Edward Bennett on Starring Opposite Nicole Kidman in London’s Photograph 51

first_imgEdward Bennett made headlines in 2008 when he replaced an ailing David Tennant in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet. Since then, the actor has gone from further work in Shakespeare to new plays and from strength to strength. He can currently be seen playing Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick at the Noel Coward Theatre in Photograph 51, the Anna Ziegler play about the pioneering English scientist Rosalind Franklin—played here by Nicole Kidman, returning to the London stage after 17 years. The ever-amiable Bennett took time to talk science on stage and acting opposite an Oscar winner.How is it going so far?The reaction so far has been really encouraging. Our play is only 90 minutes, but it’s an epic 90 minutes and incredibly technical. A lot of the previews have been about getting used to the demands of the staging and making sure all the worlds within the play have their own diverse impact. So far so good, I’d say.The production feels like an event—at least from the outside. Does it from the inside, as well?Well, you know as well as I do that the theater is a great leveler. And one of the things [director] Michael Grandage is brilliant at is never making anyone in his company feel like any one part of it is more important than another.Does the “Nicole factor,” so to speak, makes it more than just another play?Sure, and you come in knowing that it’s going to be seen by a lot of people given Nicole’s relatively long hiatus from the British stage and the fuss around [David Hare’s play] The Blue Room and all that. But Grandage is great because once you get started, it’s all hands to the pumps like any other play, really—just with an extra layer of bodyguards at the stage door!Did you see The Blue Room? You may have been too young at the time.It wasn’t that so much as that I had just gone to university [in Cardiff, Wales] and couldn’t afford the trip up to London. But I remember reading about it in the paper and going, “God, that looks amazing” and wishing I could go.What do you think audiences will make of the Nicole Kidman they see onstage this time around?I think they’ll be surprised and that they will find the kind of elegance you can only get with somebody like Nicole Kidman, which is the thing that makes her special, along with her remarkable integrity as an actor. And of course this part means so much to her because of her father [a biochemist who died last year], so you also see something delicate and beautiful in her performance through that.Tell me about your role as Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick.He was a theoretical biophysicist and what stood him apart from other scientists at King’s College was that he and [colleague James] Watson had the vision to look past the facts at what could be the future and as a result was not afraid to make mistakes. And of the two men, Crick was the nice guy—the English chap with wonderful vision who’s incredibly clever and wants to do the right thing while also wanting to win, but Will [Attenborough, who plays Watson] might describe it differently [laughs].What do you think gives this story its dramatic weight?It’s about a historical event that had unequivocal significance to the entire world and will do for the rest of time and at the center of that event is an injustice—[the marginalizing of Franklin’s role in the discovery of DNA]—that had to do with the politics and culture of science and also of the time. And it’s a new play in the West End and that doesn’t happen too often!This play and your work in Orson’s Shadow marks a change from your lengthy immersion in Shakespeare and the classics.I think it’s necessary to change gears at times. All you want as an actor is to do brilliant writing to the best of your ability and the better the writer the better the challenge: Shakespeare is my favorite writer and I could do him forever, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to do new writing and to have an idea about what is happening in the forefront there.As a onetime Hamlet, have you been to the Barbican to catch Benedict Cumberbatch in the role?I haven’t yet but would like to. For a while I didn’t want to see any other Hamlets, though I did see Jude Law’s soon after mine. But I think there was an element of not wanting to be reminded of some of it—not wanting to be the guy who sat there comparing when I’d prefer to just go and enjoy it.Do you know Benedict Cumberbatch at all?No, the only contact I’ve had with him was doing some ADR [looping] for him on Andy Serkis’ new film of The Jungle Book: apparently my voice sounds like his, so I spent three hours doing a tiger. It looks as if it is going to be amazing.Is there a club around London of people who’ve played Hamlet?Not in any formal sense, of course, but there is always a sense of understanding whereby you feel for whoever is playing Hamlet and you hope the production they’re in facilitates them playing it. But I think even if there were a club, I’d be on a waiting list: I only played it because someone else [David Tennant] could not; I’d be at the kids’ table. View Commentslast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *