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BWW Interviews: Con O'Neill of THE LADYKILLERS

Hello, Con! How is everything going? We hear everything at the Vaudeville is looking good...

It's been insane, to be honest, but it's well worth it. It's such a big show; when you're rehearsing you don't get the feel of it until you're in the space, with an audience in front of you. The set is epic - it's of almost biblical proportions, it's so impressive - and that really sets the tone, you think, "This is awesome," and you know your performances have to match the awesomeness of that. It informs the pitch of the piece quite distinctively.

I knew Gordy [John Gordon Sinclair] beforehand, and I knew Ralf [Ralf Little], and I knew Angela and Simon's work [Angela Thorne and Simon Day]. It's always worrying walking into a small cast with big characters, it's not one main part and a few supporting roles; the essence of the piece is the fight for victory, so without the right people you're in trouble.

John was talking to us about the balance between comedy and melancholy being much more exaggerated in the play than in the film. What's your take on that?

The film has become iconic. It's not really an Ealing comedy; it's undefinable, and I think that's what's given it its longevity. It's one of those films you can't put into a box. Graham's [Graham Linehan] made it a farce with a dark undertone. There are five men all of whom are capable of murder, and we don't run away from that. We honour the dark side of these men. But at the same time they all have something accessible - they have a weak point that's opened up enough for the audience to identify with them. It's all on the page. It was the script that brought me in - that, and I wanted to work with Sean Foley [the director].

Ah, that was something I was going to ask - this isn't the kind of role you're usually associated with.

No, that's probably right - but if you want to do a comedy, be directed by Sean, because he's the best in country. He demands that you trust him - not in a confrontational way, but you have to have faith in him - it's quite an interesting way to work, and it does work.

I did want to do something lighter than a serious dramatic role, and it's been interesting working with inherently funny people. I'm not - I have to work at it - so it's interesting watching them piece things together. It's a real learning curve with all these different types of artists working together. And watching Gordy...I really think he's giving the performance of his career. It's a joy watching him piece that character together. We all do work differently, which can cause problems, but everyone's open to new ideas. Basically, it's Happy Days.

Con O'Neill stars in The Ladykillers at the Vaudeville Theatre.

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From This Author Carrie Dunn

Carrie is the UK editor-in-chief for BroadwayWorld. After spending her formative years reading books and ending up with a Masters degree in English literature from (read more...)