📷 : Chris Mann
With National Theatre’s production of Peter Gynt returning to the Olivier Theatre from 10th September, Tamsin Carroll plays the Woman in Green and Anitra, alongside James McArdle in the title role. During a break in the London run, the David Hare version of Ibsen’s play headed to Edinburgh Fringe, playing for ten days at the beginning of last month. Prior to joining the cast of Peter Gynt, Tamsin’s recent work includes originating the role of Miss Hedge in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (both Sheffield and West End), before flying to Australia to appear as Maria in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Speaking with Tamsin, we chat about originating the role of Miss Hedge, playing at the National Theatre and being in the cast of Peter Gynt.
For those that don’t know Peter Gynt, can you say about the production and the roles you play?
Peter Gynt is an epic journey of one man that spans about seventy years of his life. It’s an amazing tale about trying to find the meaning of who you are, being authentic and finding out what makes your life rich and worthwhile.
I play the Woman in Green, who is kind of a fantasy character. There’s a mix of fantasy and reality throughout the production and the Woman in Green is a bit of a temptress and brings peace back to the troll kingdom. I also play another temptress, Anitra, who Peter meets on his travels overseas. She’s sort of a scam and uses her sexuality and appeal to scam Peter into thinking he’s something spiritual.
What is the musical aspect like to perform?
Performing the musical aspects are great fun, there are so many different types of songs of all genres and I think that’s why it’s so fun because you go through Rock & Roll, R&B to Country and Western. Paul Englishby (Composer) has written an extraordinary catalogue.
How has the run gone so far at the Olivier Theatre in London and what was the response like at Edinburgh Fringe?
We’ve had great responses from both London audiences and Scottish audiences. It’s always wonderful to be on the South Bank at the National in summer because the atmosphere around there is always really wonderful. People listen very carefully throughout the night and definitely show their appreciation. When we went up to Scotland, it was kind of like bringing the story home because so much of the cast are Scottish and the story originates there, so there was a lot of national pride. We had a fantastic time at the Fringe, I’d never been before so it was a really great experience for me. Edinburgh is the most sensational city and the festival is magnificent. We are now looking forward to being back at the South Bank at the National fairly soon.
📷 : Manuel Harlan
Have you worked with Jonathan Kent or seen any of his or David Hare’s work previously?
I’ve worked neither with David Hare or Jonathan before but have been huge fans of both of them throughout my life so I would even go as far to say I was quite star-struck by both of them! People say you should never meet your idols, but I’ve now met two of them, and they’ve lived up to everything I could have hoped for. They work so beautifully together and they have a wonderful long-standing relationship which has been a real privilege to observe. Their creativity is something that we can all bow down to and learn from, it’s been wonderful and very humbling.
What do you like about working at the National Theatre?
Many things – the National Theatre is a dream. What I love most about it is that, in one building, you have the rehearsal rooms, theatres, restaurants… it’s just a hub of creative energy. We’re all part of a big family, it’s such a big building with loads of different departments and everybody is so expert at what they do. You get a real buzz when you walk in the building, and it’s a real privilege to be a little part of that massive machine of art, it’s really wonderful.
Why would you recommend audiences to see this production of Peter Gynt?
I would recommend audiences to see Peter Gynt because I don’t think there are many times in either theatre or film these days where you can get an actual life story on-stage in just a little over three hours. I think that Ibsen fanatics will be thrilled because it’s very true to Henrik Ibsen’s original piece, but David Hare has made the most extraordinary, relevant and modern production out of it. There is so much reference to the way we live today in terms of searching for who we are and trying to be authentic, but with things like Instagram and Facebook and the kind of world we want people to think we’re living and the persona we put out there, is a bit of a façade. I think that it’s incredibly relevant to young audiences and the modern references to politics, travel, the state of the world and our personalities these days are really something you can’t get elsewhere.
I think that the old story from Ibsen and the relevance today makes for a great night in the theatre but also, one of the main reasons to see this production is a little-known actor called James McArdle, who is one of the greatest young actors I’ve ever worked with. To watch someone that age delivering a performance of such emotional integrity and sustaining the audience in the palm of their hand throughout the entire night is worth every single penny. He is phenomenal, and it’s worth it just to see him speak David Hare’s words.
How was it originating the role of Miss Hedge and transferring to the West End with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?
Jamie was wonderful. It’s such a privilege when you start at the workshop stages with something new, and anytime you get to do something new in this industry, it’s really, really exciting. I remember being in the workshop stage for nearly four years throughout the journey and thinking about how they didn’t really have to change much because everything was right. It was almost perfect from the very beginning with the chemistry, the creatives who were involved in the script and the music. You could really get a sense that this was something very special and it had a really special message to promote.
The waves of love from people in Sheffield when we started there was so exciting, and to be able to take it to the West End and build almost a cult following was a privilege. It is an important piece with a real social conscience message and it promotes so much love. There’s not a lot out there for teenagers at the moment and I think they really claimed it as their own and parents and grandparents, who may have found some topics difficult to talk about, were suddenly given the tools to talk about things. It became the most loving experience and every night will be something I really treasure, it was wonderful.
📷 : Manuel Harlan
How different was Miss Hedge to play to your previous roles?
I do tend to play quite a lot of “baddies” but I wouldn’t say Miss Hedge was a baddie because although she does become an obstacle for Jamie and she certainly has an opinion about the way he lives his life, in the end, she does start to be changed which is a wonderful thing. She goes on the journey and she learns some things which is good. I do tend to play people that come in and out of the production, maybe with a darker side to them, so she’s quite similar to other people in that way, but I think the fact that she has her eyes opened at the end maybe makes her a little bit different which I loved.
You’ve recently appeared as Maria in Twelfth Night in Australia, what was this like to do after a few years in musical theatre?
I absolutely love Shakespeare, it’s one of my favourite things to do and I would happily go through the Bard my entire life. I enjoyed that experience so much, it’s the most fun play and we had many, many giggles. Going back to Australia, working with some of my best mates and being able to visit family meant it was a magical time. Shakespeare really lends itself to people who enjoy music because there’s a lot of music in Shakespeare and the way he writes is almost like writing music – it’s poetry that has a rhythm to it, so I enjoyed it immensely and Twelfth Night will be one of my favourite stand-out times.
Do you have a technique for learning scripts and has it changed over time?
I don’t know that I have a technique. I get mostly productive after 10pm, I’m definitely a night owl, probably after having a theatre career most of my life, so it’s no use me trying to learn anything in the morning! As my brain starts to switch on at 10pm, that’s when I start to learn my lines, and I do it in this wonderful world of technology. I like to record the cue lines on my phone so then you don’t have to wait for someone to come home and them having to read with you. I think that really helps and I’m very grateful for that – I’m not very good with technology but that’s something I’m very grateful for.
What are you looking forward to for the remainder of the Peter Gynt run and what are your plans once the show closes?
I’m looking forward to seeing my mates in the company again as they really are the most wonderful group of people to work with. It’s such a family, I’ve barely seen a group of such supportive individuals as there’s no competition and it’s a real team.
I’m enjoying the future being a bit of a mystery and that’s a good thing. We mustn’t discard the idea of mystery in life because it’s always a surprise and that’s exciting.
You can book to see PETER GYNT until 8th October 2019 at the National Theatre www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/peter-gynt