Anthony Walker-Cook, our new theatre editor, talks glitz, glamour and gruelling rehearsals with Peter Forbes, star of the National Theatre’s recent production of Follies.
Now that he’s no longer waiting for the girls upstairs, Peter Forbes met with me in the Southbank Centre to talk about his involvement in the recent award-winning production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the National Theatre. Sondheim’s Follies watches a group of former showgirls return to the Ziegfeld Follies building for a reunion before the theatre is demolished. Whilst there, the characters are haunted by the shadows of their youth and as the evening goes on, and more alcohol is consumed, old relationships and lives are lost, remembered and mourned. Buddy Plummer (played by Forbes) is the husband of Sally (played by Imelda Staunton). The two characters have clearly had a troubled life, with Buddy having an affair with a woman called Margie and Sally hinting several times at her own attempts at suicide. Peter has played in multiple roles in the West End, including RF Simpson and Roscoe Dexter in Singing in the Rain, Harry Bright in Mamma Mia! and Lord Elgin in Black Watch. As Follies forces characters to look back into their past, so too did this interview attempt to cast a backwards glance at the production and consider why it was so successful.
Anthony Walker-Cook: You recently attended a screening of Follies and so, first of all, what did you think of the show being in the audience?
Peter Forbes: It’s a very unusual experience to see a theatre production you’re in since you never get to see it from the perspective of the audience and initially I thought I’d be watching it through my fingers. But I was fascinated to see it because it had such an effect on audiences and I wanted to see the whole sweep of the evening, which I found really exciting and I understood what people were so enthusiastic about. It had a relentless drive and as a whole an incredibly emotional impact and depth. You are of course aware of this when playing a role, but you focus on being in your moment from moment to moment. Overall, I was really proud of it as a piece and just the whole spectacle in how brilliantly the show was realised. I was aware from the beginning of rehearsals it was a team of people – from performers, musicians, designers and costumes – at the top of their game and there was a real buzz in the building. It was a project everyone was excited about, and I think this came over in the screening: everything was fully realised and achieved. Seeing yourself is a bit weird but actually I was relieved and gratified to see I was not obsessed with what I was doing since I was taken up throughout the evening. Sometimes when you see yourself on screen you have to put a filter on your annoying mannerisms but it did not feel like that, partly because it was a theatrical presentation so you’re not as closely focused on one thing.
AWC: I admit having seen the show from the back row several times during the screening I saw details that I’d not noticed before, for example all four of you are pulling these confused faces as the ‘Loveland’ sequence begins.
PF: Follies is a piece about reunion and drink plays an important part both in and alongside heightening the emotions of meeting both people and the past. There comes a point at reunions when all of that kicks in and it’s like an out-of-body experience, and that’s the point of Loveland. The clashing of these emotions – denial, inebriation, longing, etc – come together and it’s like a mass hallucination. They’re being swept into the fantasy of the evening; it’s very dreamlike and in dreams your subconscious comes to the surface, and that’s what happens to them. They are caught in the form of the Follies as well as the emotional impact of it.
Anybody can celebrate a success, but the tough job is to keep believing in the work you’ve done even when critics and audiences are at worst hostile, at best apathetic, to what you’re doing…
AWC: When you’re in a production that’s so acclaimed and popular, how does it feel when it’s over?
PF: There’s always a sense of anti-climax and coming down. All manner of things can boil you up – from opening night, reviews if you read them (which I do, once, good and bad, voraciously and quickly and I don’t obsess about either of them: it’s always a range of opinions even if you’re working on a smash hit or a flop (and most shows are something in between)), if people you know come to see it, if it’s being talked about – that gets you through it. If the show is not a success you have to manufacture that belief every single night before you go on stage. I’m sure we’ve all worked on shows where we think “this really is not very good at all but I’m going to do as well as I possibly can” and I think actors are very positive and you have to believe the work you are doing and the work you have done that puts you in that position is meaningful, otherwise what’s the point? I remember having a conversation with Richard Eyre who was going to a show he had directed that hadn’t been a success – it was nobody’s fault, it just hadn’t quite clicked – and had terrible reviews, and I asked him how often he goes back to see shows he directed. He responded that he goes back as often as he can, particularly to the ones that aren’t successful. He said he was astounded by the heroism of the actors in that situation. Anybody can celebrate a success, but the tough job is to keep believing in the work you’ve done even when critics and audiences are at worst hostile, at best apathetic, to what you’re doing. Nobody goes out to fail and sometimes people just don’t get it. And I’m sure there are examples of shows that were total flops.
AWC: In some respects, Follies fits this characterisation.
PF: In some respects, yes. But for me that’s what’s quite fascinating about it: it’s been through so many incarnations since nobody has quite trusted the original idea or the original version. It’s such a hard show to make work commercially and artistically. It’s unorthodox in form; for people who are used to well-made musical pieces of that time it was quite ground-breaking, but it has always maintained a loyal following from those that saw what was at the heart of it. At the beginning of rehearsals Dominic Cooke [the director] said there’s a reason why people talk of Follies with a sense of awe and reverence even when they may say it has never quite worked. Dominic said we’re returning to James Goldman’s script and reinstating the original songs and because of his experience and expertise as a director of new plays in particular, having been artistic director of the Royal Court, as well as plays of scale at the RSC and National, his approach as a director encouraged us to excavate the text as if it was a new piece. That, combined with the luxury of an eight- or nine-week rehearsal period, meant we were able to explore lots of different layers. From when I first read the text I kind of thought I knew what Follies was, but I didn’t really. I remember thinking these songs are amazing but that the book is great: the scenes are well written, very economical, but you instantly know who the characters are and the depth of their experience, and that’s hard to do in a musical. A lot of the meat is in the songs, that’s where the emotional heft is, but to get the characters to the point where they release into a song is a much under-rated skill and Goldman’s book is really brilliant in that sense.
AWC: A review for the show said, ‘problem play solved’ and that’s what surprised everyone with this adaptation. Yourself and your colleagues have all praised Cooke as the reason for the show’s success, bringing the drama to the forefront.
PF: Even Sondheim said that to me at the first preview, “I’ve never really seen this show ever where I fully understood who the characters were and why they are the way they are, and that’s down to Dominic and his approach.” Stephen’s a great lover of straight plays as a writer and sometimes is a little dismissive of musicals in a weird way, but he really appreciates the expertise that actors and directors bring to musicals.
AWC: How did you feel about Buddy by the end of the show? When I first saw the show I felt real pathos for him being married to Sally, and then on the second viewing I listened to your songs and dialogue more and my opinion changed.
PF: Buddy is well-rounded, flawed, slightly deluded, slightly idealistic and a compromised human being, which is what we all are (and it’s also what I think is so brilliant about all the characters), and I love him for that. We spoke a lot in rehearsals with our younger selves about what our shared history was and what we thought that had led to afterwards. One of the things I feel about Buddy is that he is a romantic: what he wants and what he doesn’t get with Sally is in what he says about Margie: she brings him books to read, they talk, she cooks meals, sews my buttons and they have great sex. That’s the kind of relationship he wants, the kind of relationship where there is a striving for happiness. He’s a very open and honest character. There’s no suggestion there has been a string of girls, and we don’t even know if Margie exists, but that deception has grown from a deep unhappiness in their situation. The other thing that was increasingly clear was that they kept moving, and that’s perhaps his big weakness. Instead of confronting the situation with Sally and actually be brutally honest and getting her help, they’ve tried to make it ok and then move on, and that jumping is symptomatic of a restless nature and a repeated effort to make it right but by addressing the symptoms and not the cause. I have a huge amount of sympathy for him. In the number ‘Waiting for the Girls’ it’s Buddy that brings them all back to 1941, he wants to recreate Sally as she used to be. In that sense, he’s blind and he hasn’t accepted change. But he drags them to that supposedly idyllic time that was exactly when it all started to go wrong. I’m sure there must be a Greek character that does that, but he drags himself like a tragic hero to the point when it all went wrong and then cannot really deal with it.
AWC: What do you see happening when Buddy and Sally go home?
PF: I don’t think it’s very positive and I don’t think their relationship will last. It will come to a point when Buddy can’t live with it anymore and he does say it’s over at the end of ‘The Right Girl’. That is before he does the Folly, but I see that stage as out of time. If you take the Folly out at the end of the show Buddy realises at the end of ‘The Right Girl’ he cannot do it anymore and then he goes and finds Sally broken down and desperate and says to her “we’ll make plans for tomorrow”, but I don’t think that plan is to live happily ever after. I think that plan is get her home, safe and help and then…what? I don’t know. Margie only makes sense in the context of Sally’s chaos, so I suspect, realistically, he probably does that and then is on his own, which is a bit bleak. Maybe he will find a Margie in the long run.
Buddy is well-rounded, flawed, slightly deluded, slightly idealistic and a compromised human being, which is what we all are… and I love him for that.
AWC: At some point in the night everyone tells a lie. Even when Sally is singing ‘In Buddy’s Eyes’ she says she ‘knows Buddy’s there’, which is also playing on the word ‘no-body’.
PF: I think that’s right, she’s trying to paint a picture of domestic bliss with Buddy in order to either cover up what she really feels for Ben or to make Ben yearn for that with her. So I think there is a question throughout the piece about who is lying when and what is going on. There was a clever bit of the scenery where ‘FOLLIES’ became ‘LIES’ towards the end of the show. People are lying to themselves and each other and the point of the progression of the evening is that those lies are stripped away. By the end of ‘The Right Girl’ Buddy arrives at a point of honest evaluation and realises he is in love with the wrong girl. There have been so many different versions of that song: it was conceived first as a raging dance number because it was written for Gene Nelson, who was a great dancer, but Dominic, the choreographer Bill Deamer and I felt we needed to tell a story with that number. Whether a book-number or pastiche, all the songs move the characters from one position to a very different one by the end and I was thrilled with how that worked out.
AWC: You’ve described ‘The Right Girl’ as Buddy’s “middle act”.
PF: Yes, by the end his reality has shifted and it’s the point when he has realised he cannot sustain the fantasy of loving Sally as she was and it has taken him thirty years, which is a long time to live that lie and shore up the illusion that everything is ok.
AWC: Could you share any of the biographical details yourself and Fred Haig decided about when building the character of Buddy?
PF: We talked a lot about family, because I felt strongly that Buddy had never had something like that in his adult life: with Sally the clues are that he wants domestic bliss. He talks of when they were in Seattle with their sons, Tom and Tim, these perfect young boys that now live in San Francisco, but there was a real sense that was what Buddy was after. Sally talks of the “old house” they live in and I think that really appeals to Buddy. She’s probably miserable but he probably likes this big house that he wants to fill with family life. But he has never managed to achieve it. We discussed how Buddy has a car and money, whereas Ben doesn’t. The only reason to have a car as a student in New York is if you’re coming in, so we put him in New Jersey and he comes over every day to college. And you get the feeling Ben is probably from a slightly richer and intellectual family whereas Buddy is out for fun. That he is willing to offer Ben money implies he has loving parents who are aspirational for him. We realised Newark had a big railway yard, with lots of people working in engineering, and so decided his dad worked for railways and then cars (1918, when Buddy was born, was the year when the mass-manufacturing of cars was beginning, so we thought his dad set up a shop). We invented this story that fitted with our instincts.
There was also an element of why Buddy is so loyal to Sally at the point when he discovers she and Ben have had an affair. This said to me that Buddy had a sense of responsibility and caring, that maybe came from his own family. Perhaps his mother had post-natal depression or had lost a child. There was a flu epidemic that hit Newark in 1918 that killed lots of children, so we thought maybe one of his siblings was lost to that. It’s all made up but based on clues in the script. Then we looked online and found a house they might have lived in and which room Buddy lived in and why. It was good having that shared history and the process of bonding as one person. Even characters with one line had a younger self, which is not always done, but Dominic was keen everyone had a shared sense of the self. In rehearsals I’d watch ‘Mirror Mirror’, and I found the appearance of the younger selves so moving. I remember watching the first full run through of the song and thinking “I want to know all about you individually.” They all have marriages, kids, and careers. There’s a real richness to what in another show might be a dance routine. There’s a real sense of journey for each character and a rediscovery of what it means to be twenty, and that’s what’s so affecting about the whole piece.
AWC: With the party setting in mind, I want to talk about the idea of pastiche and the form of Follies. Imelda described it as ‘doing your number and then coming off’ and you’ve even said the ‘joys of the piece is that it’s an Ensemble.’ How do you maintain emotional intensity between scenes?
PF: Personally speaking I tend not to leave the stage area. I wanted to be connected to the space all the time and having the sense of, though they are standalone numbers, what’s happening on stage. For example, ‘Too Many Mornings’ is followed by ‘The Right Girl’ and I felt my emotional journey was informed by the song: it’s all coming from the same area. Sometimes I’d stay around since I just liked listening to the band. But I didn’t want to lose contact with that emotional energy. For the four of us playing the main couples there is a more obvious emotional through-line. But Tracey having to do ‘I’m Still Here’ as a standalone number is difficult, but she worked with Dominic in understanding the individual events in the song, and because of this it becomes an aria from an opera with an emotional journey from beginning to end. How they staged it, with Carlotta telling stories to some of the other people and then going into an internal space and the other characters drifting away, was really clever since it meant there were several stages to the journey through the song. But that’s the challenge and that’s where the work in rehearsals can be used. Unlike filming, where it all happens on the day and you can often regret not experimenting, the joy of theatre is that you get to exhaustively try it in rehearsals. Often different moments each night will take you by surprise.
AWC: I first saw the production mid-October and then the final time I saw it live was mid-December, and the show did feel different, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.
PF: A lot of people said that it really evolved, which is a good sign: it’s all about setting a show up in the right way that it can breathe and develop. As an actor you’re not aware but someone seeing the show later in the run can realise these changes. As long as you’ve had enough rehearsal to try stuff within a strong infrastructure, the detail will have evolved.
AWC: Did you make any conscious changes to your performance? Early on the ‘Buddy’s Blues’ number was performed in drag but then that changed.
PF: That came about through dialogue between Dominic and Sondheim, and that’s an obvious external change that I thought worked well regardless. In terms of performance changes with Buddy, I think I started enjoying the contradictions in him more. I tend to find that with parts you begin thinking one thing and then change. Buddy is a complex mix of being loving, optimistic and positive, but I’m sure there are people in the audience calling him a “bastard”. Some critics think there is evidence in the piece that Buddy is a serial womaniser. I think Buddy is a serial monogamist in the sense that he keeps trying with Sally and the affair with Margie is not the same as Ben’s callous and superficial comments. Neither is a caricature of a womanising Lothario and what you see is the emotional cost for both of them. What I love is that it’s such a mature and complex piece of writing written by a group of men in their late 40s/early 50s and it’s about being that age.
AWC: Were there any songs you found yourself deliberately going to listen to each night?
PF: The main one I heard every night was ‘I’m Still Here’ and I was always able to hear different parts of it. The orchestration was just incredible, and the playing was brilliant. Whenever I do musicals I feel myself drawn to the band: I love their talent, skill and how a group of musicians sound so amazing together. I loved listening to the ‘Prologue’, which is just ravishing. ‘Too Many Mornings’ was the other song I heard every night since it was just before ‘The Right Girl’, and what a privilege to be able sit there night after night and listen to the detail of the orchestra. Audiences have said it’s a shame we cannot see the orchestra. In a way I completely agree but they were ever present throughout the evening and there is a sense of them being a part of the whole show. The other great number to listen to was ‘Lucy and Jessie’ since I’m a not very competent trumpet player and I couldn’t believe what the brass section achieved in that piece. I love the excitement an orchestra brings to a show. I did ‘Singing in the Rain’ in the West End and Chichester and again it has a great score and the band were on a platform at the back of the stage and I just used to sit beneath them and listen when I wasn’t on. Most of us go to the theatre for the first time to see a pantomime or a musical and that sound of an orchestra beginning is really moving, but I don’t know why.
I’ve worked with a friend at the National for years and she grabbed me and said ‘oh my god, Follies’, and followed with, ‘I felt exactly as I did when I was twelve and taken to the theatre for the first time’, and I thought ‘Wow, this is what theatre is and what it can be.’ It’s interesting when you’ve had people working in this medium for so long and praising the show, which is really surprising since we’re all doing the same thing. That’s the magic of this show and every element seemed to fit into place.
There’s a real sense of journey for each character and a rediscovery of what it means to be twenty, and that’s what’s so affecting about the whole piece.
AWC: Also, perhaps, part of the success of this adaptation is that it’s glitz and glamour and not camp, which is partly down to Dominic’s direction and focusing the drama at the centre.
PF: That’s one of the difficulties of the show I suspect: there are these great standalone Broadway numbers, which have become cabaret numbers since they work in that sense. It would be easy to cast the show with big names and to let them overshadow the dramatic thrust of the piece. What was clever about the way this production was cast and staged was that at all stages that balance was held in mind. If one side overwhelms the other then the piece is lost. What is the form of the follies and that of the people in it? When you work in the industry you know the effort that goes into a glamorous musical. Amongst all that there are all these different lives and that little window of the performance is a slight sliver of forty lives, which is why ‘Mirror Mirror’ is so moving. You’re watching characters who have been introduced as guests as a party who have clearly lived a life, of different ages, and then you see them get together to rediscover a dance routine they learnt when they were twenty. You see them first as people and then you learn they can dance! These women no longer look like dancers but when they start to dance you see the skill and talent that has been covered in layers of life and an accretion of experience and hardship. The defining moment of their lives was being one of the most beautiful girls in the Follies and that’s still true for the industry today. Life as a dancer is a short career. To get into that arena you need to be working at it from an early age and when enjoying your prime you need to have an eye to what’s going to happen after. You have to consider what is your purpose when you’re no longer part of that. The age aspect of the show is so crucial: if the focus of your life is being young, beautiful and athletic, you have to rediscover yourself.
AWC: How did Follies compare with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?
PF: A Funny Thing is a very different piece, based in part on roman comedy and looking back there are many beautiful things in the show. It’s a great piece but certainly doesn’t have the emotional depth. It plays with comic form in how characters engage with audiences, the comedy of the older characters and the romance. There are, though, shared elements: such as Senex and the young slaves. But Follies is a more mature look at those themes: what is it like to age? How do you see the younger person in the older self? Follies has a tragicomic, bittersweet tone versus the clever but obviously comic A Funny Thing.
AWC: In preparing for both your solos did you look to any previous performances by actors?
PF: Mandy Patinkin’s version is bonkers and worked for the concert setting as a display of virtuosity. When we started rehearsals I was nervous for the choreography since ‘The Right Girl’ has acres of dance music and Bill had warned me I had to improve my stamina. When I was thinking about ‘Buddy’s Blues’ I started – Follies was a hybrid form of entertainment of vaudeville and highbrow, so I started looking into the performers at the Follies and a name that kept appearing was Eddie Cantor. I found clips of his performance on YouTube where he’d have these jolly songs with his top half all serene but then eccentric dance steps. So on the first day of rehearsal I met with Bill and mentioned Cantor and he said “that’s it, that’s exactly what I’m thinking”, so that’s where all the funny little movements came from. It’s kind of Al Jolson and I consciously used a different kind of voice and I kept thinking of Archie Rice in The Entertainer where there’s a vaudeville veneer when everything’s falling apart. The Entertainer is a play about the fall of empire (and also the fall of the Empire theatre) and so I wonder whether Stephen knew of the play since it’s like the demise of the Follies as a metaphor for the crumbling of the American dream. The Follies fitted between 1918 and 1941: end of World War One, and building something of chaos, and then 1941 with Pearl Harbour and the ending of a whole way of life. It’s similar in The Entertainer.
For ‘The Right Girl’ I wanted to focus on what the story was being told and the best way of expressing that: there wasn’t a specific reference point. I’d watched the original performance and I was reading Ted Chapin’s Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies, which was fantastic, and there’s a lot of interesting material about the development of ‘The Right Girl’. Since they’d cast Nelson there was the challenge of the conceit of a dancer that hadn’t danced for thirty years and so it became a huge dance number, but it didn’t connect with his past self. Chapin records how they tried many things but were never fully satisfied.
In the younger company I was always astonished at how talented and skilful the ensemble is and the amount of discipline, determination and sheer hard work that it takes to get there, which is a very life-enhancing thing to see people with that much talent and discipline.
AWC: How was the final performance? It must be weird to spend weeks rehearsing and then an energetic September to January run doing eight shows a week and then having that finish.
PF: The last night was extraordinary. It is a show with an incredible following: we had 150 members of the Sondheim Society in and many people that had seen it before, and probably some people seeing it for the first time. There was an incredibly enthusiastic response so applause lasted longer and there was a great sense of excitement. We did a special curtain call for the orchestra and Imelda gave a curtain speech. It was lovely and then it was all over. But the edge was taken off by the fact we were in the studio Friday and Saturday recording a cast album and we knew of the plans to bring it back and that’s now been announced by Dominic.
AWC: Are you coming back for the 2019 revival?
PF: I’ve not yet been officially asked: it depends on dates, which also depends on who else is/isn’t coming back. If a lot of recasting is needed then they’ll have to start rehearsals earlier, but it will be a year regardless since we’ve done it. I’m sure certain things will be changed by Dominic, Bill and Nick. It’s always good to revisit and not just try to recreate. For a big musical it had a short run, less than 100 shows I think, which in West-End terms is small, but the question is how big the audience is and that has been a challenge in previous productions since it’s not a mainstream piece. But we had lots of people that didn’t really attend musicals or like Sondheim but really enjoyed it and felt that they understood the show after the production, though that’s not to denigrate other productions. But what was satisfying was the material and the production worked so well together this time.
AWC: I was familiar with a few of the songs going in but it was ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘One More Kiss’ that really affected me. Were there any songs that you find especially moving?
PF: ‘One More Kiss’ destroyed me every time I heard it and was completely blown away at the screening. It’s the simplest thing in the show and that’s why it’s so moving: the older and young Heidi singing together is absolutely what the show is and was beautifully done. I watched it during the technical rehearsal and it moved me to tears. Then they repeated the final eight bars during a lighting change and it killed me again.
AWC: Were there any particular cast members that were particularly fun to be around?
PF: I wouldn’t want to single anybody out. It was a great company and a really eclectic group of people, which is often the best kind. There were some people that had been in the industry for a while and so everybody brought something different. It was a really happy company, partly because we were all working on something we believed in. In the younger company I was always astonished at how talented and skilful the ensemble is and the amount of discipline, determination and sheer hard work that it takes to get there, which is a very life-enhancing thing to see people with that much talent and discipline. But also in a big company there is a sense of belonging and having your own space. There was always someone different to latch onto depending on your mood, which is always enjoyable.
AWC: If you could be any Follies girl, old or young, which would you be?
PF: I think Stella Deems, Dawn Hope’s character, seems very sorted. In that sense I’d enjoy her appreciation of where she’s come from, how her life has happened and she seems one of the least troubled. She’s found her partner and has such a great speech at the end of ‘Mirror Mirror’. It feels like a life well lived. Carlotta is another interesting character having come through the mill and being at the other end. ‘I’m Still Here’ is a great anthem of survival.
AWC: It’s also nice just seeing a happy couple.
PF: Yeah, them and the Whitmans. I don’t think it’s any coincidence there are two happy couples and two unhappy couples. They are all people that have found their way after – whether it be a dance school or working in a store – but the reunion for them is a rediscovering of the fun they had from the point of view of now enjoying life and being able to move on. Whereas the two central couples have chased different dreams and not quite achieved what they hoped. There’s nothing desperately wrong with either couples materially, but it hasn’t brought either happiness. All the travelling has not brought Buddy and Sally happiness.
AWC: What’s upcoming for you and what did you enjoy seeing in 2017?
PF: I got to see ‘Network’ at the National, which I really enjoyed. I am excited to see the all-female cast of ‘Company’. I think it’s interesting that Stephen has allowed that to happen. I sadly never get to see as much theatre as I want but I’m sure there’s plenty upcoming that will be very good. ‘Hamilton’ has all the hype. I have various different auditions for theatre and TV shows I cannot yet divulge but I’ve been working on many small projects. I’ve been recording a series of audiobooks for Peter May, a Scottish thriller writer, and for which I’m currently doing a series that is set in France, so I’ll have to brush up my French and another series is set in Beijing, which is slightly more complex. I was up in Edinburgh last week for a celebration of Muriel Spark at the Usher Hall, which was sold out and that was a superb result for a literary event. At the event we did a rehearsed reading from the only play Spark ever wrote, The Doctors of Philosophy. It’s nice having a slight break after a show as big as Follies, though it’s also nice knowing there’s potentially a return to the show. At the moment it looks like it will be back at the National in the New Year, which gives me a year to do new things.
Follies will be returning to the National Theatre early 2019 with limited screenings still happening across the UK. My thanks to Peter and his agents, Hatton McEwan Penford, for agreeing to meet, and to the National Theatre for providing the production photographs.