BWW Interview: Oliver Alvin-Wilson Talks THE TWILIGHT ZONE
He now speaks to BroadwayWorld about returning to The Twilight Zone in the West End.
Who or what inspired you to become a performer?
Ultimately it was my mum, back in the day, who convinced me to try the weekend drama school my younger sister went to it. I wasn't sure but I gave it a go and absolutely loved it
The real trigger, when I realised that this was something that I had to do, was when I was on stage and experienced a true silence in an emotional or dramatic moment - and similarly, when I earned a true laugh from an audience for the first time.
They're moments when you have the audience in the palm of your hand. I thought "Wow! What a feeling! What a buzz. It's so one-off. How can you recreate that?". Ever since, those priceless moments are what I do it for. A true laugh and a true silence.
How did you get involved with The Twilight Zone?
I auditioned, basically! Richard Jones [the director] said he saw me in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Young Vic, when I played Demetrius, but he didn't say at the time. I still had to earn the part, but I knew he was aware of me beforehand.
A combination of those two things got me in the room. I read for three of the characters, when the character tracks were particularly unclear in the early stages. All we knew was there would be 50 characters. We were unsure of how it would all work in the Almeida production, but it was exciting.
I knew it was going to be very challenging. I was interested in the challenge of being able to dip in and out of five characters, and if we believed the scenarios they were in then hopefully the audience would too.
It was hard work doing it the first time round. It's ambitious. By the end of the show, you definitely feel like you've practised and stretched your acting muscles - like an athlete! If I'm not on stage I'm changing costume or moving set pieces. It's full on.
Please tell us about these characters you're playing.
I play a bus driver in a diner scene caught up in a mystery; a psychiatrist; a physicist; an airman; and a person who's just part of the community in a bunker scene when the world is ending.
One of my characters is a bit of a stretch: the psychiatrist. He's much older, but I really enjoy playing the characters that are furthest away from myself.
I like the challenge of coming offstage, then immediately going back on using a different accent and carrying myself in a different way.
The physicist is also fun to play. In the episode, a child is trapped in a void. I love using my imagination, creating something with my mind and getting the audience to go with me. I love that control and suspension of belief.
I bookend all the scenes. It's pretty busy. Two of my characters return several times in the same scene! It's very full on.
How has the TV show been adapted for an evening at the theatre?
Without giving too much away, there are nine episodes with a tenth overarching plotline of 'What is reality?'. A lot of them are human situations.
There's a bit of conspiracy and sci-fi, but as we all know, as time goes on, a lot of the made-up science in these stories looks a lot like current thinking - e.g. the void scene is quite similar to what is currently known about quantum physics.
I think Black Mirror is inspired by The Twilight Zone. It's all about what would you do in this situation, in a particular society, and what would you do if these peculiar things happened. My job is to believe in the situation. I try and believe these realities are happening - whether it's alien conspiracies, which a large part of society do believe in.
In all of the episodes, you can look at times past and present and find anomalies and unanswered questions. There's always something to grasp. The plots are not as 'far-fetched' as you might expect.
How were rehearsals?
It's been crazy. Last time, at the Almeida, we had five and a half weeks of rehearsal. This time we had four weeks, plus all the other things that come with a West End transfer.
It's been pretty intense. I was performing in Nine Night throughout our rehearsal process, so I was rehearsing The Twilight Zone during the day, then running over to Trafalgar Studios to do the show in the evening. It was four weeks of 12-hour days, then we went straight into tech for this.
It's been rather full on for me, but I suppose we had the blueprint for Twilight, so this time it was more a case of refining and tweaking. Hopefully, it's an even better and tighter show than before.
Did you previously watch the TV show?
I was aware of it, but not a diehard fan. I remember watching a couple of episodes in drama school because it was so influential in film/media and culture.
We wanted to be careful about how we honoured the episodes. For me, as an actor, I didn't want to copy or imitate what was done before, so it was important to come to the show with fresh eyes and allow our director to give us the blueprint for the scenes.
Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
To be honest, I'm looking forward to a little break after this show! I've been booked up with Nine Night and The Twilight Zone back to back for the past year and this production may run for a while as well, hopefully!
I'm grateful to be so busy, looking forward to a break and creating some stuff. I have my own little film company that I work on in my free time. We shall see what the future holds.
Why should people come to The Twilight Zone?
From an actor's point of view, and the audience's response, it feels more like an event, not your stereotypical show. Everything is thrown at you in multiple episodes. I wouldn't say it's particularly showy with jazz hands and all that - it just feels like a theatrical event with an eclectic mix of entertainment.
No matter what, by the end of the show, we've tried our best to entertain you. If we can scare you and make you think about yourself and society while also making you laugh, we've done our job.
Photo credit: Matt Crockett, Johan Persson