“I’m Pip Langore. This is my story”
Sam Thompson was 18 when he was cast to play Pip Langore in our touring production of Salt.
It was his first professional job as an actor. As part of a mentoring process which we offer to young performers and writers we encouraged Sam to reflect on his experiences as the tour unfolded.
Here some of his observations.
Each space will have had a wide range of challenges and implications for the show. How did the space itself affect your experience as an actor?
Definitely, we always talked about challenges we might face, particularly in some of the smaller and more rural venues. I think with this play, our use of space was incredibly important. Dawn really wanted to recreate this amazing marshland landscape everywhere we went. Actually, after arriving at a location, I think we would spend much more time adjusting to the space, than we would performing in it.
In terms of how the different spaces affected my experience, The Garage was one of the biggest spaces we played, with one of the biggest auditoriums. I remember telling myself to “just get through” our first couple of nights there. I think, at the start of the run, I liked venues that allowed some distance between us and the audience. It made me feel secure. However, towards the end, I preferred the really intimate shows. As a narrator, I got more enjoyment out of trying to look everyone in the eye and trying to share my story, rather than just performing, if that makes sense?
How did your perceptions of the show itself change as the tour progressed?
So, I think after about three shows, I had some problems with the structure of the play. I mean, the play follows loads of different characters across a forty year period and I struggled with all the different episodes. I worried it was a bit fragmented. I felt, overall, my delivery in act one, for example, was very ‘story time’. Act two was much more dramatic. It seemed to me as though we were in two separate plays.
To be honest, it was less of an issue as the tour progressed. I let myself enjoy the light hearted moments, it felt like the right thing to do. I think my performance developed as I became influenced by what was happening on stage. I think we all felt a real sense of freedom towards the end.
What I found interesting was that, from one day to the next, the audience determined the type of performance they received. Aylsham loved SALT’s drama. One performance there was intense. The atmosphere was incredible, and in fact, it helped me with some of the more serious moments.
How did it feel physically and emotionally doing this play over and over again in different settings?
Because we sat and watched the play every night, it was really just a case of allowing ourselves to be moved by what we were seeing on stage. Most of the emotion came from Robin’s writing and the narrative itself, so it was just being aware of that and being open. Playing everything for what it was worth.
As we did the play over and over, I noticed we were all starting to do things subconsciously. I think, had the run been longer, our performances might have moved into some really interesting territory.
At times, I think performing this play again and again was underwhelming and even quite frustrating. A bit hit and miss. Some nights, I’d feel as though I was living and breathing a certain scene or moment. I could feel it in my body. It was a rush. Then, the next night, in the same moment, I’d feel nothing. I remember we had some really interesting discussions about the distance between yourself and your character.
What happened to your understanding of the play, and your character, as the tour progressed?
When I first read the play, I read the final scene and thought my character had died at the end. But as we performed the play more and more, I started to really listen to what the other characters were saying to me in that final scene. Goose says, “You keep on going”. I think Bryn Pugh also says “… the lookout knows that midnight is passing”. I also remember, I re-read Jeremy’s novel, before we went to Westacre. On the last page, he described this image, a string of lights stretching across the marsh. That evening, at the end of the performance, I felt I really understood the play. The other characters were comforting Pip in the final scene. This, plus the image in my head, made me feel very optimistic. There was something interesting about having a revelation, as an actor, at the same time as your character.
Now that the tour has finished, what do you think you have learnt as an actor?
I think the main thing I’ve learnt, and will take forward, is the importance of both decision making and listening, when on stage. Throughout the rehearsal process, Tom was a great role model. He was strides ahead of me and had made lots of informed decisions before we started. He knew what he was saying and why he was saying it, and so he was able to really play around with things in the rehearsal room. Meanwhile, I was still getting to grips with my words. I’ve also realised just how important it is to work off of other people. In a long run, I think really listening and responding to what you are given is a great way of keeping your performance fresh and honest.
I want to thank fEAST Theatre. Opportunities like this are very hard to come by and I’m grateful for all their help. I wish them all the best in future.