Malcolm Sinclair: The balance of power is one of the industry's great fights
As he returns to the role of General Eisenhower in David Haig's Pressure, Malcolm Sinclair reflects on his time as president of Equity and Haig's remarkable play about the weather
Olivier Award-nominated Malcolm Sinclair has had a remarkable career as a stage and screen actor since the eighties. Appearing extensively on TV series such as Midsummer Murders, Foyle's War, A Touch of Frost and more, he's also starred in films including Casino Royale, V for Vendetta and The Young Poisoner's Handbook. He was nominated for an Olivier for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Major Miles Flack in Privates on Parade and won the Clarence Derwent Award for his role in the National Theatre's production of House/Garden and has starred recently in Show Boat and This House. Now he returns to the role of General Eisenhower in the production of David Haig's play Pressure, which also stars Haig, at the Park Theatre.
People might think they don't want to come and see a play about the weather, but it will have you on the edge of your seat. I had no idea about the story behind the play which focuses on what happened ahead of the D-Day landings. Pressure takes place in one room over three days, and the British and Americans are trying to work out what to do. If there's a catastrophic storm then 100s upon 1000s of British soldiers will drown and the invasion will fail. It's extraordinary watching figures having to wrestle with the dilemma.
I think I am a pretty unlikely candidate to play General Eisenhower. He was a very decent man, but he had a titanic temper, which you see in the play. But it's the relationship he had with his driver, Kay Summersby played by Laura Rogers, which is absolutely true and is fascinating. She became very important in observing the men in the room, correcting them, comforting them, helping them make the decisions.
Even if David Haig was a diva, I wouldn't tell you. He wrote the play and he is starring in it, but he didn't originally write it for himself. He was persuaded to by John Dove the director, who has had an enormous part in the creation of Pressure. John is the dominant person in the rehearsal room. I've worked with David before and so if either of us were being diva-ish, we'd each say: 'Oh stop it'.
There are lots of jokes that I'm playing the Supreme Commander and that I'm president of Equity. My Equity position seems exalted, but I'm not paid, I'm a volunteer activist. When I said I would do the role eight years ago, I told them the job will always come first. But they wanted a working actor, otherwise we're blindsided, we wouldn't know what was going on.
There are so many challenges facing the theatre industry. Austerity is a huge one that affects our industry as well as many others. But there's also the sheer numbers of youngsters coming out of drama school. Sexual harassment has been a big issue and that reflects the balance of power in the industry, which is one of the great fights we have. We are always trying to raise the status of those who work in the industry who are not those who run the shows. Over the last eight years membership has gone up, so people recognise the need for protection. We all have to look after each other and pay our dues.
Pressure runs at the Park Theatre from 3 to 28 April with previews from now.