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TGtS Meets...Jonny Clarke
We chatted to former Hollyoaks star Jonny Clarke about partying in Amsterdam, mastering accents and touring the UK with his new play BirdSong.
Tell us a little bit about your roles in Birdsong...
I play the roles of Tipper and Gregoire, Tipper signs up to the war underage but doesn't fully realise what he's letting himself in for. He pretty much thinks that he'll pop over to France, kill a few Germans, eat some nice food and he'll come home a hero. But despite his bravado in the beginning, he soon realises that he's not able to cope mentally with the war. As the play goes the audience see him become more and more childlike.
Were there any nerves on your part, given that Birdsong is such a well-loved novel?
I didn't really think about it to be honest. I only tend to get nervous when my friends and family come to watch me perform. Because I hadn't read the book, my agent kept my role a secret from me until after I'd had chance to read the script. I kept reading it and reading it until I had a grasp of the whole show. When I found out who I was going to play, I was really chuffed, because I felt like I could do those characters justice.
How does being in BirdSong compare to being in Hollyoaks?
TV and stage are two totally different forms of acting. You've got to project your voice more on stage, facially you have to be stronger with your emotions, and physically you have to be bigger with your movements (so that everyone can see you at the back). Whereas TV's quite up-close and more about acting through your eyes. Having done both, I think I prefer stage work. I love the tour lifestyle and it's such a rush when you step off stage each night.
What kind of research do you need to do before a role like this?
Randomly, I studied a bit of history and checked out how men used to style their hair - I often approach characters thinking about their hair first. Because Tipper's cockney and Gregoire's French, I had to do a fair bit of work with a vocal and acting coach beforehand so that I could nail both roles.
How would you sum up Birdsong - its part love story, part war drama.
It's a beautiful story of romance between two young people, but it also explores the effect that war has on the character of Stephen and those around him while he's out in the field - it's such a well written piece of theatre and really goes into great detail.
It’s quite a hard-hitting play. Did you find any of the scenes challenging?
I found it really hard to approach the role of Gregoire actually, I was bricking it on my first day of rehearsals. He's a French seven year old, so I have to play him with very childlike features - which is actually a lot harder than it sounds. To get into character I went home and studied a 70s TV show called Blue Remembered Hills, Helen Mirren plays a child it, so it was a great reference point for Gregoire's physicality. Luckily on the second day of rehearsals, I went in and owned it.
Are there any other theatre roles that you’d love to play?
I would love to play Albert in War House, I'm a massive fan of wartime dramas. I think that War House is an incredible piece of theatre and I'd love to be a part of it. My friend Billy Narracott is in the show too, so it'd be great to work with him again, if I had to pick another show it be in right now, it would definitely be that.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career?
Getting paid to fly to Amsterdam to film Hollyoaks Later has to be my highlight. I'd never been before, so I couldn't believe my luck.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to become an actor?
Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it. Believe in yourself and put the work in.
Why should people come and see the show?
If I wasn't in it, I'd love to go and see it because it's that good. My friends all want to come and see it and they hate the theatre! It's definitely a show for all, be warned though, it will leave you shocked and emotionally drained, so bring a pack of tissues.
BirdSong will run at the Wyvern Theatre from Tuesday 1st to Saturday 5th July. Book tickets today at wyverntheatre.org.uk or by calling the Ticket Office on 01793 524 481.
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