Wednesday 21 March 2018

Aidan Turner on Stage

One of the things I'm most looking forward to this summer is seeing Aidan Turner make his West End debut in Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Aidan returns to the stage after a break of ten years. Back in 2008, when he played Paris in Dublin's Abbey Theatre production of Romeo and Juliet, he probably had no idea that his career would take him away from live performance for so long and since 2012 he has been saying he would like to get back to his roots. As he told ARTICLE magazine recently, "It's gone beyond something I want to do at this point; it's actually something that I need to do."

Aidan Turner, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Martin McDonagh, Noel Coward Theatre, Michael Grandage
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Photo: Johan Persson
A while ago I was lucky enough to talk to Aidan about returning to the stage. As he says, "Going to the theatre is such a different experience than, say, watching TV.  It's like, well, it's the reason I started acting. Performing in theatre is just something that's completely different. You're on stage for two hours and it's just electric and anything can go wrong. It's that fear. Nothing can go wrong on a TV set and, if it does, you call cut and just go again."

Aidan plays Mad Padraic in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a terrorist deemed too violent for the IRA, who loves his cat and is determined to find out how it met its end. Padraic can go from being brutal to disarmingly nice and fans familiar with Aidan's television work will have no trouble bringing to mind the roles he's brought both charm and menace to. Just think Philip Lombard in And Then There Were None which Variety describes as, "...the best work of his [Aidan's] career." But it's worth remembering that The Lieutenant of Inishmore is first and foremost a comedy, be it ever so black. And here, perhaps, Aidan's work in the theatre comes into play as he's no stranger to comedy on stage.

Aidan Turner, Crock of Gold
Crock of Gold Photo: Liam Halligan
Aidan played several parts in the fantasy play Crock of Gold (2006) which was noted by critics for its strong performances. From a cast of 30, reviewers sought out Aidan for the humour he brought to one his roles saying, "You have characters beautifully played such as Pan by Aidan Turner. His strutting around the stage is hilarious." Part of the fun of the theatre is having players interact with the audience which is just what Pan did, even at one time offering someone a cup of tea!

Aidan Turner, Cyrano
Cyrano Photo; Patrick Redmond
Later in 2006 Aidan played Christian in the comedy Cyrano. Reviewers praised the sharp writing of this funny play and called Aidan a "fabulous young actor who really stole the show," despite playing a "priapic lughead". As Christian, Aidan had the audience with him as he talked to Cyrano about never having been with an older woman, "except for that one time with my Aunt"; responded to Roxanne's question about what makes him angry with "Britney Spears"; and likened sex to paintball. There was plenty of visual comedy too with reviewers finding the sword fight with leeks inspired!

Although Aidan has been in many productions over the years the plays have often had short runs (Cyrano was eight days) with Romeo and Juliet at Ireland's national theatre The Abbey, having the longest run of 47 shows. The Lieutenant of Inishmore will run for over 100 performances. Aidan is realistic about the repetition whether it be for Poldark or on stage telling WWD magazine, "When you're anchoring a show there's some responsibility to take the lead and not to let boredom settle in. It happens in every job, it happened when I was on stage for years. After opening night, or a few weeks after, you begin to think it's old hat, that there's nothing new to discover. But it's just about re-engaging with the role, the experience and the project. I'm still having a lot of fun."

Aidan Turner, Romeo and Juliet, Abbey Theatre
In rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet Photo: Ros Kavanagh
Of course, Aidan and the cast are in the very capable hands of Michael Grandage, one of our finest directors. Aidan has not worked with Michael before but it seems they share the same ethos. Michael likes his actors to be happy and, as we know, everyone who joins the cast of Poldark says it's a lovely show to work on; Michael expects the cast to arrive at the first rehearsal knowing all their lines and Aidan's advice for auditions is to "get off book as quick as you can"; Michael hopes that, by the end of rehearsals, every line of a play will have been examined and Aidan says, "With theatre you’re kind of four-to-five weeks locked down in the room with the guys figuring stuff out. It’s back to play school.That’s what I miss the most — almost. There’s nothing like an opening night or like the curtain going up and having a full house, but also having weeks and weeks to work with your director and cast members and try to crack the play."

Aidan Turner, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Martin McDonagh, Noel Coward Theatre, Michael Grandage
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Photo: Johan Persson
The Noel Coward, where The Lieutenant of Inishmore will be staged, is a pretty Rococo style  theatre dating from 1903.  Aidan is certainly familiar with it as a member of the audience having seen Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw there in Peter and Alice and Sarah Greene in The Cripple of Inishmaan (which he went to with some friends from The Hobbit) - both Michael Grandage productions, The Cripple of Inishmaan being a Martin McDonagh play.  I've been to the Noel Coward several times (I particularly enjoyed The Cripple of Inishmaan). The seats have a comfortable amount of leg room and there is air conditioning during the performance. A word of warning though. The Ladies loos are few in number and the foyer ones are tiny!

The Lieutenant of Inishmore  runs from 23 June to 8 September.  Follow the link tickets and more information.

Please remember to credit Poldarked when reposting this article.

Related links:
Aidan Turner's Career

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