Ben Llyod-Hughs, who starred in the British series Skins and films including Divergent and Me Before You, will be reprising his role alongside Claire Lams in Richard Bean’s Kiss Me, a romantic period drama. The play, set against the shifting world of London post-World War I, follows two people struggling to escape the guilt and ghosts of the past. Kiss Me will be transferring to Trafalgar Studios from Tuesday 6th June until Saturday 8th July 2017. Theatre Bubble had the pleasure to speak (virtually) with him about this reprisal, his work across the mediums, and the ‘intrigue’ he promises.
- This is the second time you’ve performed in Kiss Me. What drew you to the role in the first place? What is drawing you back for this summer’s reprisal?
I loved the script. And I loved the mystery of my character, Dennis. The complexity to him. As soon as he arrives there seems to be this weight of history to him. I loved exploring what could be hidden in his past. As soon as the opportunity to do it again came along I knew I wanted to do it. It’s such a great piece. Claire (Lams) and I had such a brilliant time doing it at the Hampstead Downstairs. She is great to work with and so is Anna Ledwich, the director. To do a two-hander is a fantastic opportunity for any actor and it doesn’t come around very often. Essentially, I want as many people as possible to see it and bringing it to the Trafalgar enables that!
- Though the show is a period piece, how have you found it resonant with the chaos and uncertainty of today’s culture and political climate?
That’s an interesting question. And one I hadn’t really thought about in concrete terms. The play certainly asks up interesting questions about sex and sex addiction, which is a topic still under-discussed today. It also asks a lot of questions about feminism and women’s rights, which is very relevant. The world of the play is a world pre-IVF, so what did women do then if they wanted babies? How different do we see the role of a single mother today? Are there still preconceptions? And then politically this is set in London between the wars. The First World War casts a heavy shadow over both characters and you see the emotional and mental effects of these two people left behind. In terms of how does that reflect today’s world? Well looking at the news it’s hard to know whether it’s about to be World War III soon. Our play shows a slither of the devastating impact of war.
- Similarly, against such backdrops, do you see a connection between the play’s emotional centre and today’s private relationships?
Depends what you mean by private. I think privacy nowadays is a rarity in many ways. It’s obviously still possible for people to have private lives but the sense of privacy is completely different now than it was in 1929. This was an era when everything was kept behind closed doors. Nowadays, apart from stating the obvious about social media, a lot of (but not all) taboos are gone from our society – so we’re less likely to need to be so private about things.
The stigma for instance of having a child out of wedlock is just completely different nowadays and is a context that’s probably quite hard for a lot of my generation to fully understand.
- You’ve worked extensively across theatre, TV, and film. What differences do you find in storytelling across these mediums? Additionally, do you feel that Kiss Me is uniquely suited for stage, and if so how?
The difference is the live connection with the audience. I found doing such an intimate piece in a similarly intimate theatre space meant that really the audience is the third person in the room. It’s not to say we’re engaging with them panto style, but we’re in a type of conversation with them. You’re also very aware as an actor that you give back the focus that you are given. In terms of the story, I don’t think it is uniquely suited for stage. It’s a hugely intriguing concept: a man goes around London in 1929 impregnating war widows. That’s an elevator pitch in itself! I think the story certainly could live on in other ways. I know Richard Bean has also thought it. But, say that, there will be nothing as intimate and visceral as this version!
- Is there one thing that you want the audience to take away from Kiss Me, and if so, what is it?
I think that’s up to them. I think it’s dangerous when people talk about there being ‘a moral to a piece’. The danger is you as an actor play up to that. But I can promise a night of intrigue….
Shit that makes it sound like I’m inviting people to a murder mystery dinner….I’m not…….Or am I?