A Play in the Life of… Michael Sheen.

Who would play you and why?

Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis would play it in rotation as I already spend a fair amount of time being asked if I’m one or other of them and this would nicely add to the confusion. 

Who would direct and why?

I’ve tried to get Stephen Frears to direct a theatre piece a few times as I’ve had such a brilliant time working with him on film and TV. He changed my life in so many ways and he’s a fascinating, brilliant and inspiring person to know and be directed by. So maybe this is the one. He’s also the director I’m still working with who’s known me the longest so I’m sure he’d be able to bring some warts and all insight to it. 

Who would be / play your main co-star? (In whatever role you feel significant e.g. family member, love interest, friend etc)

Of course the advantage of having mostly actors as friends and family members is they can all play themselves! However, I would take advantage of having the second best actor in ‘Staged’ as a friend and have David Tennant play everyone in a Peter Sellers/Alec Guinness type feat of versatility. I look forward to his interpretation of my Mum. 

Which theatre would you choose to have your run in and why?

The Donmar is probably my favourite stage to act on as it offers a mixture of the electricity of live theatre and the intimacy of being able to perform almost like you can for a camera. The National is also a great place to work when you’re in a play in rep with others as you get lots of nice breaks through the run which can keep things fresh, and it’s really great to have lots of different companies all together in the same building. However, having turned my entire hometown of Port Talbot into a ‘theatre’ space for the one off 72 hour long performance of ‘The Passion’ 10 years ago, I think I’d choose there. 

Describe a funny scene (based on a funny moment from your life)

I would mix together my favourite theatre anecdote with something that once happened to me a long time ago on a tour with my youth theatre. Performing in a new theatre every couple of days it was easy to get confused backstage whilst we toured with ‘Oh What A Lovely War’. On the first night in Aberystwyth, I was crossing sides backstage for one of the numerous character/costume changes in the production and found myself totally lost whilst looking for the stage right wings to make my next entrance. I’d open a door hoping it would lead to where I needed to be only to find a broom cupboard or a door to the car park! All whilst hearing my cue getting closer and closer on the tannoy system echoing through the corridors. Finally, it came and went with me desperately running around like I was in some Kafka-esque nightmare! 

At this point, I would turn the scene into my favourite theatre story which is about the actress Beryl Reid visiting a friend at the National Theatre and as she left to get her bus, bags of shopping in hand, she got lost backstage among the labyrinthine corridors and ended up on stage in a crowd scene for a production of ‘Julius Caesar.’ Consummate professional, she put her shopping down, listened attentively to Brutus’s speech to the Roman people, nodded and cheered when necessary and when everyone left the scene, picked up her shopping, left the theatre and got her bus! 

Describe a challenging scene (based on a moment that has challenged you in your life)

One of the most challenging was finding out that all the money I thought was going to pay for the Homeless World Cup that I brought to Cardiff a few years ago actually didn’t exist. Long story! It’s a classic musical story structure though. The show must go on! Plucky gang of friends have to pull out all the stops to achieve the impossible against all the odds and a loudly ticking clock. But this time – with songs!!!

Tell me about a character in a play you can relate to and why?

I suppose the character I’ve just finished being in the production of ‘Under Milk Wood’ I’ve been performing at the Olivier Theatre. As I get older I can relate more and more to his experiences around memory and loss, and family, and his growing appreciation of place and community and am understanding that, as the Reverend Eli Jenkins sings in the production, we are “all poor creatures born to die” and that in the acceptance of that truth there is a call to fully embrace the moment and all the wonder and struggle and magic and sadness and joy and beauty contained within it. 

Best thing about theatre in one word. 

Connection. 

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