📷 : Sam Taylor
Recently playing the role of Scrooge in RSC’s production A Christmas Carol, screen and stage actor Aden Gillett is currently starring as Mike in the UK tour of Torben Betts’ play Caroline’s Kitchen opposite Caroline Langrishe in the title role. The show is running until the 13th April, ending the UK leg in Colchester, before heading to New York. Towards the start of the tour, we spoke to Aden to find out more about his role in Caroline’s Kitchen, what drew him to the script and touring with a show.
Can you tell us about Caroline’s Kitchen?
It’s a play by Torben Betts who writes, if you want to generalise, in the area of Alan Ayckbourn – black comedies, quite acid, very observant of human foibles and the lizard brain in all of us tends to be exposed. Caroline’s Kitchen is a black farce really, that’s the best way to describe it. It gathers pace and becomes quite riotous at the end, quite hard to control for the actors, it gets very chaotic in there. Very good fun to watch though I think, I hope.
What was it about this script that drew you to the role?
I workshopped this play about two years ago in front of four audiences, it’s undergone quite a few changes. I like Torben’s work very much. I saw a play of his called Muswell Hill at The Orange Tree a few years ago which I liked enormously and then I saw Invincible a couple of times so I was drawn to Torben’s work. I did the workshop and there was sort of hysteria really at this play and that’s a very unusual thing to witness; we played it through, we read it basically to audiences around Bury St Edmunds and people were just in tears of laughter and that’s very rare, people laugh at plays but when they really get out of control that’s quite a glorious feeling. I was in a play called Noises Off at The National once and that had that response in the early days, it slightly tapered off the more controlled we got with it but that out of control laughter is wonderful to listen to, so I knew this play had packed quite a punch and it does pack quite a punch; audiences really enjoy it.
📷 : Sam Taylor
Can you describe your character Mike?
Up to a point I can, yeah. I hope there’s a certain amount of me in it, the worst aspects of me, it’s not much fun doing a character if there’s not enough of you in it, it starts to become a bit pale and a bit like a caricature and a bit sketchy so I try and drag as much of the crappy part of myself in there. He’s Brexit voting, Daily Mail reading, empire loving haha, all of these in rather careless ways, he’s an ex-banker, effortlessly right wing, self-made from a working-class background I think, or lower middle-class background, kind of just full of bigotry and prejudice but in a very casual charming sort of middle England way. If he was American he would be voting Trump, we all know people like him. I’m making him sound serious, Torben rips the piss out of him hahaha. He’s also an innocent which I suppose is his saving grace, he doesn’t really know all of the chaos that’s going on around him, there’s quite a lot of infidelity, there’s quite a lot of emotional chaos swirling around him although it appears that he’s probably the most bullying aggressive, he’s quite an innocent and that’s about it for him haha. And safe to say some fairly unpleasant things happen to him in the course of the play.
What has the response been like to the tour so far?
It’s been hard for me, I was playing Scrooge at The Royal Shakespeare Company, I did a Sunday matinee to finish that run and then we opened this show in Derby on the Thursday matinee, so it’s been a real chaotic time for me. Essentially, what I’m saying is, we’ve only had about eight shows maybe less, the responses in Derby were fabulous and we had big audiences and they were roaring with laughter and that was wonderful, you just never know with a comedy how it’s going to go. We had those shows in East Anglia but that was a long time ago and Cambridge is a more reserved audience than Derby but we’ve only done the early part of the week, we’ve yet to do the latter part so we’ll see as we move towards the weekend how much they like it. I can’t really tell you the audience response too much because we’ve only done two venues, but it is good to get that lovely out of control laughter because a lot of the time you’re laughing at the things you really shouldn’t be laughing at hahaha, that lovely laughing in church feeling, when you hold off for as long as you can and then you just can’t help yourself.
📷 : Sam Taylor
The show is going to Worthing, have you performed there in any previous productions?
I have never even been to Worthing, I’m not sure I knew there was a theatre there… actually yes, I did, I remember auditioning for it once when I was straight out of drama school! I’ve never been to Worthing, I went to prep school in Seaford so I know Sussex a bit and my mum and dad married in Lewes but I don’t know much about Sussex apart from that, and a little village called Barcombe. I like the sea. I would like to be able to tell you more but I’ve never even been there but, like I said, I did go to school in Seaford and we used to play games against an Eastbourne college called St Bede’s. I do have a Sussex background as my parents married in Lewes.
Eddie Izzard is from Shoreham-by-Sea, I was born in Aden and he was born in Aden like me. My dad married his parents in his polo clothes which people tend to like, Eddie found out, we did a film together in Luxembourg and he found out that my dad’s signature was on his parents’ wedding certificate. Eddie went to St Bede’s in Eastbourne and I went to St Peter’s in Seaford and our schools played each other and we found out we had this connection. I actually lived in Aden until I was nine, he left when he was a baby, but we found this ridiculous fact out that my dad used to play polo and occasionally he’d have to marry people and someone rang him up and said, ‘we want to get married’, and he said, ‘alright, I’ll do it, but I’ve got a polo match so as long as you don’t mind me marrying you in my polo gear…’ and so he did. That’s a Shoreham-by-Sea anecdote!
What do you find the most challenging part of touring with a show?
You’re always forgetting your bloody toothbrush or you’ve got one pair of pants short or there’s always, I’ve forgotten what I forgot this time, but you’re always forgetting some bloody thing, that’s really irritating. It’s like having a little stone in your shoe, you’ve perpetually got a more or less large stone in your shoe because you forgot something. That’s a very petty way of describing it. Living out of a suitcase has its problems but you miss the familiarity of home occasionally but that is counteracted by the intra, it’s just fascinating being paid to wander around Britain hahaha, and it’s the second time I’ve toured in less than a year.
We opened in Derby, Derby’s not traditionally a place that tourists would flock to but if you look hard enough there are fascinating things there; Cambridge is much more obvious which is where I am now. I’ve never been to Worthing and I will be interested to see what the sea does at Worthing, I love the sea. You get to know your country in a way that most people really don’t, if you live in London you might go somewhere for a holiday spot, but you don’t tend to see your country, we see a lot of it. That’s a very pompous answer, haha.
📷 : Sam Taylor
How different do you find playing comedy roles to more serious ones like The Winslow Boy?
Well the truth is, I don’t find it that different. If the show bills itself as a comedy, the audience had probably better be laughing and if they’re not, you know you’ve failed. When you’re playing in a tragedy or something, you can always delude yourself that they’re having a fabulous time even if they’re not because silence is an appropriate response to a lot of tragedies but silence really isn’t an ideal response to a full-on comedy. You’ve got to get those laughs, you don’t have to be crazy about it, you don’t want to reduce it to silly rubbish, you’ve got to be truthful on stage but if they’re not laughing then you have failed, and it is very nice hearing laughter, saying something in a comedy that makes people laugh has a certain joy to it. Like I said, you don’t want to be a fool about it because if you start playing for the laughs you get into big trouble but it is quite a joyful thing to be able to make people laugh.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I’m not aware of any if I have them. I nearly always have a cup of tea hahaha, but I wouldn’t weep if I didn’t. I’m wary of getting any sort of superstitious behaviour going on because it’s just foolishness, so no, I don’t by a large, no.
📷 : Sam Taylor
What can audiences expect from Caroline’s Kitchen?
There are going to be people who don’t like it, there are going to be people who don’t like every play. I hope that they will have a riot, that they will laugh a lot and that they will be surprised and delighted at seeing some of the darker, weirder ideas that they have in the back of their minds mirrored on stage.
What are you looking forward to for taking the show to New York?
I did a show on Broadway about, God, a long time ago, twenty years ago, so I’ve done a show for a year on Broadway so I haven’t got that kind of woo of excitement to go to New York but there’s a little part of me that is excited by going back too. I haven’t been to America for about ten years so it’s interesting to go, it’s a big cultural change and it will be fun to be there for a month and I suppose it will be interesting to see how they react to this play. The audience is going to vary from British venues, I imagine it will be a very different reaction when you go to a different culture so that’ll be interesting to see. It’s also the last venue, that will be the end of the five months, and this play, I tell you, takes it out of you, my God haha!
The Original Theatre Company’s production of Caroline’s Kitchen is currently touring the UK and will play Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne from 12 to 16 March and Connaught Theatre, Worthing from 3 to 6 April.