phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
“Theatre has always been there to restore a sense of sanity”: an interview with Sam Mendes

“Theatre has always been there to restore a sense of sanity”: an interview with Sam Mendes

27 September 2017

London Calling spoke to director Sam Mendes about the continuing success of his latest West End offering, The Ferryman, the state of the film industry today, and the importance of thinking 'green'.

Sam Mendes is very out of love with film. He was recently quoted as saying the industry was in a parlous state, and in Sam’s world, for ‘parlous’, read ‘perilous’. And the prolific director is correct when he supposes the movie marketplace now orbits exclusively around either £200million blockbusters or independent £5million productions, with very few spacewalks in between.
 
“It’s a challenging time,” he says. “Has the industry run out of ideas? Not so much that – but it’s certainly polarised itself to represent either one thing or the other, and that’s a worry. There is no middle ground.”
 
That lack of middle ground has led Mendes to enter stage right, bringing with him screenwriter and playwright Jez Butterworth, to present The Ferryman. That’s quite a team when you consider what the pair achieved in their most recent effort – a cheeky little action number called S.P.E.C.T.R.E.


Sam Mendes
 
“Even in my most dedicated periods on the big screen, the theatre has always been there to restore a sense of sanity,” Mendes admits. And his roll call in the West End is arguably more impressive than anything you’d watch in Cannes – though put Oliver!, Cabaret, Richard III, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and King Lear up against American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Road to Perdition and Jarhead and you’ve got a real battle for supremacy.
 
“The stage always gives a lot more flexibility and versatility – not in presentation, but in structure, and that’s always been of real interest. It’s a very ‘live’ way of producing art and welcomes intricacies into every performance. There is no set end product – you are talking about something that is fluid every time, and incredibly exclusive as well – in terms of the people who are present to witness what is delivered.
 
“Society is all about mass media; it craves perfection in how we are entertained, yet the theatre continues to rally against that, which is a relief.”
 
The Ferryman certainly provides a platform to exploit that. Set in rural Derry at the start of the 1980s, it welcomes in ghosts of the past and hopes for the future, in what is a bleak, black, yet uplifting struggle for the truth.


Sam Mendes
 
Paddy Considine is uncompromising and Laura Donnelly engaging, and the production quickly became the fastest selling in Royal Court Theatre history, before switching to its current base at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.
 
“It’s fulfilled everything I wanted it to so far, and keeps entertaining at every turn,” Mendes offers. “It’s understandable to grow tired of a project when it’s with you for so long, but we’re a long way from that.”
 
The theatre also offers Mendes a route back towards the greener artistic credentials that once occupied so much of his thinking. “The whole ‘green’ thing is really important. You feel so weirdly guilty when you’re on a movie set, with the ridiculous quantity of accompanying ‘stuff’ that gets involved when the circus comes to town: cranes and trailers, gas guzzling SUVs and vast quantities of food – some of which just gets thrown away at the end of the day.
 
“Contrast that with people driving hybrids and working out how to drink water without throwing away a thousand plastic bottles a day. That’s the stuff that actually makes a difference – that’s what should be counted as ‘success’.”
 
For the time being, the success of The Ferryman will do.

The Ferryman runs at the Gielgud Theatre until 6 January. Tickets from £12.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

An interview with Judy Rosenblatt

An interview with Judy Rosenblatt

The American actress is currently starring as Peggy Guggenheim in Woman Before A Glass at the Jermyn Street Theatre, London

An Interview with Justin Edwards

An Interview with Justin Edwards

Lauded as the play of the year in 2017, Jez Butterworth's play about a family of farmers touched by the political troubles in 1980' Northern…

Follow Frankenstein

Follow Frankenstein

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Frankenstein. Various events celebrate the remarkable Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, cast out by society for being the…

Win 2 tickets to see Good Girl

Trafalgar Studios - Win 2 tickets to see Good Girl

Here is your chance to see Naomi Sheldon’s award-winning debut play

Alternative Valentines Day

Alternative Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day seems to be a bit like marmite. You either seem to love the heart adorned gifts, treats and extravagant displays of affection, or you…

Classical Spectacular

Classical Spectacular

Music, lights, lasers and fireworks!

Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

The Bridge Theatre in Southwark opened in winter 2017 and now proudly calls itself "the first wholly new theatre of scale to be added to London’s…

The Best Theatre in London this February

The Best Theatre in London this February

Ah February. It’s always nice to see you: short, chirpy and signalling the beginning of the end for winter. Theatre-wise, things are also starting to heat…

This week: 5 – 11 February

This week: 5 – 11 February

Escape the miserable weather with meditative opera, dream yourself away on an elegant ocean liner or give in to the darkness with an H. P.…

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen Birthday Party

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen Birthday Party

One of the most memorable parties in East London

Most popular

Win Tickets to Best of Broadway!

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Win Tickets to Best of Broadway!

Experience an evening showcasing the finest shows on Broadway and in the West End live at the Royal Albert Hall.
Win 2 Tickets to a Cocktail Cinema Evening!

Courthouse Hotel - Win 2 Tickets to a Cocktail Cinema Evening!

Your chance to win a magical night out with this Cocktail Cinema Evening for Two at the 5* Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch!
Win 2 tickets to see Good Girl

Trafalgar Studios - Win 2 tickets to see Good Girl

Naomi Sheldon’s award-winning debut play
Win Tickets to The Enchanted Room

Estorick Collection - Win Tickets to The Enchanted Room

We've got two tickets to give away to a unique display of Italian art.
Win Tickets to Lab Late: Managing the Biosphere

The Imagination Lab - Win Tickets to Lab Late: Managing the Biosphere

Are you concerned about rapid changes facing the planet? Hear about a movement that advocates for action, driven by the people!
Top 5: Brutalist Buildings in London

Top 5: Brutalist Buildings in London

Concrete beasts in the city
Win a bottle of Prosecco and free entry to Womb 2

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen - Win a bottle of Prosecco and free entry to Womb 2

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen in Hackney is celebrating it’s 4th birthday with a massive 4 day party of individually themed events.
Top 5: Escape room games in London

Top 5: Escape room games in London

Exciting quest for adventurous explorers
Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, David Calder and David Morrissey take to London’s newest stage.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!