"It's nice playing the murdered and the murderer", says Paul about his two roles Hastings and Tyrrell. In this first interview, Paul talks about his initial impressions of the play and his characters.
Time: 6 minutes 25 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
My name is Paul Chahidi and I’m playing Hastings and Tyrrell, two characters, in Richard III.
Wonderful. So my first question is: were you familiar with Richard III before?
A little bit. I’ve never read it. I knew some of the famous speeches, you know, “Now is the winter of our discontent”, and it’s such an iconic role, I’ve seen quite a few performances of it, both on film and at the theatre, so I knew it from watching it, but I’d never read it and I’d never been in it either.
So all very new.
All very new. And I’ve done quite a few Shakespeare plays but, yeah, it’s one of the ones I haven’t done.
So what were your initial impressions of the play then?
Well, wonderful character, Richard. It’s often seen as a bit of a one-man show, in the same way that some of those other eponymous heroes or villains of a play are, so, like Hamlet or something like Henry V. But there are some lovely moments with other characters and it’s wonderful watching his progression through this world as he bumps off one person after another and charms the audience at the same time. I mean, he’s an extraordinary character and, I mean, it’s quite thrilling, as an audience member, to be watching this and to be going: ‘I really shouldn’t be liking this guy’, but he is the most appealing person on stage. And at the same time most repulsive, because there’s no getting away from it. He has all the best lines, he’s the funniest character and he’s the darkest character. But within the play I’ve been struck by, actually, there are some lovely moments for other characters, too, so, you know, it’s lovely exploring that as an actor doing it.
So what were your initial impressions of your two characters then?
Well, Hastings is the character I play first. Basically, Hastings is Lord Chamberlain; he’s a very, kind of, senior aristocrat with a government role, as it were. The Lord Chamberlain, basically, controls access to the court, and he’s one of the highest ranks you can get to before you actually become a prince or a duke. And he’s a character who is a great study in self-delusion, so like many characters who die in a play, he doesn’t see what’s coming. Moreover, he keeps saying in his scenes that Richard loves him and he’s his friend and he’s the most open, wonderful person. So honest, Richard, that you can tell what he feels by looking at his face, because he doesn’t hide anything. I mean, and he couldn’t be more wrong, obviously. And I think, the challenge for me with that role, already, as an actor, is that I don’t want to make him look stupid. Because, in fact, in real life, you know, how do tyrants come to power? People don’t look at them and think they’re tyrants, they think, “Oh, they’re a good person and what we need at this moment”. There is a certain amount of self-delusion, and it can be individual or collective, you know. So I want to try and find a way of making him an intelligent man who just doesn’t see what Richard is up to and who deludes himself. And I’m finding the reasons why he might me doing that.
And Tyrrell, the second character, is this really fascinating, mysterious murderer, basically hired by Richard to kill the two princes in the Tower so that he can have a clear reach for the crown, with no impediments. Basically, Tyrrell appears from nowhere and then vanishes. And he’s got this lovely speech, where he comes onto the stage - a soliloquy, 15 lines or something - where he’s only staying on the stage, describing to the audience how the men he has hired for Richard murdered the two princes and describing their murder. So it’s nice playing the murdered and the murderer. It’s nice playing both sides of the coin, so I’m looking forward to, kind of, exploring who on earth this guy is, where he’s come from. Probably making him - he might be, I don’t know where he’s going to come from, it’s so open, it’s not specific, so, yeah, a really nice contrast.
Yeah, you have two, who couldn’t be more different, really. Have you done any preparations, such as research, for either of these roles so far?
I’m working on - I was doing a couple of plays with the RSC, and I literally finished the week before I started here. And I’ve got a 9-month old baby, so, I suppose, my time has been not my own as much as I would have liked to be for work. We’re doing both Richard II and Twelfth Night as original practices, so already there are important things to just research which will be useful, about manners and status particularly. So you’ve got all these dukes, lords, sirs, princes, queens, kings, and you need to understand that world and the difference in status, to then know how you behave to these characters on stage. Especially if it’s being done in the period which it is, very specifically. So yes, I’m also looking into who Hastings was and a bit of historical research on that, because he was a real character, he did get killed and executed in the Tower. Tyrrell is a mystery, I can’t find anything particularly on Tyrrell. There are accounts by Thomas Moore of the history of that period which talks about people who have murdered the princes. But nonetheless, I also kind of feel that I can do a lot of research once we’ve started rehearsals, because I slightly think that it’s good to approach a play with an open mind, not have made any decisions until you start rehearsing, and know what the director’s vision is and the way the director might work, he or she, and also see what you’re getting back from the rest of your cast. So you’re not making these choices at home in your own armchair as it were, and then you’re getting frustrated when you come in and people aren’t doing the things that you need them to do to make these choices work.
It’s probably more Shakespearean. They were doing so many plays that I don’t think they had time to do all this prep.
Exactly, as you know, they just got their lines and the lines before they spoke, so they just listen out for other people.