What's the best Shakespeare performance you've seen?
Probably director Robert Icke’s "Hamlet" at the Almeida (in 2017). It was like watching a brand new play, and Andrew Scott was outstanding in the title role.
Did you have any experience with Timon of Athens before this project?
Not a sausage.
What do you take away from the story of Timon of Athens?
The idea that strikes me most strongly at the moment is that the story is an exploration of love in many of its manifestations: Timon’s misplaced love for his false friends; their self-serving pretence of love towards him; Alicibiades’s love for Socrates; Flavius’s devoted loyalty to his master and so on. And Timon’s misanthropy seems very much like an emotional response to his discovery of the truth rather than a coolly rational position.
The role of ritual is key in this film, how do you feel your character is part of/or away from such ceremonies?
As Timon’s steward, Flavius is central to many of the film’s elements of ritual. He is responsible, for example, for making sure that the very prescribed form of the banquet is observed.
How do you feel about your role? Do you like your character? Was it easy to relate to your character’s motives and intentions?
Flavius is the embodiment of love, duty, loyalty. He’s the nicest person in the play by a mile. That’s a bit of a struggle, because he’s far nicer than me, so I have to keep reactions like frustration, hostility and anger in check even in provocative situations.
What previous role have you done, that you feel helps inform you on the motivations or character of Flavius?
There are plenty of fictional butlers, but I have never played one of them! I did play Daniel Peggotty a few years ago, though, in an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ "David Copperfield". He’s a loving, loyal, generous man, so like Flavius in some ways, although there’s a fierceness to him that Flavius doesn’t have.
You’ve previously played Oberon/Theseus in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, is it frustrating going from such a powerful Shakespeare character to someone who has no control over the situations unfolding?
Well, power and control are seductive ideas, but perhaps they are more fantasy than reality. How much control does anyone really have? Oberon’s attempts at controlling events backfire completely!
You spent a lot of your life working as a lawyer, and in ancient Greek theatre (which Shakespeare draws from for this play) they use “agons” (contest or debates between two characters) to frame it.
There are some wonderful structured debates in this play; was it frustrating Flavius didn’t get one. I bet you’d have rocked it.
It's kind of you to say so! I’m not frustrated, though: I don’t want my performances to end up becoming a busman’s holiday. Flavius is led by emotion (though not in a noisy way) whereas those debates are intellectual exercises.
Have you ever filmed abroad before? (if not, but have done stage abroad, tell me)
No, but I have done stage work abroad in the past. "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" toured to the Netherlands as well as various stately homes in England; and I was in a production of Murder at the Vicarage which toured to Florida, but that was a very long time ago!
What do you expect from a Director?
Ideas and openness to ideas. Clarity. Honesty.
Lastly, what will happen to your character AFTER? Do you feel there is hope for your character/for the world, by the end of the film?
That is a huge question! Timon’s story is a tragedy, and Flavius is a servant to the story as well as to Timon. In that sense, his purpose is served when the story ends and there is no ‘after’. But there is also some ambiguity to the end of Timon’s story. In that and in Flavius’s heartfelt love and loyalty, I do find some hope. Maximianno has given Flavius the privilege of a final scene which touches on this question, but I’m not going to tell you what it is!