📷 : Faye Thomas http://www.fayethomas.com
Currently appearing on stage in RSC’s Crooked Dances, Oliver Mott is playing the role of Nick Sobers until the show closes Saturday 13th July in Stratford-upon-Avon. Oliver has spent a few seasons at Theatre by the Lake with work including Sense and Sensibility and Dial M for Murder and as a screen actor, has filmed as Scab for the award-winning feature film The Patrol. Talking with Oliver, we find out about working with Theatre by the Lake, appearing in Milked and his role as Nick in RSC’s Crooked Dances.
How are you finding your RSC debut in Crooked Dances?
I’m absolutely loving working here at the RSC. It’s an absolute dream to be joining a company with so much history and weight and Crooked Dances has been a total delight to work on. We’ve been getting such amazing responses from the audiences so I’m having an absolute blast here!
Have you performed in Stratford previously?
No, never. But I remember being taken to see shows here when I was a kid. Stratford has always held a very magical quality for me, that’s why it’s so amazing to be here all these years later. However, in a way a part of my family has been here for years. My great grandmother, the artist Gertrude Hermes, designed the fountain at the bottom of the Swan Theatre stairway at the RSC. So it’s very comforting to know that even though this experience is all very new to me, I still have a piece of my family here in Stratford.
Can you tell us about the play and your character Nick Sobers?
How best to describe Crooked Dances? Well, I suppose it’s unlike anything I have ever seen before or been in which is incredibly appealing. It is written by the amazing Robin French and begins on the Eurostar where my character, Nick, and a journalist meets Katie on her way to interview a famous concert pianist at her home in the Massif Centrale. While there, they are failed by modern technology and find themselves without the aid of smart phones and have to revert to much older forms of technology; landlines, tape recorders, film cameras etc. Through the pianist they are exposed to the work and ideas of Eric Satie, a French composer in the 19th Century and in particular his work on the nature of time. Throw in some magic and wolves and you have a mad, magical wonderful and thought-provoking play!
My character Nick is very much from the modern world. Born and bred in London he is obsessed with Facebook, celebrity, Tinder and partying. He is such a fun character to play as his energy is infectious and unrelenting. Although he may appear to be charmingly shallow on the surface, deep down he is also sweet and kind with the ruthless ambition that is so prominent in the world we live in today. It all adds a wonderful layer of complexity to him. He really is a joy to play.
📷 : Photo by Ellie Kurttz @ RSC
What drew you to the role?
I think the chance to play a comedy character, which is something I love. But also the fact that Robin has written such a wonderful three-dimensional character. We all love characters that offer light relief to a play, but when that character has a real believability about them they are so much more appealing and interesting. All of that combined with working for the wonderful Elizabeth Freestone (director) again. Someone who has taught me so much throughout my career and always offered me amazing opportunities, it was a no brainer.
Have you managed to see any of the other RSC productions and what are you enjoying most about working with them?
I haven’t yet managed to see anything as we have been in technical rehearsals and previews for the past week and a half. We have been rehearsing and reworking bits and pieces and then performing in the evening. It has been very full on! Now we are up and running I am hoping to catch a few matinees. I’ve heard amazing things about all the shows here so I’m excited.
The thing I am most enjoying about working for the RSC is how welcoming they have been as a company. You really are afforded every luxury here as an actor, they take full care of you physically and mentally so you feel in the best position to make great work. I think that’s why the work they produce is of such a high quality. It’s a lovely thing to look around and see creatives of such incredible standard and talent who are respectful and generous. It forces you to up your game and I like that.
You’ve done a couple of seasons at Theatre by the Lake, what is the venue like to perform in?
That’s an amazing job to do! The theatre operates on an old repertory system which is very rare nowadays. They hire a company of actors for seven months and stage six shows in total, three in the main house and three in the studio. Each actor is in three shows each and you rotate them every two nights. As an actor you not only get exposed to different types and genre of work but also to flex your versatility. Combine that with seven months in the beautiful Lake District, dream!
What has been your most challenging stage role so far?
I would say it was a production I did at Theatre by the Lake last year in their studio. It was written by my friend and playwright Simon Longman and it was called Rails. Set on a Cumbrian council estate it dealt with mental health in young people and the absence of paternal figures and how detrimental that can be. It was incredibly challenging and rewarding. My character Ben suffered serious anger issues due to his father leaving and mother being in a deep depression, unable to engage with life. He is forced to take responsibility for the family and care for his younger brother, but finds himself ill-equipped to do so as he is just a kid himself. It’s hands down the hardest but best thing I have ever done and I worked with some unbelievably talented people on that job, we became very close and are all still in contact today. While we were there we also started working with an amazing charity in Cumbria called the “We Will” project, completely set up by young people in the area. It was incredible and they are doing amazing work.
📷 : Faye Thomas http://www.fayethomas.com
You played Snowy in the theatre show Milked, what was he like to portray and can you tell us about the production?
Milked was another play by Simon and was also directed by Elizabeth, who I’m working with now. The play deals with the difficult transition from teenager to adult that we all face. Having that pressure of “what should I do?” “who should I be?” and “how do I define myself now I’m an adult?” in a world where you now have to do so many unpaid internships before people take you seriously or are considered for full-time employment. It is set in Shropshire, which I understand at the time had the second highest unemployment rate in the country. My character Snowy was what we all aspire to be, free and at not phased by the pressures of life just living each day at a time. That is until he too is forced down that side of life when his dad forces him to join the army, and things get more complicated. Believe it or not it’s an incredibly funny play, which I always think is great for a play with a message. The audience laugh but then question why they are laughing. Both Simon and Robin are very good at doing this with their work.
How different do you find touring with a theatre show to performing in one venue?
Touring is fun but it can be exhausting. You don’t ever get a chance to settle, however you have the privilege of seeing places you have never been and experiencing different kinds of culture. Being based in one venue is always great because you get to know the theatre, staff and backstage crew. By the end of a job you always feel like you are part of a family which I really love.
How was being a part of the award-winning feature film The Patrol, and who was your character Stab?
The Patrol was an amazing job! Set in Afghanistan in Helmand Province it dealt with a small outfit of British soliders who find themselves cut off from supplies and under attack by the enemy. We filmed in Morocco in the Atlas Mountains which was beautiful and we stayed on location in an isolated hotel. All the actors ate, slept and trained together so by the end of the job we totally operated as a unit. My character Stab was a medic drafted in from the territorial army and finds himself totally out of his depth. He subsequently develops PTSD after a very traumatic ambush. It was and is a very important subject for the film to deal with as at the time very little was known about PTSD within the public consciousness. However now with people like Jason Fox talking about their experiences with the syndrome I feel it is something we are gaining more awareness about. But I think we still have a way to go.
📷 : Faye Thomas http://www.fayethomas.com
What can you say about your screen experience in Doctors and Eastenders?
Those two shows in particular are amazing learning experiences for younger actors developing the craft of screen acting. They both shoot so fast so you have to be on your toes and prepared as time is always tight and you’re constantly getting changes right up until they shout “ACTION”. Soap actors always seem to get a lot of flack but the small glimpse that I have had into their world I can honestly say they are incredibly hard-working and on top of their game. It’s a whole other world and you just have to dive in and think on your feet.
What first prompted your acting career?
I had some amazing drama teachers at school who were always very encouraging. But I guess the main reason was because I am dyslexic and found school really difficult. I didn’t really excel at anything until I was in a school play and it all suddenly made sense. Acting was something I just got and really enjoyed at a time when I hadn’t really had that before. From there I joined an amazing amateur dramatics company for young people and they were instrumental in getting me into drama school. Since that point I haven’t looked back. It can be tough but I love it and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Do you have any roles booked for later this year that you are able to say about?
There is something in the pipeline that I’m really excited about but I can’t discuss it just yet. Watch this space and I’m looking forward to doing a follow up interview in the future!
CROOKED DANCES will run at The Studio Theatre @ The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon until July 13th, 2019.