BWW Interview: Archie Madekwe On THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA?
Archie Madekwe's screen credits include Fresh Meat and films Legacy and Second Coming. He's now making his professional stage debut in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, Edward Albee's darkly comic play about a successful family man who reveals a shocking love affair. Ian Rickson's revival also features Damian Lewis, Sophie Okonedo and Jason Hughes, and begins previews at Theatre Royal Haymarket on 24 March.
What was the first play you saw?
What or who inspired you to begin acting?
It's hard to pinpoint a particular moment; it feels like I've always loved it - but that sounds like a copout. Watching Ashley probably taught me that I could spend my time doing it and that that was fine. Being at The BRIT School probably taught me to love it the way I do now.
When did you realise you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I'd say at The BRIT School. That solidified it for me. Although they never asked us to actually think about that until we really had to. In fact, they asked us not think about it. It was so much more about creating art and learning about the world, through your chosen artistic subject - mine being theatre. But my time there definitely solidified it for me.
Where else did you train?
What was your first professional job?
An episode of Casualty! There's a collection of those shows on the BBC that almost feels like a rite of passage for British actors. I had such a great time.
Your character in Fresh Meat was dubious about the value of higher education for your generation - could you sympathise with his view?
Definitely. I think it's a very personal decision. Not everybody feels the need to spend three years in higher education - nor does everyone need to anymore. But, unlike Luca, I did commit to three years of it!
Did you know much of Albee's work, and particularly The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, before auditioning?
Shamefully, no. Of course I knew of Albee and his classics, but I wasn't aware of the huge stamp his work made on theatre like I am now. He's a genius.
Tell us about your character, the journey he goes on and how you approached him
I'm playing Billy, Stevie and Martin's 17-year-old son. The damage that's done to their family is unimaginable. It's too much for a teenager to comprehend, and yet he has to try to, so the audience watch as this seemingly perfect family painfully confronts it head on. It's excruciating. I, Archie, have trouble understanding what's happened - so Billy's pain and confusion isn't that far a reach. It's accessible. But the other issues, the ones buried underneath, that's taking some digging and a lot of work.
Is it intimidating walking into a rehearsal room with Damian Lewis, Sophie Okonedo, Ian Rickson...?
I think the idea of it was definitely scarier than the reality. Everyone's so lovely and we're all working together digging into this mammoth of a play. There wasn't really time to be intimidated. I just feel really lucky to be surrounded by really talented people. I'm learning so much by just listening and watching. It's wonderful.
Do you look up to performers of colour like Sophie, and what do you learn from them?
Sophie was one of the first British actors I had ever watched on TV that looked like me. That was really important for me. It's imperative that BAME actors are accurately represented.
How can the industry diversify further?
This question is an article in itself! We're making progress slowly but we still have a long way to go.
Do you have any dream roles/projects?
Of course! There's countless people I want to work with; actors, writers, directors. Steve McQueen, Olivia Colman, Charlie Brooker, Paul Dano, Wes Anderson, Sally Wainwright, Polly Stenham... I could go on forever. I just hope I'm able to work in all mediums with a lot of different people for a very long time.
Finally, what do you think audiences will get from this production?
This play is brilliant. It's a real work of art. I think audiences will be pushed and pulled and their concepts of love and consent and what's right and wrong will be challenged. I think people's reactions will differ nightly, and I think it'll leave people thinking for a very long time!
Picture credit: Johan Persson