James McArdle Q & A
| By London Theatre Direct
Chariots of Fire brings alive the incredible true story of two British athletes whose honour, sacrifice and courage brought them glory and immortality on the greatest sporting stage of all.
Here is our exclusive interview with one of the stars of the show, James McArdle.
So the first question must be the challenge of staging Chariots of Fire in a theatre must be re-creating the iconic last scene from the movie. How does the stage adaptation make this work?
The film used slow motion to capture the excitement of the running. But we run. We really run. It's fast and dangerous and live. Anything could happen. That is why it works. Plus the story of Harold and Eric is a timeless one which should continue to be retold.
You've gone from playing fabled legend Robin Hood to real life legend, Harold Abrahams, what makes you decide on a project and drew you to this role?
If I can get through the script in one sitting that usually means I've connected to it. I also look for stuff that will challenge me and make me transform. I like people who know me and my work to think "he will never be able to do that". I like to think that too. I'm Scottish and the thought of playing an upper class Jewish, English Cambridge student opposite a scot was daunting and exciting. Same with Robin Hood. Same with a lot of the things ive done. I instantly connected with Harold. His drive. Sticking to who you are in the face of an etablishment that does not support you. Very appealing. He represents every underdog.
There is a lot of music in the play, including in addition to the Vangelis theme tune, there is also, we understand a hefty dose of Gilbert and Sullivan, to which of course Harold Abrahams had a lifetime association with?
I knew there would be a lot of singing which is another reason I wanted it because I can't sing! I thought I just need to learn. I still can't really sing. It's ok though, I've heard Harold couldn't really either. The g n s element to the show is a lot of fun and one of the key tools in transferring the movie to a theatrical event.
Have you met any of the family of Harold Abrahams and if so do you know what they think about this new production? Will they be in attendance?
I met Sue, Harold's daughter. She said she enjoyed the show. I really want Mark Ryan to see it. He wrote the book Running with Fire, a biography of Harolds life. It is one of the best books I have ever read. THAT should be a movie. Sue had a lot of input in that. It was really special meeting sue.
How difficult is to play a real life character that has already been depicted famously on screen, what are you trying to bring to the production that will be different for these characters?
I don't really think about that. If one was playing Hamlet one wouldn't look at previous actors and think how do I make mine different. You would read the play and see why you connect to it. I'm sticking to the useful facts I know of the real man rather than taking notice of someone else's vision. It is different enough due to the simple fact someone else is playing him.
Finally Being our Olympic year and so much coverage of the Games, why should everybody go see Chariots of Fire?
This will get you inside the heads of these athletes.