BWW Interview: Nicholas Burns Talks LOVE, LOVE, LOVE at Lyric Hammersmith
Well known for his roles on both stage and screen, Nicholas Burns has recently starred in Measure for Measure (Donmar Warehouse) and Young Marx (Bridge Theatre).
He returns to the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, where he appeared in the original cast of Ghost Stories, to play Kenneth in a revival of Mike Bartlett's Love, Love Love.
Nicholas chats about returning to the Lyric Hammersmith, the importance of this show's revival 10 years on, and being part of Rachel O'Riordan's first season at the Lyric.
Can you tell us a little bit about Love, Love, Love and the role of Kenneth?
It's an epic tale that follows a couple called Ken and Sandra, from 1967 when they first meet, through to 1991 when they are together and have children, and then we pick them up again in 2011.
It's really about that generation of people, the Baby Boomers, and how they went through life, their attitudes, and how they modify and change over the years, and the effect that had on generations to come. It's about this couple, their family, and the ripples they make as they move through life.
The show hasn't been in London since 2012 - how does it feel to be part of the revival?
It feels great because it feels so timely. There's been a lot of media attention on that generation, and it's about these two well-written and constructed characters by our amazing playwright Mike Bartlett, who are completely believable.
And while they have stereotypical facets to their personality, they're not clichéd, they're really nuanced, so it really shines a light on that specific generation of people who seem to be in the news a lot at the moment.
Do you think the show's long absence is going to bring any challenges?
I don't think so. As a play it's really accessible, and the fact it hasn't been on for a few years actually helps - and it was due a revival.
I think the fact that it's Mike Bartlett, who's such a great writer, and people are aware of his work, also helps. Plus it's accessible for all people and for all generations, and everyone will feel like some part of the play resonates for them. It's funny, in some parts tragic, and a really fun night at the theatre.
The show has a terrific cast. What's it been like working with Rachel Stirling (who's playing Sandra)?
It's been great. I've worked with her once before, and we had such a great time. We have a similar sense of humour and we enjoy making each other laugh on stage (which could be a bit dangerous!), and she's so fun to work with and is incredibly open to trying different things.
We actually live near each other, so we were able to get together before rehearsals started and do a lot of the work beforehand, which helped hugely. She's absolutely brilliant and it's so much fun playing opposite her. I'm having a lovely time.
Mike Bartlett has left the script unedited. Why do you think he's chosen to do that?
Because I think it's very specific to that time period. The first act is set in 1967, the second act is set in 1991 and the third act is 2011, and so I think to update it would actually cause more problems than it's worth.
In many ways, 2011 feels like it was a long time ago, but in other ways it also feels very close, so I think making changes would just complicate it. It's a period piece and should be seen as such.
What's it like being part of Rachel O'Riordan's first season at the Lyric Hammersmith?
I'm SO excited to be part of her season at the Lyric. It's a really exciting theatre, and there's so much going on here - every day, there's something happening and it's a very dynamic, outward-looking theatre.
I think it's a brilliant play and a brilliant season that Rachel has programmed, and working with her has been great. She's incredibly collaborative; we've been quite forensic and specific in our rehearsals about every single line and every single word, what it all means and what we're trying to achieve.
How do you think audiences who didn't see the show the first time round will react to it, especially with such resonating themes?
We've talked about that quite a lot in rehearsals. There's a final scene where there's a discussion/debate between some of the main characters and they all come from slightly different points of view, all very opposing.
I think the audience will be very split. I think there'll be people who sympathise with one character, others who won't, and I think it'll be one of those shows where people come out and discuss it for the rest of the evening.
It really does raise some interesting questions about how the generations that went before us raised their children and how people change over the course of a lifetime, and how intergenerationally our lives have panned out. For example, a lot of people think that the Baby Boomers had it lucky, that they had everything they wanted falling into their lap, and some people feel that's not the case.
I think the play asks the right questions about that, and I think it'll be a really great play for causing heated discussions on the way home.
That must be great to know you're in a show that can do that!
Absolutely. As an actor, when you've got friends in who are arguing bitterly about it all, that's great because you want to be in a play that's provocative, and this show is certainly that.
You've performed at the Lyric Hammersmith before in Ghost Stories - how does it feel to be back?
It feels lovely! Ghost Stories was such a great experience, and it has such a special place in my heart because my first child was born during the run. So being at the Lyric, it feels like a part of me is coming home, and that's great.
You've played some incredible roles on stage and on screen. What's been your career highlight?
I have to say Nathan Barley on screen. That was an amazing opportunity to have as quite a young actor - I just absolutely loved it. A brilliant character and working with fantastic people.
On stage, I've loved stuff I've done at the Donmar, and I loved performing in The Village Bike at the Royal Court about seven or eight years ago. I'm very lucky - I've loved most of the stuff that I've done, and I'm loving doing this show. It's going to be one of those shows that I will look back on extremely fondly.
Do you have a preference for stage or screen acting?
It all depends on the writing. If the writing is good, and you've got a fun character to play with, it really doesn't matter. It's all about the writing, and with this show we're in really safe hands with Mike Bartlett.
Why should people come and see Love, Love Love?
Because they'll have a really fun night at the theatre. It's provocative and funny - I urge everyone to come along, because it's going to be great.