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Chris Walley (Davey), Charlie Murphy (Mairead) by Marc Brenner

“My first ever job is in a play that I love!”

22 July 2018 Suzanne Frost

For 23-year-old Chris, life accelerated to whirlwind speed when he had to finish his studies at the most prestigious drama school in the land early, to dive head first into his West End debut. Cast in Michael Grandage’s production of the dark terrorist comedy ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ opposite Poldark star Aidan Turner, Chris plays hapless and unfortunate Davey - in the most outrageous mullet wig! - with most of the laughs on his side.

London Calling: Congratulations! You just graduated last week?
Chris Walley: Yes, I literally had to grab my scroll and leg it to the theatre! But it’s the dream. I’m very very happy and fortunate to be in this position. I’m very grateful.
 
LC: How was RADA?
CW: It was brilliant. I had a great time, I learned such an incredible amount there and made friends I’m going to have for the rest of my life. It was an incredible experience and I’m very grateful for everything I learned there.

 The Lieutenant of Inishmore - Chris Walley (Davey), Denis Conway (Donny) by Johan Persson

LC: How did you first get into acting?
CW: I was quite young, probably around 10, and I asked my mum if I could go to classes because I just knew I wanted to be an actor. I was very lucky in that I have always known that is what I want to do with my life. I never went through that time where you have to figure out what you want to do, it was always acting.
 
LC: My impression of The Lieutenant of Inishmore was something like “Father Ted meets Tarantino”! Do you think there is ever a bit of a risk of going too far down that cliché?
CW: I don’t think so. I think the play talks about a situation that is absolutely ridiculous: this cat has been found dead and the cat belongs to a lunatic who is so mad he couldn’t get into the IRA. The stakes are incredibly high from the get go and people do silly things when stakes are high. Davey, the character I play, just gets roped into the whole thing, he is incredibly innocent and naïve. The whole time he is juts trying to help everyone but keeps getting into a worse and worse situation and I feel so sorry for the guy. But no, I don’t think it’s clichéd, I think it’s funny. Martin (McDonagh) has written an incredible play that tells an outrageous story and within that, silly things happen, but I think it’s rooted in reality and the way it plays out is very funny because there is nothing funny about it for these characters. Their life is at stake.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore - Denis Conway (Donny), Chris Walley (Davey), Aidan Turner (Padraic) by Johan Persson

LC: Do you enjoy playing comedy?
CW: I do and everything I have done so far has been comedy. What I like most is when comedy is mixed in with drama because I find it is much harder hitting when you’ve been laughing at something the whole way through and then all of a sudden something bursts out. I feel like that affects you more than if it was a straight drama.
 
LC: Is the cat real?
CW: There is a real cat in the play. He has an understudy, there’s two of them, Jed and Lenny. If he can’t go on, the other one will.

 Chris Walley (Davey)and Denis Conway (Donny) in rehearsal. Photo by Marc Brenner

LC: Tell me a little bit about working with Michael Grandage!
CW: He is a lovely man. The name Michael Grandage obviously implies one of the greatest theatre directors in the world and working with him, you completely understand why he has earned that reputation. I am so fortunate that my first ever job out of drama school is a play that I love and working with a director who in my opinion is one of the most talented directors in the world at the moment. I have learned an incredible amount from him. He’s such a kind, generous man with such an appreciation and understanding of the fact that this is my first job. I often said that he was teaching me things beyond this play. He is setting me up for my career. I’m very grateful for the opportunity he has given me.
 
LC: Let’s have just one Aidan Turner question, OK? Could you imagine him as the next James Bond?
CW: I’d say he could play a Bond Girl. Maybe they spice it up and give it to a woman and then Aidan could play the Bond boy!
 
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is playing at the Noel Coward Theatre until 8 September.
 
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