“It’s pinch-myself territory,” says Damien Molony as we talk about his West End debut.
The former Being Human and Ripper Street star is one of a quartet of actors starring in a revival of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. The others? Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Owen Teale.
What’s more, the production is being staged at the Wyndham’s Theatre, where the play was first performed in 1975. It’s also where Molony saw his first-ever production in London: Twelfth Night, starring Derek Jacobi.
There wasn’t a moment’s doubt in Molony’s mind, he says, when he was asked if he wanted to play Foster in Pinter’s tale of two ageing writers and the power struggle that occurs after a night of drinking. “I’ve watched Owen, Ian and Patrick in stuff all my life. The thought of working with them was thrilling. It also made me nervous.”
That’s no surprise. McKellen and Stewart are two of theatre’s greatest stage performers. They also have millions of fans from their roles in Lord Of The Rings, Star Trek and X-Men. Teale is no stage slouch either, winning regular acclaim for his theatrical outings. And he too ticks the cult-fan box, having starred in TV fantasy giant Game Of Thrones.
While Molony is the youngest and least experienced of the cast, his pedigree is without doubt. Strong performances in National Theatre productions of Travelling Light and The Hard Problem have marked him out as one of the hottest prospects in the stage world. The producers of No Man’s Land clearly agree.
“It probably makes Pinter more accessible to a new audience,” he says as we discuss the fact that each cast member has his own cult-movie/TV connection (Molony brings Ripper Street and Being Human to the table). Midweek matinees, he says, definitely have a younger average age than you would normally expect.
But what are these new audiences getting from Pinter’s play about four men jostling for position? “Everyone wants to stay in the house,” he says of the tension-packed plot, making No Man’s Land sound a little like Big Brother, “but there isn’t room for everyone. Every night in the performance you have to fight and earn your place.
“There’s so much in this play. There’s deep sadness and huge belly laughs, real intrigue and mystery, menace and joy. They are four people who are disconnected from each other but who are in desperate need of connection. And any opportunity to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bring their two complex characters to life is not to be missed.”
Molony talks from experience. But 30 years from now who’s to say the current audience of No Man’s Land won’t be talking about the first time they saw Damien Molony on stage in London?
Damien Molony – A London theatre history:
National Theatre (Travelling Light, 2012 & The Hard Problem, 2015): “The National is an actor’s dream place to work. There is such a strong sense of community among every single staff member. Every resource is used in order to benefit every single production. You work with so many extremely talented, inspiring people and I adore working there.”
Royal Court (If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, 2013): “It’s so wonderful walking out of Sloane Square tube station, turning right and walking straight into this place. The writer is king or queen there. There’s a wonderful sense of company too. I’d love to work there again.”
Gate Theatre (The Body Of An American, 2014): “What I love about the Gate is that it’s like a Notting Hill secret. So many people are running around Notting Hill doing bits and bobs; upstairs above a pub is this beautifully intimate space and most people don’t know that it’s there. So much fantastic work happens there.”