Advertisement

David Troughton Interview

15 January 2016 | Lydia Cooper

The Duke of York Theatre’s new production Goodnight Mister Tom has been receiving rave reviews. London Calling chatted to David Troughton - who plays the eponymous Tom - about the challenging themes of the show, his work on the radio, and his versatile acting career.

London Calling: We’re currently speaking between a matinée performance of Goodnight Mister Tom and your evening one. How are you finding the run so far?

David Troughton: There’s a while to go yet - after we finish in London in February we go on tour with the production! Yes, as it’s aimed at children we are doing a lot of matineés. I expect we’ll get a lot of schools visiting too once term starts. It’s about eight performances a week, but compressed into five or six days.

LC:  There are lots of troubling themes in the novel - abuse, death, failure. How is this translated in the production and tackled on stage? Do you show the cupboard scene [in which William is badly beaten, stripped, and locked in a cupboard for days with his mother’s baby, which dies]?

DT: We do indeed. I’m not going to give anything away, but David Wood has created a very sympathetic adaptation. He includes the main themes, and the treatment of child abuse is harsh. Adults cry, and children are amazed. I believe that we protect our children a bit too much now. We need to give them more credit. In the thirties and forties, children were supposed to be seen and not heard - a completely different attitude from now - but children are resilient creatures.

LC: How have the child actors playing William found the role?

DT: Well we have three sets of actors playing William and Zach, so we had to rehearse everything three times. They’re fine young actors, some have been in other shows - Matilda for instance - but they are playing big parts.  It’s very brave of David Wood to insist that children rather than adults played the characters. I think that element makes the show.

LC: There’s definitely a much greater dramatic impact when children play them. Tom as a character had a very different upbringing from your own - he is a provincial figure who never leaves his local area until he goes to rescue William.

DT: I’m an actor, so it’s easy to pretend. I grew up in North London, but I haven’t lived in London for forty years. I can still say I’m a Londoner, but it’s too crowded for me; I prefer the open skyline of the countryside.

LC: You’re currently appearing in The Archers too. How does that compare with being on stage? Do you have a preference?

DT: Your next job is your preference, basically. Whatever medium I work in is good. I love radio because you can tackle big subjects. Nowhere else in the world can you hear a play a day, practically.  The Archers is the longest-running soap in the world. I don’t have to learn lines, which is good, and it’s much quicker. When we’re recording we do 3 or 4 episodes a day. Theatre is a much more time-consuming project.

LC: Fans of The Archers tend to get quite heated about the show, especially in online discussion forums.

DT: I hate Twitter and Facebook, I don’t engage with any of that.  It’s a place where “funny people” can vent their anger.

LC: Have you had any bizarre experiences with fans?

DT: No, not at all. I should think there was an outcry when I took over Tony’s character two and a half years ago, but I don’t read any press - I don’t care. There have been lots of precedents with replacing characters, and Colin wanted to leave.

LC: In a previous interview you mentioned that two characters you’d like to play are Prospero and Falstaff.  The two characters have such different functions and tones in The Tempest and the Henry plays. Do you prefer serious or comic roles?

DT: I haven’t done a rip-roaring comedy for a long time and I love making people laugh. It’s more of a challenge. I want to play lots of different roles rather than being typecast. We don’t seem to have many character actors now, who are able to change their physicality, speech, everything.

LC: Lots of actors seem to be typecast in a role nowadays once they do one particular thing.

DT: The film industry does that a lot. You have to look the part rather than pretend to be the part. I prefer to pretend.

LC: Speaking of pretending, how stripped-down is the Goodnight Mister Tom set compared with other productions you’ve featured in?

DT: It’s very minimal indeed. It leaves a lot to the imagination, which is part of the joy of this production. The audience are left to imagine as they would with the book. It’s a very episodic adaptation, so the scene changes occur quickly and we don’t need a lot. The tension within the audience is palpable as a result.

LC: Have you got any interesting plans for when you finish Goodnight Mister Tom, apart from The Archers?

DT: No, I finish in May and then I will hopefully have some time off to do some cricket umpiring for the Birmingham League. This industry is surprising. It’s better than knowing what you’re going to do for the next twenty years in a dead-end job. Any artist should have job satisfaction: we’re very lucky in that way.

Goodnight Mister Tom runs at the Duke of York Theatre until 20 February 2016, before going on a nationwide tour. Book tickets here.

Advertisement

Most popular

What to See at The Cinema
What to See at The Cinema
Advertisement
Top Theatre of the Week in London
Top Theatre of the Week in London
Advertisement
The Best Exhibitions in London Right Now
The Best Exhibitions in London Right Now
Advertisement
Top Gigs of the Week in London
Top Gigs of the Week in London
The Best Street Food Markets in London
The Best Street Food Markets in London
The Best of Welsh Culture in London
The Best of Welsh Culture in London

Your inbox deserves a little culture! Get our monthly newsletter

Advertisement