Isaac Stanmore is currently performing in The 39 Steps, a comedy based on John Buchan’s spy novel, at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme. He tells Giverny Masso how the production has been adapted for the round…
What was your first professional role in theatre?
In 2012 I graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and that year, the Bristol Old Vic reinstated the Patrons’ Prize. Two final-year graduates were taken on to their theatre company. So I graduated with a six-month contract at the Bristol Old Vic and did three shows. I did their opening show [Wild Oats], a devised show with Tom Morris [Does My Society Look Big in This?], then I did Peter Pan with Sally Cookson, which was the original production and I was John. That was an amazingly formative experience – you come out and you’re working for six months. Then meeting and working with Sally was important.
Where did you go from there?
Two years later [Sally Cookson and I] ended up doing Hetty Feather, which was crazy. It transferred to the West End, then it was nominated for an Olivier. That put me into the world of shows that are devised, often with a physical or circus element, and I’ve done a lot of those since.
Tell me about The 39 Steps…
It is an homage of the Hitchcock film, which is based on the book. Very briefly: Richard Hannay wakes up with a dead woman in his flat – the police are after him for murder but he has to go on the run in order to clear his name and solve the mystery of who killed her, and ‘The 39 Steps’, in order to clear his name.
How did you build your character?
I play Richard Hannay, so I’m the only person that stays the same character throughout the show. Rebecca Brewer, plays the three women roles, and Gareth Cassidy and Michael Hugo play everybody else – there are loads of characters. Hannay is a very stiff, British, out-of-touch, rich man, but underneath it all he discovers a burning heart and that there’s more to the world and more to himself in the process of [the story].
What was it like working on this production?
The New Vic production premiered in March last year, and besides its Christmas shows, it was the best-attended show it had ever had. We really had to be creative with how we made the show, because it’s so clearly written end-on. There are scenes that are so obviously in front of a cloth while a scene change happens behind, which we can’t do in the round. There are moments when we asked: ‘Where do we get these props from?’ We just decided we had to give them to audience members. So audience members often sit with a prop that we need during the next scene, because we just can’t do anything else with it. But that’s the brilliant thing about the round – the front row of the audience are sitting on the stage and everybody else can see each other, which is amazing.
Training: BA in acting at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (2009-12)
First professional role: Sim in Wild Oats at Bristol Old Vic Theatre (2012)
Agent: Grantham Hazeldine Ltd
The 39 Steps is running at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme until March 30: For more information visit: newvictheatre.org.uk/whats-on