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Ruby Bentall On ... Remembrance Day

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Latvian Aleksey Scherbak’s Remembrance Day opened at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs last night (23 March 2011, previews from 18 March) as part of the venue’s international season.

Starring Luke Norris, Ruby Bentall, Michael Nardone, Iwan Rheon, Michelle Fairley, Struan Rodger, Ewan Hooper, Sam Kelly and Nick Court, it "takes an unflinching look at the fight for the political soul of Latvia".

I got to speak to Ruby Bentall, who many will recognise from the BBC drama Lark Rise to Candleford, about bringing the piece to the Royal Court and her upcoming role in Mike Leigh's new play which she she starts devising in May, ahead of its September opening in the NT Cottesloe.

Remembrance Day is set in Latvia. I play a member of a Russian family. A third of Latvia is Russian so its quite a big population. They’ve got quite an interesting history together so there’s often quite a bit of tension between the Russians and the Latvians. The play is set on 16 March where there is a parade for Latvian veterans, they were part of Hitler’s SS so the fact that they still have a parade is now is quite controversial around the world. They're celebrating Hitler in a lot of people's eyes, but they would say they are celebrating their people and it's nothing to do with that.

I play this nineteen year-old girl who gets quite involved in the politics of it and goes to protest at the march. Her parents don’t want her to go but she really fancies the left-wing youth leader. She gets really involved and ends up falling out with her parents. It all gets a bit messy. She’s bright and feisty which I really like.

I didn't know anything about Latvian politics before Remembrance Day. I’d been to Latvia in 2008 for a job I didn’t witness any of the tension. On the surface everything is fine it's all underneath, so learning about it has been fascinating. All of the young people are getting involved in it still.

The playwright Aleksey Scherbak helped us a lot. But he doesn’t speak a word of English. Rory Mullarkey who translated the piece has been in rehearsals was in rehearsals with us for the first couple of weeks. Aleksey is from Latvia, but he's had quite a few of his plays put on in Russia. There's a huge body of famous Russian theatre, but I hadn't been or really investigated any of the modern stuff.

I was in Latvia to make a film called The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler. We were in the capital Riga and although some of it is ultra-modern, lots of it is still bombed out and quite scruffy. It's a nice place.

It makes me feel like I should be more involved in politics this play, I'm not hugely. It makes me want to learn about our history, and our history with fascism. It's making me want to get involved more. It's still so close to people.

I'm going to be working with Mike Leigh on his National Theatre project. I'm starting on 2 May. It's a long rehearsal process. I'm quite excited. I know a little bit about the way he works but I think it's going to be fascinating. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm just about to book tickets to see his production of Ecstasy at the Hampstead. I've never done any devised work professionally. That'll be interesting, I'm a bit nervous. I have no idea what to expect going into it. We'll start working on it in May and the show doesn't go up until September.

It'll be fascinated to see the progression of the piece. I never went to drama school, so I think it'll feel like a real learning process. To have so much time to work on it feels like a real luxury.

It's going to be great to be back at the National. It'll very different to filming on location for Lark Rise to Candleford. We film right up to November it's freezing filming long skirts, trailing through the mud and the cold rises up to your skirt and you're soaked all the time. We all stand around radiators trying to keep warm. I’ve always loved watching costume dramas, so I guess it's what I always wanted to be in. I love love stories, I really enjoy them, which I know is a bit rubbish, but often costume dramas have a lot of love in them, so I really enjoy them.

Remembrance Day opened at the Royal Court on 23 March (previews from 18 March) where it continues until 16 April 2011.


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