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Interview: Lloyd Notice, actor

22 July 2016

‘As soon as you call yourself a Christian, the risks are there’

Lloyd Notice and his wife, Clarissa

Lloyd Notice and his wife, Clarissa

I try to learn. My approach to any part is similar in terms of the training I’ve had: I go for the truth of the situation, and try to look at the author’s intention, whether it’s a comedy or tragedy or romantic comedy, or whatever it is. I’m just trying to find the truth in that situation.


I’ve done a season with the RSC, television, lots of Radio 4 comedy. I’ve been in a few musicals, like The Lion King. Where the work is, that’s where you go.


I would love to have another go at playing Othello. It seems to be a role that has such topical issues for today.


I grew up as an only child in Nottingham, both parents doing factory work. I applied to two drama schools and got into both, but the Guildhall offered more classical training, and Shakespeare, which I loved. I would have done a second season with the RSC, but, unfortunately, it was decided to go with a group of white actors rather than a group of black actors in a Strindberg play; so I didn’t.


There’s much more cross-cultural casting now, and definitely other cultural things that enhance that way of casting. There’s a musical coming into London from New York called Hamilton, where there’s cross-cultural casting; so a white character has a black sister, and the energy of the hip-hop music is the bonding in the show. It’s the next big thing in London — tickets are selling for $800.


I was very challenged by Mel Gibson’s film The Passion. It was amazing, and a life-changing production for many people around the world.


Taken, my one-man show, is about a man who is incarcerated because of his Christian beliefs. It has been inspired by Terry Waite’s book Taken on Trust, about his time as a hostage. I have memorised the Gospel of Mark, as the character in the play has done this in order to keep his mind active and full of hope. It’s taken directly from the Bible, with a little voiceover I co-wrote with the producer, Gary Oaten. He’s a church administrator and multi-talented person. He’s had a lot of theatrical experience, and his own production company.


What I noticed in Taken on Trust is more the psychological testing in his resolve. How do you keep your mind? How do you keep your mind from being taken? It could lead you to madness. In the book, Terry reminisces, remembering better days, and there’s an occasion when he hears schoolchildren playing outside, and it makes his day, hearing those voices. That is something I’ve used in the play.


I didn’t talk to Terry Waite, but I saw him speaking in his church. He has great presence, which is partly to do with his height, how he carries himself, with great dignity. He knew it was going to happen, that he would be taken. It was like a second thought in his mind for a while, because his usual contacts seemed quite tense; they wouldn’t relax as normal.


I think as soon as you call yourself a Christian, then the risks are there. The world isn’t going to understand you; it’s going to ostracise you. I didn’t mean to over-dramatise that in my case, but there’s always that possibility. You estrange yourself from a lot of society, as Christ did.


Mark is one of my favourite Gospels, because of the excitement it brings to my mind. Every chapter brings a new story, and I learn so much about Jesus. It is a wonderful love story of the lengths God is willing to go for us. I was really taken by the fact that we kind of think we know what Jesus has said. Just take time off to read the whole book: you get a real flavour of what Jesus did.


The reaction from the audience has been so positive. Some have been surprised that there were places of great humour as well as drama. I love the fact that both Christians and those who are simply interested in the story come along and feel entertained at the end of it.


Often, an actor will say that their favourite role is the one they’re playing at the moment. The role of the prisoner in the show genuinely is my favourite.


In the performance, I am never quite sure what God is doing. There’s a scene about the lady who had been suffering from a blood disorder for 12 years, and I use this piece of material to represent the woman. Once, when I was performing at Lee Abbey, I did something I’d never done before: I put it over the shoulder of a woman in the audience. Afterwards, my wife told me that the woman had had a similar blood disorder, and had been healed of it, and took this as a special endorsement of her healing.


I think I prefer theatre [to television and film], to be honest. I just love the aliveness of it. I’m enjoying producing my own work: whatever medium you’re in, you have to do what the director says. It’s lovely to do my own work, and do something I’m genuinely passionate about. I wish I’d had that autonomy before.


The next project is to do Revelation, because I’ve got lots of ideas for projections and theatrical illusions, because it lends itself to theatrical values. But they’re on hold, because we’re in the middle of the move at the moment. What I’m trying to do with Revelation is not to give definite answers in terms of what the passages really mean, but to show how it gives great comfort: that God is in charge ultimately. No matter how turbulent world politics seems — even the debate about the EU — the theme of migration, change . . . these are very current themes, as well as people’s fears about life and death. There’s a sense of peace and Jesus in Revelation. David Pawson said it’s a book that people think irrelevant, or else they’re frightened of it. But, spiritually, I feel cleaned, purged by it, by the sense of God’s ultimate control.


One of my first moments of awareness of God’s existence was as a child. I remember watching a television broadcast of the astronauts’ landing, and at the same time looking at the moon through my window. I had a sense somehow in my young mind of something bigger than us.


I am married — with five wonderful children, and a beautiful wife who was ordained at the beginning of this month. It’s wonderful how God is using her. She’s perfect for the job. One of our children is about to go to Canada to study neurology and play basketball, and the youngest is 13.


We’re taking this change one day at a time. My wife has given me the freedom to get on with acting for a while because I’ve been supporting her for the last three years, really; so it’s my turn to go off and work. She’s a curate; so the next years here she’ll be very supported by the church and the Vicar.


We live in Bath; so our move to Frome is only half an hour away, Actually, a lot of West End people live a long way from London. They like that better environment for their children. I’m away for short periods, and when I was in The Lion King I was home Sunday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon, like many other actors.


Yes, being a Christian actor is difficult at times. There are certain things I won’t audition for, which hasn’t done me much good in career terms, and it’s difficult as a father, because your children are entrenched in a culture where drugs and sex are so exposed. You’re seen to be old-fashioned in your attitudes. All I can really do is try my best to pray. We do that as a couple, pray through things, pray for the children. It’s a difficult time for children to grow up in. Even the things they wear — the girls — I think it’s too revealing. But there’s a lot of pressure on young people.


My most reassuring sound is the laughter, and sometimes cheekiness, around the dinner table when we’re all together.


The Psalms bring great comfort to me. There are some great examples of King David being real with God.


Injustice and intolerance upset me.


I am happiest with my family and good friends around me. Bring on the barbecue.


My parents have been a great influence on my life. They were good parents who wanted me to have a better life than the one they experienced.


I continually pray for healing, and have seen some wonderful miracles.


If I was locked in a church, I would love to spend the time with my wife, as she’s been so busy studying for the last two years.


Lloyd Notice was talking to Terence Handley MacMath. To book a performance of Taken, contact Gary Oaten: gary@allsaintscentre.org.uk. To watch a trailer, visit www.allsaintsonline.org.uk/2016/05.

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