Tom Goodman-Hill On ... Dorfman's Ambiguous Maiden
His recent stage credits include Earthquakes in London, Darker Shores, Enron and Spamalot, for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performer in a Musical.
This is the first West End revival of Death and the Maiden since the world premiere at the Royal Court in 1991, which transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1992 where it played for 12 months. The new production is directed by the Royal Court’s current associate director Jeremy Herrin.
Death and the Maiden is ostensibly set after the fall of a recent dictatorship during the early days of a newly installed democracy. Dorfman was essentially writing about the fall of Pinochet in Chile but it could be any country where that happened.
I play a human rights lawyer who is holidaying with his wife at their summer beach house on the coast when they’re visited by a doctor, who helps the husband out after he gets a flat tyre. The wife thinks that she recognises the man as her torturer from many years previously, and that’s as much as I’m going to tell you…
He didn’t want to make it too specific to Chile because the themes he was writing about applied to most of South America at the time. And now it takes on a whole other relevance in light of the situation in the Middle East and the recent Arab spring. If anything it’s even more pertinent now than it was when it premiered.
The play's ending is famously ambiguous but as a company we have drawn our own conclusions in the rehearsal room – you have to in order to perform the piece and to know what you’re thinking at any one time. The idea is that you don’t answer all the questions for the audience even if you know them inside your own head. I hope that when people come and watch it they’ll be arguing as much about the doctor’s identity at the end as when they first see him on stage.
Tom Goodman-Hill, Thandie Newton & Anthony Calf in Death & the Maiden
Thandie Newton plays my wife and she’s getting on fantastically, especially considering it’s her stage debut. It’s a brave first role but she’s thrown herself at it and we’re having a cracking time. It’s quite amazing to see an actor take on such a rollercoaster and do it all in one take, which is I guess how it must feel for her. She’s incredibly intense, focused and just a huge pleasure to work with, as is Anthony Calf, who plays the doctor.
For me personally it makes a nice change to do what is essentially a chamber piece and, in contrast to Enron, for it all to be focused in one place over the course of a single day - it's quite a change from lightsabers and dance routines! But in terms of preparation I apply the same rules to Enron or Spamalot as I do to Death and the Maiden.
I hope I never get type-cast. I love being a character actor and I love not being recognised from one piece to the next. I remember having conversations with people who said how much they enjoyed Enron and I walked away knowing that they had no idea it was me they were watching on stage. I love that, and really hope I never become identified with a particular role.
Death and the Maiden is booking until 21 January 2012. Come on our hosted Whatsonstage.com Outing on 2 November and get a top-price ticket, a FREE PROGRAMME and an EXCLUSIVE post show Q&A with the cast and director Jeremy Herrin – all for just £30.00! Click here for details.