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“I get itchy feet if I’m in one place for too long” - an interview with Arthur Darvill
Image Credit: Ellie Kurttz

“I get itchy feet if I’m in one place for too long” - an interview with Arthur Darvill

14 June 2017

Arthur Darvill is an actor and musician equally at home on stage, backstage and on screen. With appearances in Doctor Who and Broadchurch, along with a role in the American comic-book series Legends of Tomorrow, he has gained a cult following on both sides of the pond. His musical exploits include writing the score for Fantastic Mr. Fox – an adaptation of the Roald Dahl book – and composing for theatres including Shakespeare’s Globe, the Young Vic and the Bush Theatre. He returns to the Bush this June in ‘Hir’, a new play by American performance artist Taylor Mac.

London Calling: Hi Arthur, thanks very much for taking the time to chat to us! Please could you start by telling us a little bit about Hir and your role in it?
 
Arthur Darvill: It’s an amazing play. On the face of it it’s an American family drama but its really quite extreme. I play a man returning home after being kicked out of the marines. He finds that his Dad has had a stroke and his Mum has dressed him up as a clown. The house hasn’t been cleaned for a year and it’s all a bit of a mess. Slowly, we work out that the home he wanted to come back to doesn’t really exist any more. Whenever I explain it to anyone, it always sounds really dark – which it is – but it’s also very funny! There are a lot of laughs in it.
 
Taylor Mac is a brilliant writer; the script is amazing. I didn’t actually realise he’d written any plays, so it’s quite a coup really. It’s not easy - it’s quite hard actually - and a lot of it is from his personal experiences. It’s cool.
 
The character I’m playing has been in the mortuary affairs department in the marines, so I had to do a lot of research. Their job - and this is real – is to go and pick up dead bodies from battlefields. Often, with IUDs, people get blown to pieces. So they’re literally just picking up bits from battlefields and sending them home. I read a lot of interviews with current and ex-marines from that department and it’s quite a horrible existence it seems.


Image Credit: Ellie Kurttz
 
LC: Are you enjoying being back at the Bush?
 
AD: Oh, it’s brilliant. It’s really brilliant. I’ve written a lot of music for various things here, and I’ve played music in various bits and pieces over the years, but I’ve never done a full play and it’s top of my list of places I wanted to act. What they’ve done with the space, and the way they’ve renovated it recently, is remarkable.
 
LC: What’s it like switching your various hats - from TV, to stage, to composition?
 
AD: In terms of acting it’s great – I love the variety. The main problem is time, and trying to fit everything in! I do love it though. I’m quite restless generally, and I get itchy feet if I’m in one place for too long. My first love is theatre so it’s great to be back on stage. It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve been in a play! I absolutely love it and I get to work with such amazing people. Every job you do you learn from the people around you – from their processes, the way they work – and I’ve learnt from a lot of brilliant people over the years.


Image Credit: Ellie Kurttz
 
LC: How did you start writing music for theatre?
 
AD: I got into composing through being in bands and playing a lot of music. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, doing various theatre jobs where people needed music. I didn’t think about writing for theatre when I started – I simply wanted to be in bands and on stage in plays. I never actually thought the two would mix, but then a lot of stuff I did was as an actor-musician. That gave me a good grounding, and from there I branched into larger-scale musical theatre.
 
LC: Do you have much in the pipeline following Hir?
 
AD: I do, yeah! Music-wise, Fantastic Mr. Fox is coming back to the Lyric Hammersmith in the summer, which I’m really excited about.
 
After that I’ve decided to stop taking too many commissions music-wise and concentrate on writing more stuff for myself; the stuff I used to do. So I’ve booked some gigs in! I’ve booked Hightide Festival, which is coming to Walthamstow, and I’m in the middle of writing an album to play in full there. So I want to write more, but separate theatre and music a bit more in my head. It’s great writing for other people, but I’ve sort of lost the joy of writing things for myself. So I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge.
 
Acting-wise, there’s a new series of Legends of Tomorrow later this year. Then, who knows?


Image Credit: Ellie Kurttz
 
LC: Finally, what’s on your cultural radar at the moment? Any books/exhibitions/musicians you’re really digging right now?
 
AD: I’m really excited to see Billie Piper again in Yerma at the Young Vic. I think she’s an amazing actor, and especially in that play. I’m excited that Arcade Fire have new music coming out, and I love Laura Marling’s new album Semper Femina - it’s extraordinary.
 
Hir is at the Bush Theatre from June 15 – July 22. Tickets from £10.

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