An Actor’s Life
Simon Coates talks about his career so far and his approach in portraying Regeneration’s Dr Yealland.
You play 2 very different characters in Regeneration. How difficult is it to play a character so callous like Dr. Yealland?
To be honest, I don’t see him as a callous person. He is doing his job to the best of his ability. His methods are upsetting to us now, and were then to some at the time, but his brief is to get soldiers back to the front as quickly as possible. He was a real life person and I was very keen not to portray him as some kind of sadist.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from working on Regeneration?
We’ve all done a lot of research on WW1 for this play and it was all fascinating. The exhibition at the Imperial War Museum is excellent and gives you a real picture of the scale of the effort involved in a nation going to war.
You’ve had an extensive career so far, what’s been your highlight?
That’s a difficult question. I’ve been fortunate to have been in quite a few productions which have traveled around the world, and to have seen places that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise seen. It’s exciting to take plays, especially Shakespeare, into other countries – you suddenly get an idea of how respected British theatre is around the world.
How did you learn your craft?
You never stop learning, really. There’s a limit to what you can teach someone in a classroom – at some point you’ve got to stand up and do it. So the best way to learn is by performing nightly, and if you do it for long enough you can’t help but learn. I was lucky enough early on in my career to do whole ‘seasons’ of plays, sometimes 4,5,6 plays in a row, with only 3 weeks rehearsal for each one. Doing that forces you to learn.
What’s the best bit about being on tour?
Seeing different parts of the country – and, sometimes, the world.
…and the worst?
Being away from home and living out of a suitcase.
In a parallel universe, what would you be doing if you weren’t an actor?
I would quite like to have been a barrister. There are similarities between the jobs, I think, in that there’s a strong element of persuasion required in order to be believed, and that your argument is more important (and more right) than anyone else’s. In Roman times the actors used to go to the law courts to listen to the lawyers’ oration because they were so skillful.
If you had to sell Regeneration to us in one sentence, what would it be?
A moving, gently-told, story of shattered men struggling to make sense of the world.
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Until Saturday 29 November
For more information on Regeneration, check out our show page