Chris Walley talks about making the leap from drama school to the West End starring in THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE

Having just graduated from RADA, how did you make the leap from drama school to West End?
I heard that a production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore was going to be happening and I was very keen to get into the room for an audition, I rang my agent and they had literally just got off the phone sorting out an audition. I had three rounds of auditions and then I was told I got the part. I’ve always been a huge fan of Martin’s and Michael’s work so to be in one of Martin’s plays with Michael directing was a really exciting prospect!

You have said in previous interviews that from the age of around 8, you knew you wanted to be an actor. What was it that sparked the ambition inside you?
I think it comes down to just loving to entertain people. I was constantly trying to make people laugh or do impersonations, pull faces etc and then it began to be something more. I’ve always found a real joy in performance, be it comedy or drama.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying for drama school?
Throw yourself into it as much as you can. I think the worst thing a person can do is give someone advice for drama school auditions. It’s the cliched answer but they really want to see you for you. If someone tells you what to do in the audition they won’t see you they’ll see you trying to be something else. Do the work on your monologues and enjoy it!

How relevant is the politics of the play compared with those of today?
I think the play is very relevant for many reasons. We live in a world at the moment where, unfortunately, terrorism is a very real issue. This play presents just that but in a very humorous way, which in my opinion makes it all the more unnerving. Having said that, it is a very entertaining play and while I believe it is important for a play to be relevant sometimes it is nice to not question a plays relevancy but just to sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s relevancy will chime with different people in different ways, let it do what it will on you.

Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman also touches on similar issues. How important is theatre in addressing issues and engaging in contemporary topics?
Again I think it is very important. What’s so effective about plays like The Ferryman or The Lieutenant Of Inishmore is that they focus on particular people and a particular place. In The Ferryman a family home during the harvest and in Lieutenant a small cottage in Inishmore, as a result the audience get to see how the issues of terrorism effects homes and individuals in those homes. It gives you a personal perspective. You feel apart of their journey and that is very powerful.

McDonagh has another play opening in London this year and is fresh from his success at the BAFTAs and the Oscars. I also read that it was a speech from The Pillowman that landed you your place at RADA. What is it about his writing that engages both actors and audiences?
He is a very special writer and director. There’s not another voice out there like his, except perhaps his brother John. It balances humour and drama so effortlessly well. That’s why I was always drawn to his work, I’d be splitting my side laughing and then all of a sudden I’d have a lump in my throat trying to hold back tears. Life is not black and white and Martin’s work reflects that.

You had great success with The Young Offenders, both on film and television. Which medium are you happiest in, film, TV or the stage?
I love them all. It’s very hard to pick one. Wherever there’s work that I find interesting and challenging that’s where I’ll be happiest. Whether that’s on TV, film or on stage, I don’t mind.

Thanks for having Tea With Wilma

The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs through to the 8th of September 2018

Interview by Harrison Fuller


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