what was it that made you know you had to join the cast?

I was performing in a play in Dublin when Leopoldstadt first opened and I hadn't had a chance to see the show. I had heard that the production was superb but the chance of working with both Tom Stoppard and Patrick Marber was unturndownable (is that a word?)!

Dorothea Myer-Bennett (Eva), Faye Castelow (Gretl), Aidan McArdle (Herrmann)
© Marc Brenner

Performances have just started! What was it like being in a full house with such a large team on stage as well?

It was very reassuring knowing that I was part of a mini tribe that were all going through the same levels of first night terror. It's a wonderful feeling to be back in front of a full house. Privilege is an overused word but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is not to take anything for granted so I'm determined to enjoy every performance we get to do.

How do you think the piece's pertinence has grown since it first premiered?

Unfortunately we have seen an erosion of liberal democracy and the growth of populist movements both here in Europe and across the Atlantic. Throw in the uncertainty of a pandemic, the anxiety we feel about climate change, burgeoning wealth inequality, a corrupted news environment and the supposed certainty a ‘strong man' government offers is becoming more attractive to many more people than we could have ever imagined just ten years ago.

Felicity Davidson (Hilde), Caroline Gruber (Grandma Emilia), Sebastian Armesto (Ludwig)
© Marc Brenner

How do you think the pandemic has altered your approach to performance in general?

Previously, I was in a show that like Leopoldstadt, got cancelled overnight when the pandemic hit. So I have learned not to take anything for granted and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

What does a Stoppard text offer you as an actor compared to other work you've done?

Stoppardian text is actually sort of Shakespearean. There is a luxuriant quality to the language. He has brilliantly intricate and dense speeches that are fun to navigate through. The language serves more than one purpose. It conveys the meaning in the argument but also is a pleasure to speak and (hopefully) to listen to.

Leo Roberts (Young Jacob)
© Marc Brenner