Monday, 25 January 2016

Interview: Richard Clothier, starring in The Mother

Richard Clothier is currently reprising his performance in The Mother which has transferred to the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn following its acclaimed run at the Ustinov Studio in Bath.

Directed by Laurence Boswell, Florian Zeller’s play follows the success of The Father which last year transferred to the West End following its runs at the Tricycle and Ustinov Studio. The cast also includes Gina McKee, William Posthelwaite and Frances McNamee.

Just a few of Richard’s extensive credits include: Play Strindberg (Ustinov Studio), King Lear (National), A Midsummer Night’s Dream & The Merchant of Venice (UK/international tours), Enlightenment (Hampstead), The Way of the World (Chichester), Rose Rage (New York), The Tempest (Sheffield), King Lear, The Merchant of Venice & Hamlet (RSC) and Tango at the End of Winter (West End). 

On screen he has appeared in New Tricks, Henry V, Above Suspicion, Law & Order: UK, Spooks, Singularity, Hippie Hippie Shake, So This Is Romance? and Bye Bye Columbus. I recently spoke to Richard about why reading The Mother for the first time was a baffling experience, how the play is similar to The Father and what makes the piece so powerfully relevant… 

The Mother is transferring to London following the tremendous success of The Father…
When Laurence (Boswell, director) first asked me to look at it I wasn’t really aware of The Father! I wasn’t even aware of Florian Zeller.

What did you think when you read The Mother for the first time?
I couldn’t make head nor tail of it [laughs]. It’s a very similar play, in its construction, to The Father because it replays scenes with only minor differences. I remember being completely baffled and confused… as I was on my second and third reading as well! When we got into the rehearsal room luckily we all shared the same anxiety and none of us were too sure what was going on [laughs]. It could be interpreted in many different ways, I think The Mother is very open to whoever happens to be performing or directing it. I’ve never worked on anything like this before!

So after you all got into the rehearsal room and shared your anxieties, what was Laurence’s approach? 
Laurence is very free; I’ve worked with him a number of times now over the last couple of years. He’s a very easy and accessible director who is very responsive to what actors give him, he trusts people’s instincts. He was in a similar place to us! Similar to The Father, it’s unclear whose reality you are watching. You see a number of incidents being played from different perspectives, it can be quite unsettling for the audience

Whilst The Father delved into Alzheimer’s, I believe The Mother also tackles another very relevant illness?
The Mother is primarily about depression; The Father was about Alzheimer’s, everybody knows somebody who has had Alzheimer’s and there’s a great deal of sympathy for the family and the sufferer… whereas I think depression is still a tricky area for people to deal with. From its diagnosis to how people around somebody with depression treats them – everybody has to cope with it day in day out. In The Mother she has some fairly obsessive fixations which makes sympathy for her quite challenging. 

And I guess the beauty of the play is that you see the situation from different perspectives. 
There are lots of different and conflicting points of sympathy and points of view from the mother, the husband, the son and the girlfriend. It’s a very, very difficult play to pin down and say “I have absolute sympathy for this particular character”. It’s not black and white. I think remarkably Florian Zeller has written a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be around somebody who is suffering from a dreadful mental illness. 

It’s incredibly brave and also very important – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of theatre which delves into depression.
[laughs] It’s not what you think of first of all as a good night out! But Laurence has ensured the production is bleakly funny; Gina (McKee) is fantastically gifted at pulling a lot of humour out of what could be a very unfunny and unsympathetic character. 

What have Gina and the rest of the cast been like to work with?
It has been a lovely experience. Between Bath and London there has just been one cast change, we jumped at the chance to do it again because we enjoyed doing it so much the first time. It has been a very collaborative process because we all started without a clue [laughs] and all managed to find our way to something we all collectively feel very proud to be a part of. We’re very lucky to be sharing this process, it’s not very often you’re around at a time when a serious talent like Florian Zeller is unearthed. 

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Mother runs at the Tricycle Theatre until 5th March 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

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