Fans of HOLBY CITY will remember Adam Best, who played Student Doctor Matt Parker between Series 7-9. Currently Adam is taking on a lead role in critically acclaimed theatre production ‘The Woman in Black’ at the Fortune Theatre in London. He kindly took time out to chat to us about his new role and also his time on the medical drama…
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us. You’ve just taken over one of the lead roles in theatre production thriller ‘The Woman in Black’, what can you tell us about the play?
In a nutshell, it’s a ghost story. A play about a man whose life was changed by a disturbing event in his past, and his efforts to come to terms with it as an older man. It’s a “play within a play”. The character Arthur Kipps comes to my character “the Actor” to ask him to act out his past, in a bid to “exorcise” the ghost that has haunted his dreams for decades.
It has been known for people to jump out of their seats watching the drama unfold, so this play is not for the faint hearted?!
It’s a pretty tense experience. It’s not “horror” in the way that modern films are – there is no gore or anything. It’s really about trying to build tension and a certain atmosphere for the audience. There are a lot of silences, and Ken (the other actor) and I are playing it to try and build suspense. That way, when the scares do come, they are the pay-off of a long build up. The scares definitely do come! We get a lot of screams, and audible groans of terror from the audience. Doesnt matter how old or young, man, woman or child- we’ll get you worried at some point…
You play ‘The Actor’, how would you describe your character?
The Actor is an affable, genial, confident young man who, although perhaps with some self-interest at heart, ends up really caring about Arthur Kipps and wants to help rid him of the nightmare that’s been hanging over him for such a long time. He’s also incredibly well-dressed…
What attracted you to the role?
Loads of things. To be offered a leading role in the West End is absolutely brilliant, and of course that is a major attraction! It’s a real privilege to come in to work every evening in Covent Garden. I’ve spent the last couple of years travelling in and out of London, often spending weeks and weeks at a time on tour around the country, so it’s brilliant to be able to come home to my own bed every night! The major attraction, however, was that this job has given me a chance to really “act”. The style is really quite theatrical, and it’s not often you get the chance to do that sort of job. Telly stuff is played very “real” and while of course I am trying to the play the truth of the character, it’s written in such a way that it lends itself to quite a heightened style of playing, which I am really enjoying. I think it’s perhaps not a job that I would have expected myself to be the right sort of casting for- it’s a very English play- so I’m glad to have the chance to play outside of what I would probably consider my regular casting bracket. What I’ve found out, which I had thought would be the case, but couldnt be sure of until we opened last week, was that audiences seem to enjoy it. I love how well they seem to respond to the telling of the story, how on board for the ride they are. I absolutely love it. Love it. Telling stories is what theatre is all about, I reckon, and telling the story of the Woman in Black is a blast, because the audience seem to enjoy it. Which makes me dead happy.
The play is one of the most successful theatre events ever performed, now in it’s 23rd year, was it daunting joining a production that is so well established?
The director, Robin Herford, put Ken and I at ease about that straight away. He gave us “ownership”, as it were, and allowed us to tell the story as we felt we wanted to tell it. Of course, I think Ken and I both felt pressure in terms of it having such a great reputation to uphold, but I think that the trust Robin showed in us (Robin has directed every production and commissioned the play to be written in the first place) really put us at our ease. The outgoing cast, Ben Deery and David Acton, were also on hand to offer friendly words of encouragement, which was ace. Ken and I watched them a couple of times, which was really useful, in terms of seeing what worked for the audience and the technique of really getting them on edge. A week of shows in, I’m still very nervous before each performance, because I really want the audience to enjoy themselves. I hope those nerves dont dissipate, actually, because it’ll keep me on my toes.
Actor Ken Drury has joined the cast with you, what’s it been like working with him?
Ken’s ace. We hooked up a couple of times before rehearsals started and read through the play, and we’ve got on well from that point. He’s Scottish and I’m from Northern Ireland, so we’ve had a bit of a laugh that two Celts are acting in a very English play. Working with actors with Ken’s experience is always a treat – you learn a hell of a lot just by being around them. Like on Holby, I learned stacks just from being on the same set as the likes of Hugh Quarshie. There’s a reason why people like Ken and Hugh, for example, keep working a lot. It’s because they’re obviously great actors and, as importantly, really good people as well. It’s like any job – if you’re a young person and you have the chance to work closely with someone with far more experience in whatever job you’re doing, keep your ears and eyes open, because chances are you’ll learn f**king loads. That said, it doesnt mean I’m not likely to be found winding Ken up about something or other. Because I will be found, quite often, doing just that.
How does TV/ theatre compare and differ? Do you have a preference?
I love theatre acting. I love it. I am mad about it. It’s ace. I love the rehearsal process, I love unpicking scripts and being directed. I love that every night I can do different “takes” of the same line. Over the course of the run of a play you can say the same line a hundred different ways and in doing so find out things about a character that maybe you wouldnt have found otherwise. I think it’s ace that the audience is there going through it all with you. I love that you are never able to watch yourself afterwards. When it’s done, it’s done. If something didnt work, make it right the next night. Chances are the audience didnt notice.
I love telly acting. I love it. It’s ace. I like that you can quietly and subtly present a character without worrying whether the back row can hear you. I love that there are so many elements at work to make a finished production. The different worlds you can find yourself in – dressed as a Priest in the red light district in Soho (done that), pretending to lift a heart out of someone’s chest before having a fit on the floor (done that), running through the Scottish highlands in your underpants (done that). It throws you bizarre situations and you have to make those situations as real as you possibly can. What a hoot!
Were you aware of ‘The Woman in Black’ or of novelist Susan Hill’s work before you started doing the play? Have you seen the film also?
Haven’t seen the Daniel Radcliffe film. I think it’s pretty different to the play, just in terms of how that character is when the film starts. I think he’s already having a bad life when the film starts, as opposed to all the bad stuff happening during the film itself. I wasn’t aware even that the Woman in Black was based on a novel before I started work on it. I believe Susan Hill writes crime fiction as well. I’ll get to explore that maybe now I’ll finally get the chance to look at something other than the script!
What was your first ever stage role?
First ever – “The Sunbeam” in Donaghadee Primary School. About 1989. Cant remember too much about it. I had a bowl cut at the time. I think I was a sunbeam who had been naughty and then the sun queen or someone took my “golden cloak” off of me, so I couldnt be a sunbeam any more. That is harsh. My first “professional” stage role was in a play to teach kids how to recycle more and waste less. I had to sing a rap about flushing the toilet. But it wasnt really on a stage. So I dont know if that counts. My first really proper stage role was playing “The Ghost of Joseph Swane” in an Irish play called “By the Bog of Cats”. It was my first job out of college and it was magic- I was working with an actress called Holly Hunter and I learned a whole lot and I had an excellent time. It was during my last month on that job that I started working Holby. Good times.
Do you enjoy going to the theatre yourself? What are your favourite plays?
I do. I havent been too often recently, but I really enjoy it when I go. I have seen some ace plays. I saw Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in “Waiting for Godot”, which was excellent. McKellen gave the best performance I have ever seen by a human ever. I thought it was brilliant. Best play I ever saw was called “Shining City” at the Royal Court. It starred an actor called Stanley Townsend, whose wife played my mum on an episode of Holby after I got stabbed. When I found out who her husband was, I think I gushed a bit about him. Bit weird.
What would be your dream theatre role?
I’d like to have a go at Shakespeare. I’ve never done it before, and would absolutely love it. I’ll never play Romeo, but would maybe like a crack at Tybalt, Juliet’s evil brother. I also like the character Autolycus in “The Winter’s Tale”. Of course, playing Puck would be awesome. Thing is, I think maybe my dream theatre role hasnt been written yet. I like modern plays, and I’ve done a fair bit of new-writing. So maybe my dream theatre role is still in some playwright’s head.
What made you decide to become an actor? Who are your inspirations?
I love acting. I reckon it’s a bit of a vocation. It’s a f**king hard graft sometimes, so I reckon to want to do it, it must be because you really love it. I decided I wanted to be an actor somewhere between starting my A Levels and getting a place in drama school. I dont know if I ever really decided it. Not really. I started on a path because it opened up for me. If I hadn’t have got the place in drama school, I wouldnt have waited around. I’d have gone to Sheffield to do journalism. Life’s funny, innit.
I dont know about inspirations. Umm. I think Paddy Considine is one of the best actors around. Corny as anything, but Sarah (my fiance at the time of writing, potentially wife when this goes on the site) is pretty inspirational. She’s an opera singer and if I worked half as hard as she does, I’d be doing well. The dedication she has for her work is absolutely inspirational. Brilliant. I suppose anyone who manages to make a living from the arts is pretty inspiring, because that’s what I really want to be able to do forever.
It’s been over five years since you appeared in Holby, do you have fond memories of your time working on the show?
Yeah, I’ve not been on it more than twice the length of time I was on it. Time has flown by. I have many fond memories of my time there. I look back on it a bit regretfully as well mind you. I sometimes wish I could have done more to have had more of an impact on there. I think I was maybe only in half the number of episodes I could have been in during my 2 years. I look back and wonder why that was, and what I could have done differently for that to be different. Not to say I didnt enjoy it, I definitely did. I just wanted to be busier.
What were your favourite storylines to work on in Holby?
I guess Matt’s outro, with his affair with the psychiatric patient he was supposed to be nursing back to mental health, played by Antonia Bernath. I really, really enjoyed working with Peter Wingfield in those last few months. An absolute gent. I liked working with Jaye Jacobs, as when our two characters shared screen time there was usually a bit of banter. I remember being in my boxers with Donna and Dean in Keller one time. Cant remember why, but it was fun!
Have you kept in touch with any Holby cast members?
Yup – Paul Henshall and I remain good pals. He lives in Cornwall (as he did when we were on Holby- how’s that for a commute to work), but he’s quite often in London so we’ll hook up for a beer when he’s around. He’s seen quite a few of the plays I’ve done since we left – think he likes any excuse to get out for beers! I should hopefully see a bit more of him in the coming months; he is currently on the board for the actors’ union, Equity, so I imagine he’ll be in London quite a bit. He’s always got some project on the go; he’s training in hypnotherapy at the minute….
Paul Bradley and I often have banter on facebook. We share a similar sense of humour and we both support Ireland in the rugby. He runs weekly caption competitions on his facebook page. Always good fun! I’d really like to see Hugh Quarshie again. He is a very good man.
Finally how would you recommend the play for people thinking of coming to see it?
What I say to my mates – come and see it and buy me a pint after. It’s a proper night at the theatre – lights and sound effects and nice costumes and a story that you’ll be laughing along with in between screaming in terror. And then, the next night, you can walk 50 yards down the road and watch Tom Chambers in Top Hat. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.
* ‘The Woman in Black’ currently showing at The Fortune Theatre in London. Evenings – Tuesday to Saturday 8pm. Matinees – Tuesday 3pm, Thursday 3pm,
Saturday 4pm. **
(Photo courtesy of The Woman in Black © Tristram Kenton)