AN INTERVIEW WITH THE STAR OF ‘NATION’
By Karla Williams
Friday, December 11, 2009.
Gary Carr is the talented young actor who only graduated from LAMDA in 2008. Since then he has performed at The Royal Court Theatre, Trafalgar Studios and The Arcola and is appearing on the National Theatre stage for a second time this year after being cast in the role of Cloanthus in Dido, Queen of Carthage, earlier in March 2009. He’s currently playing the lead role of Mau in Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of the Terry Pratchett novel Nation. It's a top notch display where you won't find any cheap acting, cheap costumes, or cheap sets. He recently sat down with Karla Williams to tell her all about it.
Firstly, what would you say Nation is really all about?
It’s slightly complicated, only because it’s different for different characters. So for Mau the play is about growing up, it’s about identification – knowing your history and knowing yourself. Not only have I come home and everyone has died but it’s like everything has been washed away....So it’s about identification, coming of age and knowing who you are and finding your place on earth.
Was it originally specified in the novel that a mixed race cast would play the natives, or was that down to the director, Merry Still?
In the novel the colour of their skin never comes up. What is clear is that the Europeans are pale and the people on the island are darker, i.e. this whole thing of ‘half baked’ and ‘fully baked’. So with the cast being mixed, I guess that was something from the director. But I think it works because we have so many different ethnicities in the cast; you have Chinese, Spanish and all these different races, so it works.
The play initially appears to be yet another account of the White Europeans civilising the black African savages. Is there more to it than that?
It does appear like it will be like that, especially when Daphne [the white English character] says ‘look, a Savage’ that but by the end of the second half it changes completely and it flips, so that isn’t what happens at all...once of the strong morals of the play is that underneath all the insignificant difference’s, we are all the same.
And had you been a fan of Terry Pratchett before getting involved in the production?
I had never read a Terry Pratchett novel before, apart from Nation obviously because I had to audition with it. I knew he was very successful and I knew his name but I had never read any of his books.
So what attracted you to the role of Mau?
Just his passion to survive because he is being challenged the whole time...He could have given up but he chooses not to. His courage, his confidence and his strength and the fact that he has to grow up and also he succeeded was very inspiring – I was rooting for him.
This is your second time working at the National Theatre. What’s it like to be back?
It great because I said the first time I was here ‘I don’t want to leave this building, I want to come back again soon’ and everyone in the building is so lovely, so nice and so supportive; there is definitely a family vibe here. So it’s great – I love it! I want to come back again, and again. (Laughs)
Finally, why should people come and see Nation?
Nation is a very beautiful, joyous production and I think for young people – adults can be a bit cynical – it’s very inspiring because they can definitely relate to characters like Daphne and Mau. This whole thing of when you’re young you feel invincible and can do anything and just the honesty in the piece – I’m very proud of this piece of work. It’s also extremely creative and visually it’s just ridiculous! Also the music’s great so that’s why they should come and see it – for all these reasons!
Nation is playing at the National Theatre until March 2010. For more information or to box tickets please see www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
Karla Williams is a London-based journalist and writer.