Best known for playing Albert in the National Theatre's War Horse, actor Jack Holden is about to star in Awkward Conversations With Animals I've F*cked, Rob Hayes's new play about bestiality at the Udderbelly this August. We dispatched Features Editor James T Harding to find out how the risk-assessment forms are coming along.
There's whole online communities of Zoophiles who share tips, experiences and advice. We also just researched and spent time with animals in a non-sexual way. Honest.
Tell us about your show.
Awkward Conversations With Animals I've F*cked is a one man tragi-comedy about a guy who has relationship issues just like the rest of us... except his relationships tend to be with a variety of household and farmyard mammals. It's about a guy, Bobby, who assesses his crap life and decides to make a change. In doing so, he learns what he never learnt as a child: that serious actions have serious consequences.
What research did you for the role?
We kind of didn't want to permanently scar our minds, so we imagined a lot of the backstory and... erm... logistical stuff. But we had a little look around on the internet. There's some crazy stuff out there, and it's not too hard to find. There's whole online communities of Zoophiles who share tips, experiences and advice. We also just researched and spent time with animals in a non-sexual way. Honest.
Bestiality usually features at the Fringe as a source of cheap comedy, but I get the feeling Awkward goes a lot deeper than that. Could you tell us more about the show handles its subject matter, and what challenges that presents you as an actor?
The starting point for me and Edward Stambollouian (director) was that the play can't be about cheap gags. We want the audience to like Bobby - bestiality is something he is seriously exploring - if we send it up at all, the audience won't care about him. Awkward Conversations With Animals I've F*cked is the story of Bobby's sexual awakening and it's important that we handle that vulnerable stage of life with sensitivity and depth.
How does acting a one-actor play differ from an ensemble piece?
It's a one man show by definition but, in practice, I'm supported by amazing sound, lighting and set design, and I'm guided by tremendous direction and writing. Performing a one man show is sort of like jumping on to a moving train for an hour and then jumping off it while it's still moving. It just doesn't stop. There's no pause for breath and the moment you drop the ball or think about the scale of the play as a whole, you'll lose control and enter into a tailspin. That sounds horrific, but it's actually amazingly fun, challenging and rewarding.
What would your dream theatre role be? This can be a role that already exists or one that's yet to be written for you. (Please don't say Equus!)
I'd love to bring a historical figure to life on stage - like Truman Capote, or E M Forster, or Hemingway, or some other literary icon. Philip Seymour Hoffman was my idol and I always dreamed I'd play Chris Keller in Arthur Miller's All My Sons, with him as my father. That'll never be, but if I can be half the actor Seymour Hoffman was, I'll die happy.
Thank you for your time, Jack, and my very best for the show.