|as Hector in The History Boys|
SS: Through school and college ... I was very lucky to go to Ratton, which has always enjoyed a good reputation for its performing arts. So lots of musicals. At Park (now Sussex Downs) College it was Shakespeare, Brecht, Berkoff ... all very diverse, but a good grounding in theatre.
tE: Who or what have been your greatest influences as an actor and as a director?
SS: I enjoy acting more than directing - it's much easier being told what to do! - so my influences are people like Jim Broadbent, Nigel Hawthorne and Ian Richardson. Brilliant actors who excelled in character parts but did it in a very un-starry way.More recently I've gained a great deal working with Sandra Cheesman, both as director and fellow actor. Acting in Blackbird was an amazing experience - such an intense, shocking play told in a compelling way. Nothing was contrived; it had to be natural for everything to work. I benefited hugely from that.
|as Ray in Blackbird|
tE: How have you approached the challenges of a one man show?
SS: Being very nervous! I've done two- and three-handers (Copenhagen and Art) before, but nothing solo. It felt like time to give it a go. For the read-through I talked like Richard Nixon for over an hour - my jowls grew bigger as a result - but we had something we could work with. Nigel Fairs, the director, is wonderful and very supportive. Nigel puts you immediately at ease and gets you to analyse what the character is really saying, pauses and everything. We've barely started and the script is covered with pencil notes. It's very exciting.
tE: You were also Nixon in the Bootcamp production of Frost/Nixon last year. What attracts you to this political era?
SS: The man himself. Nixon is a fascinating character; he's Shakespearean. He's Lear, Hamlet and Richard III. The play strives to make him human; there are flashes of his traumatic childhood in the script which are my favourite moments. His relationship with his mother. His abusive father. They show him for what he really is, not the bogeyman or 'second-hand car salesman', but a deeply flawed human being. That's what makes the writing so good, you don't need to know anything about the Nixon Presidency, because the themes are universal.
|as Major Robbie Ross in Our Country's Good|
SS:If anyone was mad enough to consider it I'd love to play the King in The Madness of George III, or Rooster in Jerusalem. Also Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show. That would be fun.
Secret Honour is at the Underground Theatre, Thu 8th - Sat 10th Nov, 19:45.
Tickets £10 / £9, available online, by calling 0845 680 1926, or in person from the Underground Theatre and the Tourist Information Office.