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Richard Lakos

Interview with Actor Hamish Clark

9 December 2014 Jessica Johnston

“This woman suddenly stuck her head out of the window and said ‘Oh my god it’s Duncan from Monarch of the Glen! Oh my god I love that show, I could just bite you!’ and being in L.A she might well have done!”

Since opening off Broadway in 2005, Almost, Maine has been produced by over 2000 companies around the U.S and performed in dozens of countries. Now, in a brand new updated version directed by Simon Evans, it receives its first UK production. Amidst the chaos of rehearsals, London Calling managed to grab a cuppa with cast member and Monarch of the Glen star Hamish Clark, to talk life, love and kilts!

London Calling: So what’s Almost, Maine about?

Hamish Clark: The play is set in the fictional township of Almost, near Maine in the US. It is essentially a play about love and how people deal with the trials and tribulations that can come with this extraordinarily powerful emotion. The production unfolds in small distinctive scenes following different stories about couples and people falling in and out of love. On the one hand this play is very sweet, but hopefully never clawing, and yet on the other hand it can be quite stark and I think that’s quite a nice way to describe love - it’s a delicate balance between the two.

LC: How are rehearsals going? What’s it like to work with Simon Evans?

HC: It has been fantastic to work with Simon! I had never met him before this but he really is brilliant! He has clarity of vision, he is very professional and at the same time he is gentle and generous-spirited, so it makes the rehearsal process thoroughly enjoyable and I really look forward to going into work. Obviously, when you’re doing a play the audience sees the final performance but over the duration of the job, fifty percent of it is spent rehearsing. You read the script, take it apart and see what its made of, then put it back together in the way you understand it. Simon is a great guiding light when it comes to that process.

LC: Tell us about your characters East, Lendall and Phil...

HC: East is a repairman who lives on his own in a former farmhouse, just outside of the small township. He is a bit of a bachelor who has somewhat of an epiphany when he unexpectedly meets this woman. She is very different to him and yet something moves within him and there is a sort of dawning realisation for both of them that they have ended up together somehow. Phil is a married man with a wife and kids. As husband and wife, this couple are living a very comfortable life together, but the problem is it’s a little bit too comfortable and they seem to have slipped into a bit of a rut. Whilst Lendall finds himself bemused by the ramifications of loving a girl as he struggles to get his head around the inner workings of a woman’s mind.

LC: Was there anything specific that really drew you to the show?

HC: For me, it was the intelligent writing of the script - intelligent writing about something that interests me, which is not so much love itself but our relationship with love. I liked the play because it’s about hope, which in this case doesn’t always mean a happy ending necessarily. Within this script hope can live regardless of the circumstances or the outcomes, as opposed to the more mundane storylines where hope only exists with the promise of a happy ending or indeed, as with a lot of drama, there is in fact no hope at all because it’s all so gritty and bleak.

LC: Did you always want to pursue a career in acting?

HC: When I was a kid, I used to play in the garden and pretend to be all sorts of characters. If I was playing a cowboy, instead of running around shouting ‘bang bang you’re dead’ I would climb onto the shed roof because that was my horse, and sit there for a couple of hours while this story was all going on in my head. I was thinking about that the other day and I have kind of realised that being an actor was never really a conscious decision I made, it has always just been like that, I literally wanted to be a cowboy.

LC: I have to mention Monarch of the Glen! You played the role of Duncan McKay for seven series, that must have been such a great experience...

HC: It really was! It was great to be working up in the highlands and obviously as an actor it was great to be in a big Sunday night family drama.  It was such a warm and friendly show and we all the cast really got on; it was like one big family. We all stayed in a shooting lodge in the beginning and then we got our own houses and there was a kind of off camera story that went along with the on camera one, often involving wearing kilts as well!

It was really funny, I went to Los Angeles for a year in 2012 and in my first week there, I was crossing Sunset Boulevard on my way to the supermarket when a car came out and sort of u-turned, stopping beside me. This woman suddenly stuck her head out of the window and said “Oh my god it’s Duncan from Monarch of the Glen! Oh my god I love that show, I could just bite you!” and being in LA she might well have done! As I was standing under the Hollywood hills at that moment I was so proud of Monarch of the Glen.

LC: Any chance of a cast reunion and a new series?

HC: Ha can you imagine! I think we’re knocking on a bit, unless they did an updated version involving our characters and their grandchildren.

LC: What should audiences expect when they come and see Almost, Maine?

HC: They should expect a play that is a bit of a page-turner, something that is engaging, immediate and accessible. It’s not all happy endings, nor is it cynical or bitter, the play asks difficult questions but also points out how sweet things can be. So hopefully audiences will leave the theatre feeling encouraged and a little bit better about themselves.

Almost, Maine is on at the Park Theatre from 16th December – 17th January 2015. Tickets cost £12.50 - £18, available here.

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