Could you introduce yourself and the play?
I’m Joseph Potter, I’m 23 and I’m an actor. I’m also a fairly recent graduate of Guildhall and I’m currently appearing in Philip Ridley’s ‘The Poltergeist’.
That’s the awkward part out of the way... now I can talk about the play! So rough plot line (without spoilers) – the play is about Sasha, a young artist who is invited round his brothers house for his nieces birthday party. It’s one of those classic family parties where you are bombarded with questions, and Sasha is interrogated by various party goers about his past life as a rising star of the art world. Trauma and memories are unearthed ... and I can’t tell you anymore!
What was the biggest challenge you faced in performing this character?
In fact the biggest challenge in performing the character was actually the basic requirement of being able to meet the demands of the text! Philip’s text is essentially like an act of verbal acrobatics – the pace and pyrotechnics of the writing meant that I had to put in hours and hours of learning and getting the text into my body whereby it was completely second nature. This sounds stupidly basic, I know, but this is by far the most demanding text I’ve ever had to perform; every line is crucial, the rhythm is essentially the heartbeat of the piece and if I were to fall off at any point the entire play would be on the floor. Once I had the rhythm and the muscularity of the text in my body I found the character came through as the text was so packed with gorgeous details – as Phillips writing always is.
In what way do you think you are similar to Sasha and in what ways do you feel different?
I always weirdly find this a hard question to answer – I think we are probably really similar, scarily. I never really consciously distance myself from whoever I’m playing, they will always be an extension of me, because I am me. If that makes sense? Luckily me and Sasha do not share the same experience in terms of the trauma he has encountered but I can relate to so much of his feelings throughout the play – that push and pull of love and angst and not knowing quite how to explain what you are feeling. I think that’s something we can all relate to right now.
How was the rehearsal and performance affected by Covid-19 regulations?
Covid-19 well and truly defined this production in some ways haha! We were originally meant to do the show for live audiences in October but then went into a second lockdown and decided to re-jig the performance for camera. I can’t lie, I was frightened and apprehensive at first as I had such an urge to do the production in front of an audience but a conversation with the creative team was inspirational, they refused to let the virus stop what we were doing and now here we are. So Thankyou guys!
What was different about performing this show for camera rather than live audiences?
Despite it being for camera and thus having no audience in the room with me every night when I’m performing, this is still very much a piece of theatre. Philip and Wiebke were very conscious of that and so my level and energy was still as though I were on a stage with the audience in front of me.
The camera was useful in many ways as it made me have a clear point of focus within each section of the play, so I felt that the energy of the play despite it being explosive, always had an anchor.
Also, bowing to an empty room and a camera... that was weird!
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps? Was there something you wish you’d been told when you were starting out?
I’m still right at the beginning, I’m not sure what advice I would give me to myself let alone others! But I think, be gentle with yourself, this is a turbulent time and it’s really easy to feel like you are screaming into the void. So still have your aims and your dreams but don’t sacrifice your own happiness, this job does not and will never define you.
In terms of the theatre industry, what are you most excited to see or do post-pandemic?
I can’t wait to go to the theatre again, I’m so excited to sit in a room with people and share something.
Can you see any positive changes in the industry that might come from the pandemic?
I think what ‘The Poltergeist’ has done in going online and what other theatres have done similarly has hopefully diversified and opened up theatre to more people. People have been reliant on the arts in this crisis: Netflix, Amazon prime etc etc and so many of these artists started their foundation in theatre, hopefully more people are recognising how essential it theatre is and so more people, when it opens, will come.
Where can people find you online?