BWW Interview: Kevin Mathurin Talks THE VISIT at the National Theatre
Kevin Mathurin is currently appearing in The Visit, Tony Kushner's adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's play of the same name at the National Theatre. Mathurin plays Bill, one of the inhabitants of Slurry tempted by Claire Zachanassian's offer of a billion dollars in exchange for the murder of one man...
What excites you about working in theatre?
Performing live, in front of an audience, is a truly special experience for me. The anticipation that each performance can be slightly different is something that keeps the adrenalin pumping and something that you don't experience as much as an actor on film or TV sets. There's also nothing like hearing the audience reactions at each performance. It's totally uplifting!
What was your first reaction to reading this play?
Before I read the script I didn't know the original play, so I came to it with a completely open mind. Reading it through, I found myself really laughing out loud at some of the dialogue, and then when the macabre undertones of greed, amorality and sheer desperation from the townfolk are displayed, it really took me by surprise. The change in personality in the characters who live in Slurry once Claire arrives is quite startling. The play took me on a journey that I did not expect.
How do you usually decide to take on a project?
I feel so fortunate in my career and I've had some incredible opportunities. But I'm a working actor and it's not just about me picking and choosing what I want to do. I still have to audition, and do so regularly. But I have an amazing agent who always consults me before submissions are sent. We talk about what I want to do and what roles are coming up, and then we can decide together what to focus on.
What has surprised you about this play as rehearsals continued?
How tragic and conflicted individual needs can be. That sometimes justification can outweigh morals.
Do you have a rehearsal process, and who sort of research did you do for this role?
Being a parent with young children, I usually wait until everyone is in bed before I learn scripts, so a lot of late nights. As for researching characters, we look into the period and what it was like to live in that time. I take the character's age into consideration and play with the physicality until his characteristics match his dialogue.
Might you comment on Tony Kushner's writing?
Informative, funny and multi-layered.
How has Kushner 'made new' this play through his adaptation?
Tony has transformed this adaptation to a pre-Cold War America in the mid 1950s and a small poverty-stricken town in New York state in the middle of an industrial collapse. It's a fascinating concept and feels very relevant right now.
Can you give some details about your character?
Bill is an unemployed former factory worker and proud 'Slurrian'. He longs to return to the days when the town was booming. He's quite a cheerful fella; very poor yet simple in his needs. Quite happy to sit with his colleagues and wish the day away. Always looking for work, Bill is optimistic that the town of Slurry will return to fortune. When Claire Zachanassian offers the town a reward for her retribution, he is dead set against it. But desperation makes his decisions blur on what is right and wrong.
Is The Visit posing a question to the audience - and do we get an answer?
I guess the play asks the audience what lengths people will go to in order to find resolve. Does everyone have a price?
If you could see a change in the theatre industry in the coming five years, what would it be?
Affordable admission for all.
With whom and where would you like to work next?
I'm incredibly grateful to call acting my job and can honestly say that in all the contracts that I've done, I have been so happy to just be working, doing something I love - no matter what the project is. Obviously to work at the National Theatre is an incredible experience for any actor and I am so proud to stand on the Olivier stage every night, knowing how many incredible actors have been here before me.
I don't really have a bucket list, but if I did then a play for the RSC would be amazing and the opportunity to do more screen work this year would be great too. But to be honest, if I can continue to find total enjoyment in the job of acting itself then I will be happy no matter where I work and who I work with.
What resonates with you about this play, and how do you think it will resonate with audiences?
The Visit is a powerful, engaging story, with light humour and dark undertones. The story involves love, revenge and desperation and how it affects everyone. The play is epic.
Photograph credit: Johan Persson.