We asked you on Twitter and Facebook what you would like to ask an actor. Lots of you replied with fantastic questions and you can see Thomas's replies below -
I was asked to answer some questions. When I was asked, I said, “Okay. But please, I don’t want to come across as some know- it- all actor who’s full of anecdotes. I know nowt really. So I’ve answered these as honestly and sometimes as naively as my first thought after reading them…
How did you get a role in an RSC production?
I was on a Scottish beach with my parents and our dog. Agent rang. I bombed it down to London dead quick. I read the play and learnt a bit from Act Three of Merry Wives, the bit where Simple finds Falstaff in the pub. I met with Philip Breen, the director and Helena Palmer, the casting director. It was all really relaxed and we had a bit of a laugh. At that point, I was unaware I’d also be auditioning for The Mouse and his Child but I did, a couple of days later. That audition was in the same room, with Paul Hunter and Helena Palmer. Paul and I had a conversation but I wasn’t allowed to use the letter ‘P’. That was a good indication of what the following fourteen weeks would be like!
It's common knowledge it's a difficult business, and that it takes time, commitment and courage to succeed. On the 'not so good days' or after auditions which maybe didn't go so well, How do you pick yourself up and re-motivate yourself?
As long as you’re prepared, polite and passionate then pretty much everything else is out of your hands. So much is down to an image in a director’s head. There are loads of extraneous factors which can determine whether you get the job or not. If you do your best, it’s so often not about ability. That’s a comfort because there’s very little you can do about the other things.
Did you find it a daunting (as well as exciting!) prospect to be working with the RSC?
Aye. It was peculiar though because I have nothing to compare it to. It was all a whirlwind for about the first month. It’s a really welcoming, accommodating and exciting place to be. Everyone- the cast and crew, the lasses in the green room, Tony the tour guide- are proper salt of the Earth folk. I’ve learnt something new every day.
How do you go about learning the iambic pentameter rhythm with the hope of it eventually being instinctive and not having to think about it?
I always remember that Shakespeare isn’t meant to be read, it’s meant to spoken and heard. So Shakespeare wrote in a way which made it accessible for his actors to speak with as much ease as possible. It mimics the way we speak naturally. There aren’t any rules to Shakespeare. That’s important. Don’t let it bog you down. The iambic and all that other stuff has never really got me all worried because it’s all there to help and not hinder. How Shakespeare writes, it offers a tool kit to the actor. It allows us information on the emotion of the character, the purpose of the speech- you know, all that nitty gritty acting stuff, it’s all there- weaved in the words and the structure. It’s about a positive mind. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t just read it off the page because then it’s very easy for it all to be minimised. They aren’t just words. They are human emotions. So what do they do to your body? How do they make you feel? Get up and move. Tap the rhythm on a surface. Beat it out with your feet. It’ll be interesting which words fall on the beat and the possibilities it opens as an actor. Use what’s written and then be creative. It’s a collaboration between Shakespeare and you, the person who’s embodying his words.
How has performing with the RSC affected your work/work ethic?
Coming straight out of drama school, I’m still in the habit of getting up early and doing all them warm up exercises and stuff. Some aspects, a lot of aspects have been really familiar. What’s interesting is the fact that I’m working with people- and they might hate to read this- that are old enough to be my parents. Drama school’s not like that, yeah, there’s a span of ages but on the whole there’s a lot of early to middle twenty year olds. So that’s a nice dynamic, working with these people who’ve got CVs as long as a basketball player’s arms. The Mouse and his Child has been a lot of playing, dossing about with balls and bric-a-bric in a room in Clapham. These are grown men and women, with mortgages and kids and weekly ASDA shops and all that stuff. They are big kids- talented, creative people who’ve never lost the three year old version of themselves and the work that attitude produces is awesome. There’s something about that which is really inspiring.
Which Shakespeare role as he found the most challenging role to perform so far and which is his favorite one to perform if different?
I’ve barely played any. I did Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale at drama school. It’s a fantastic play. It was a situation where I wasn’t cast perfectly. I mean, Polixenes is meant to be this sophisticated, powerful charming gent. However hard I tried I was still this gangly nineteen year old, incapable of growing facial hair. It makes me laugh that Leontes is paranoid that Polixenes is having an affair with his wife Hermione. There wasn’t a hope in hell that the girl playing Hermione would’ve found me any more attractive than a little brother with a snotty nose. Anyway, it was a good experience. I’d like to play the clown character in that play, the Shepherd’s son. I’d also like to have a crack at Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Fool in King Lear. Iago from Othello has always interested me, especially if it was in a production like Frantic Assembly’s at the Lowry in Manchester about four years ago. As a young man, I’m drawn to Hamlet. In the same tormented- young man –way, I’ve always wanted to play Giovanni in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. That’s not Shakespeare, it’s John Ford. Proper good play. I started to read Shakespeare’s sonnets a bit back. They’re superb. They are like verses from a rap song. I’d love to have the opportunity to bring them to life.
To a young person who dreams of becoming an actor but doesn't know what sort of training to pursue - what would you advise?
I only know one sort. I went to drama school. Of course there’re other ways of going about it but speaking completely personally, I really doubt I’d be with the RSC if it wasn’t for drama school. I knew no-one. No casting people, no directors. Not even the names of many theatres. Drama school was a way of channeling all this energy I had as a boisterous, naïve, eyes wide open puppy from the hills of Lancashire in to various tools I could use. It gave me the opportunity to meet people too, that’s invaluable.
What is his LEAST favourite Shakespeare. The one he'd tell Shakespeare not to write if he could?
To be fair, I don’t know enough to make a proper answer. I’d say though that in every single Shakespeare play there are elements which are politically, socially and emotionally forceful. I mean, look at The Merry Wives of Windsor. It has a bit of a reputation of being hastily put together at the request of the queen and all that. There aren’t many thesis written on that play like there are about Hamlet or Lear. However, it’s a play about families, masculinity, racism and airs and graces in suburbia. It’s not too unlike a sitcom. It might be a bit of a leap in comparison but I reckon it’s voyeuristic in the same way as Made in Chelsea and all that clap trap is popular at the moment. It’s a peep in to the workings of relationships. It’s reality. So yeah, at first it doesn’t seem very intellectual and perhaps it isn’t, I don’t know, but it offers something. They all do. All his pieces do. Well, the one’s I’ve read and seen do.
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Thomas Pickles and Anita Dobson in The Merry Wives of Windsor photo by Pete Le May and Thomas Pickles and the cast of The Mouse and his Child photo by Keith Pattison.