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The Play That Goes Wrong actor Bobby Hirston on acting for stage and screen

Winterson’s actor, Bobby Hirston, is currently playing the role of Max in the 2018 UK Tour of The Play That Goes Wrong. With a range of film and television credits to his name, the actor says that it has been nice to balance out screen with stage this year. It’s a demanding high energy show which provides a variety of comedy types from the outset. Here, Bobby talks us through the play, and why he feels quality theatre remains so important in 2018.  

Please introduce us to your current role in The Play That Goes Wrong…

“I’m playing Max at the moment in The Play That Goes Wrong, National tour 2018. Max plays a character within the play called Cecil Haversham and Arthur the Gardener. The Play that goes wrong is a farce. It’s theatre, it’s not TV so it’s not all really quiet. My analogy for The play That Goes Wrong is Cluedo meets Faulty Towers meets Buster Keaton. That’s the best way to describe it, elements of those 3 things all mixed together.”

It seems to be an extremely physical play, and you’re also contending with portraying different characters at different times – is it fair to say that difficulty level is ‘high’ when it comes to this performance?

“I went to watch it before I started doing it and I was worried, genuinely worried. But we did a lot of improvisation around the people we are playing the parts of, so we really got to know Max, the guy who is in the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they are putting on the play of the Murder at the Haversham Manor. So we covered Max first and then we sort of moved on to Cecil and Arthur the Gardener. The joke is that he plays Cecil and Arthur exactly the same. My character has a lot of audience participation so that was difficult to start off with because obviously when you’re in rehearsals you don’t have an audience. Then when you get one you’re thinking – wow I’ve got an audience – and you’ve got to find a happy medium in between.”

“There’s definitely timing, timing is a big part of it. I’ve done a bit of stand up and the difference is that in stand up you’re on your own whereas this, The play that goes wrong, is a big team effort – what’s the saying ‘you’re only as good as your team mates’ or your weakest member. So we’re a real team, a real there’s not that stand up thing.”

How did your relationship with Winterson’s come about, and what sorts of projects would you like to work on next?

“I think just over two years, a year and a half to two years. I was in a TV show on E4 called Drifters and they saw me in that. I was in a sort of a change mode, looking for a change. So they said come and have a chat with us, see what we’re about – we think this is what you’re about and I’ve decided to go with them.”

“I’ll just stress – I enjoy both. I love theatre. Theatre is why I got into acting. I’m not sure there’s many people who start off doing TV. I decided to do acting as a career because I liked doing theatre in school and out of school. It’s that live feedback you get and a buzz you get, I don’t know about everyone else, but I get a buzz from doing it to a live audience. I do prefer doing theatre but I don’t NOT enjoy TV either. Especially after doing quite a lot of TV and film and not doing any theatre for a long time, this tour has been really refreshing. It’s nice to be able to do both.”

“Personally, I’d like to just keep working. Where I come from, I was never one for dreams, I always wanted to make a living first and then everything else is a bonus. Obviously, there are parts that I’d like to play but I think you have to be realistic and you have to be… I have a job to do on this play. I have 5 more months to do so I have to do a good job. Don’t let it get to your head, enjoy it while it lasts cos it may be – hopefully not but – there may be a length of time before I get to do it again so I try not to look too far ahead, just enjoy what I’m doing at the minute and in the future, in the next 5 years, I hope to keep working.”

Do you think that physical theatre is as important as it has ever been right now? Particularly in a world where everything is increasingly digital and there appears to be a growing disconnect between people and real-life events?

“I think this is important because it makes people laugh and it’s a release from everything that’s going on at the minute. All this TV and theatre and all art will always be very important in the times we’re in. There’s so much more of it now, there’s so many more channels – there’s YouTube, there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime so there’s a lot more content being made which is great TV wise. And theatre…people will always make theatre, and rightly so.”

“I would say it’s changing but it’s changing for the better. With all the harassment stuff, more multicultural roles – all that’s good because it’s setting the standard for everyone else. I feel like it happens in theatre before it happens in the real world. Even the #metoo movement started in film and acting and now it’s gone everywhere. But it usually starts in film or a piece of theatre and it gets people having those conversations. Then a few plays will come off the back of that and a film will come off the back of that.”

You can find out more about The Play That Goes Wrong here.