With The Sound of Music currently open at Chichester Festival Theatre, Dylan Mason plays Rolf in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, for which he is directed by Adam Penford. Working alongside a cast including Lauren Conroy (Liesl), Gina Beck (Maria), Edward Harrison (Captain von Trapp) and Janis Kelly (Mother Abbess), Dylan has been performing in The Sound of Music over the summer, and will continue his role until the show closes on 3rd September. Since his first professional musical Anything Goes with director Daniel Evans, Dylan has gone on to perform in shows including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Wind in the Willows, the two-hander play The Mikvah Project opposite Robert Neumark Jones, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End as James Potter and Cedric Diggory, and he played Tony Brockhurst in The Boy Friend at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Earlier this year, Dylan appeared on screen in an episode of Doctors as Ruaraidh Green. We spoke to Dylan about performing in The Sound of Music at Chichester Festival Theatre, what Rolf is like to play in the musical and his time in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London’s West End.
You are currently playing Rolf in The Sound of Music at Chichester Festival Theatre, what are you looking forward to most for continuing the role over the summer?
Performing in this amazing theatre! I’ve always wanted to perform at CFT and to be part of such an iconic show with the wealth of talent on and off stage is a real joy.
Was there anything that drew you to the role of Rolf and how was it reading the script for the first time?
Rolf has a slightly different dramatic arc in the stage show than in the film and is much more morally grey, which I found far more interesting. I was surprised reading the script, the story is so moving and still so pertinent today – much more than I think I’d given it credit for previously!
What is Rolf like to play and how is it working alongside the rest of the cast?
Rolf really represents the corruption of youth and how that was stolen from so many young men across Europe and the Third Reich. He starts as a young man in the throes of young love and is ultimately corrupted and abandons it to fight for what he believes will be a better future for him and his country. Making that switch feel real and authentic in such a short space of time is challenging but who doesn’t like a challenge? Working with the cast has been an absolute dream – you’re surrounded by actors at the top of their game, it’s inspiring and demands your best work!
How was it rehearsing for the musical and learning the songs and choreography?
Rehearsals went fantastically well and by the time we made it to tech we all felt the show was in fantastic shape. With such a fab creative team I definitely always felt in safe hands. Lauren Conroy (Liesl) and I dance in and around a fountain (complete with flowing water!) in our number Sixteen Going on Seventeen, which has presented some fun challenges both technically and physically!
What are you enjoying most about being part of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and being directed by Adam Penford?
I love revisiting these classic musicals – obviously the music and lyrics are sublime but the stories also have real social and political meat to them, which I think is why we’re still performing them today. Adam has real love and respect for the material and manages to make it fresh and exciting whilst still remaining faithful to the original text. It’s easy to want to rip up and re-invent a show like The Sound of Music and instead it’s being honoured and built upon, which I think takes real guts and skill.
Why would you recommend booking tickets to see The Sound of Music at Chichester Festival Theatre and who do you think will enjoy watching it?
Gina Beck, Janis Kelly and the rest of the nuns singing is worth the ticket price alone. Whether you’ve never seen the film or watched it a million times, there is something for everyone! It is so much more than our airy, sweet perceptions of the film and I’ve been moved to tears several times throughout the rehearsal process. It is life-affirming, joyous and a stark political warning that holds true to this day.
You played Tony Brockhurst in The Boy Friend, what was the musical like to perform in and how was it being in the cast at the Menier Chocolate Factory?
The Boy Friend was totally silly and I had a great Christmas at the Menier putting my RP to the test. Working with Ade Edmondson, who was one of my comedy heroes, was a real pinch-me moment and I learnt so much from watching his performance every evening.
What was it like playing Eitan in The Mikvah Project at Orange Tree Theatre?
Mikvah was a hugely special project for me. It was my first time tackling a two-hander, my first time in the round and my first time doing on-stage nudity! We built the show from the ground up, led by the amazing Georgia Green and having the opportunity to be so creative and vulnerable with Georgia and Rob Neumark Jones (who played Avi) in the rehearsal room and on stage was incredibly rewarding artistically and personally.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing James Potter and Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End?
The magic! Getting to peek behind the curtain and figure out exactly how everything works was such a thrill. Explosions, flying, transfiguration. People still ask me to this day how certain things work but you have to keep the secrets!
How did you find the experience performing in a Harry Potter production and how was it getting into character?
The show was very physical, which I loved. Being in two separate parts always kept the show feeling fresh and gave you a real journey to go on over the course of the day (or two!).
Can you tell us about some of the other theatre shows you’ve been part of over your career so far, which have included The Wind in the Willows, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Anything Goes?
Anything Goes was the first professional musical I performed in, directed by Daniel Evans. It was an incredible show but sadly closed early after the UK Tour stalled. I was very lucky that our choreographer Alistair David was looking for suitors for Seven Brides at Regent’s Park at the same time and so I joined that fantastic production. It was here I met Rachel Kavanaugh, who then cast me in The Wind in the Willows – it just goes to show how important the connections you make along the way are!
Earlier this year, you played Ruaraidh Green in an episode of Doctors, what was it like to film?
It was incredibly fast-paced and a totally new challenge for me. Technically so different to performing on stage but just as exciting. I loved working as one tiny part of a huge, intricate machine and watching and learning from each department.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
I’ve always been creative so if it wasn’t acting I’m sure it would have been some other kind of art form! I always loved reading and especially reading aloud and a teacher spotted that and encouraged me to explore drama. I was very lucky that my hometown had an amazing youth theatre scene and teachers that gave me fantastic training and access to opportunities to perform. I didn’t enjoy secondary school and so those spaces became a real safe, special place for me. I really got serious about it around 14 and since then have never looked back.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
My taste is very eclectic! I’m a huge Sondheim fan so anything by him (I’m yet to tick it off my bucket list so if you’re listening universe…). Outside of theatre, I love to cook and get out into nature. You’re most likely to find me camping somewhere in the countryside, maybe singing like Maria if I’m at the top of a hill…
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