Five questions with Jane Horrocks of 'Nachtland'

The stage and screen star returns in Nachtland, the brilliant satire at the Young Vic, which follows two siblings who discover a Hitler painting in their attic.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

Best known for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Absolutely Fabulous, Jane Horrocks has enjoyed an incredible stage and screen career. Now she is back on the London stage in the UK premiere of Marius von Mayenburg's thought-provoking play, which asks questions about history, legacy, evil, and the rise of the new Right in Europe.

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What is Nachtland about?

Nachtland is about lots of different things – it’s about greed, it’s about grief, it’s about moral conscience. I play Evamaria, who is a Hitler art expert, and she comes in to verify a Hitler painting that two siblings have found in their father’s attic, following his death.

What were your first thoughts when you read the script for Nachtland?

I thought it was very unusual; it’s certainly not your run of the mill play. Structurally it’s very interesting, there’s lots of twists and turns and I really responded to that. It’s a bit Brechtian in breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience. I liked the Germanic style of it too, it’s quite brutal. Patrick Marber’s an absolutely delightful director too. In rehearsals he allows actors to make their own versions of the characters and supports their choices in what they come up with, and that’s very liberating.

How does it feel to be staging this play in the current climate, given the rise in anti-Semitism?

It feels very potent. It premiered in Germany in 2022 but it seems so much more recent, almost as though it was written this year, because it’s so relevant right now.

What do you hope audiences take away from Nachtland?

It’s a great play for conversation. What I’ve experienced so far is that it’s food for thought and people have been digesting it for days afterwards as topically there’s so much in it. It’s been interesting because I’m not playing a particularly likeable character, that’s a challenge in itself as people don’t quite know what to say to you afterwards.

There’s the saying that actors always want to be loved, and often resist playing unlikeable characters, and Evamaria’s not even a loveable rogue, she’s despicable really. She still has great admiration for Hitler and what she believes he created for Germany. There are often gasps in the audience with what she comes out with. Even some of my closest friends haven’t known what to say afterwards in case it might come across as saying something positive about the character.

You’ve had an incredible career on stage and screen so far. Do you prefer performing on stage or screen, and why?

It varies really, I enjoy doing screen work and sometimes I crave to do stage. I’d not done stage work for four years since before lockdown and I really wanted to get back. They’re both very different so I wouldn’t say I have a preference for either.

Book Nachtland tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Jane Horrocks in Nachtland. (Photo courtesy of production)

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