Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Interview: Nathaniel Martello-White, starring in People, Places & Things

Nathaniel Martello-White is currently playing Mark in the West End transfer of Duncan Macmillan’s new play People, Places & Things at the Wyndham’s Theatre.

Nathaniel originated the role when the piece premiered at the National's Dorfman Theatre last year. Directed by Jeremy Herrin and starring Denise Gough, People, Places & Things is a collaboration between the National Theatre and Headlong. The production recently extended its West End run to 18th June 2016 due to demand.

Emma was having the time of her life. Now she’s in rehab. Her first step is to admit that she has a problem. But the problem isn’t with Emma, it’s with everything else. She needs to tell the truth. But she’s smart enough to know that there’s no such thing. When intoxication feels like the only way to survive the modern world, how can she ever sober up?

Nathaniel’s theatre credits include: Edward II & Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre tours), City Madame, A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Marat/Sade (RSC), Who Cares, Teh Internet is Serious Business, Gastronauts, Collaboration, Rough Cuts & Oxford Street (Royal Court), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone & The Brothers Size (Young Vic), Knives in Hens and Innocence (Arcola) and Bad Blood Blues (Stratford East). In addition to also working extensively on screen, he also wrote Blackta which was performed at the Young Vic.

I recently spoke to Nathaniel about bringing People, Places & Things to the West End, his first impressions of the play and the complicated rehearsal process… 

What were your first impressions when you looked at People, Places and Things?
I knew Duncan (Macmillan, writer) from the Royal Court when he used to teach but wasn’t familiar with anything he had written, so when I read the play I was firstly blown away by where Duncan had got to as a writer. Even the way the dialogue was laid out on the page… it felt like the bare bones of something really interesting. Obviously my first thought was, ‘Wow, who’s playing Emma?’ and I wasn’t disappointed [laughs] when I turned up for the read through and Denise (Gough) completely blew it out the park! I was really taken by my character Mark, the role grew in the next draft by the time we got to rehearsals – Duncan elaborated on the character. It was a joy to be chosen for the part!

Nathaniel in rehearsals for People, Places & Things

What was that first rehearsal process like?
It was one of those things like… building a big building - people get injured along the way [laughs]. It’s like when you’re creating a great piece of art, ironically rehearsals aren’t a fun period. It became quite a dense, complicated process. I think because it was new territory for me I spent a lot of time trying to work out where my character sat. I think Denise was more familiar with the territory from her personal experience so she had a way in. She took the bar really high so we all felt like we had to reach those levels in four or five weeks which is always difficult! It was funny, on that first preview where we went out at the Dorfman and finally shared it the response was incredible. We are all like, ‘Wow, this is something special’. 

Nathaniel at press night
When you stepped out for that first preview, did you have any idea what the response might be like? 
Not at all! I always thought it was funny, but I was surprised by how funny the audience found it. The humour is a big part of the play – in extreme emotional situations humour is the only thing that can save you. The play turns on its head in seconds. 

What’s the secret to Duncan’s writing? The response has been overwhelmingly incredible!
[pauses] That’s a good question! Duncan is a real practitioner… 1984 which he co-created and Lungs and everything he has been working on is really interesting – I think he’s in a really exciting place as a playwright. He’s doing something nobody else is doing; he’s challenging the idea of form in a play but also telling a coherent story. That’s rare in theatre – often plays are either predictably conventional or so post-modern it goes over your head. He finds a unique balance. At the heart of this play is a very human story, maybe that’s what people relate to. He’s not trying to be too intellectual – it’s relatable. Everybody seems to be affected by it. 

What’s the atmosphere like amongst the company? What’s everyone like to work with?
Everyone has been amazing! It’s funny, there was this day when Denise was away when we all had to come in do a re-write of the group section. We all improvised the group therapy scene for the entire day and I was so blown away by the talent of everyone in the cast. We’ve got a really solid, talented team. I think that all comes down to Jeremy (Herrin, director) and the way he has cast it. There isn’t a weak link! There were times when it was stressful because moments are technical and fiddly so people got frustrated – that was allowed to happen in the room. 

Nathaniel in People, Places & Things with Denise Gough

Had it changed much for the West End?
Not dramatically. Funnily enough the acoustics are better at the Wyndham’s than they were at the Dorfman, partly because of the set. The detail in these old theatres helps the sound bounce off – it supports your voice. It’s incredible to be playing to 759 people every night! It has been a joy!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

People, Places & Things runs at the Wyndham’s Theatre to 18th June 2016.
Please visit www.peopleplacesthingsonstage.com for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 1,2&4: Johan Persson 
Photo Credit 3: Craig Sugden

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