Interview with Ripper Street's Adam Rothenberg on Fool For Love at Found111

'Ripper Street' star Adam Rothenberg is set to make his London stage debut in Sam Shepard's Fool For Love at Found111 in central London later this month. Described as being "passionate and explosive" the play is set in a run-down motel room where Eddie and May spit truth and lies at each other as they fight for a love that they can’t live with, or without.

Rothenberg will be reunited with his 'Ripper Street' co-star Lydia Wilson in a production directed by Simon Evans. Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard is one of America's foremost and highly regarded dramatist whose work is continually revived throughout the USA and on Broadway. Fool for Love earned him his 11th OBIE award for Best Play and his first for Best Direction.

We spoke to Adam Rothenberg mid-rehearsal for the new production which officially opens on 31 October 2016, following previews from 26 October and running to 17 December 2016 at Found111, a pop up theatre venue in central London.

Dom O'Hanlon: What excites you most about performing in London?

Adam Rothenberg: Honestly from when I started performing, London, at least for New York guys like me, is really the gold standard. We hold things here in very high regard, when I first got into acting all of my idols were Brits – my first love of acting came from Albert Finney and Richard Burton, so to be able to come here even though I'm not performing on the same stages as they did, to marinate in that kind of history is a dream come true.

DOH: Sam Shepard is one of America's foremost dramatists – what is it about his work that continues to appeal?

AR: I don't all of these people, he finds a way, iconic mythical ways to take emotions that we all share and he has a way of making them real. I'm not the most dramaturgically verbal guy so I don't know why, but the stuff when you read it off the page is absolutely thrilling. The sheer energy of it and the sheer heart of it, even though he writes these iconic 'men's men' characters, you get to tap into that but you also get to tap into a certain innocence and rawness of emotion and heart that is always satisfying.

DOH: What's proving to be the biggest challenge rehearsing Fool For Love?

AR: So far we've been doing a lot of table work – personally the biggest obstacle for me is to not get in my head about that fact that it's Sam Shepard and that it has been done by some of the most courageous actors that we have. So I'm staying calm, focused and trying to do it as myself, not get precious about it.

DOH: Can you tell me a little more about your character and how you're connecting to him?

AR: I play Eddie who is a rodeo stuntman who is getting on a little in years for that kind of work. When the play opens we see him in a hotel room in the Mojave Desert where he's trying to get back with his ex lover who he wasn't a great guy too and it sort of goes from there. I would love to be the kind of actor who throws himself into the world, but I'm in London and there aren't a lot of cowboys around. I'm doing what I can – I really trust and am highly impressed by the calibre of talent in the rehearsal room, so I'm in good hands.

Adam Rothenberg in Ripper Street

DOH: What's it like being reunited with Lydia Wilson?

AR: Heaven, absolute heaven. I was so happy when she got involved – that was the only bit of reticence I had when this came down the pipe for me, who the girl would be. If it was someone you didn't get along with or have a good chemistry with it would be the longest two months of my life. But I fell in love with her professionally on 'Ripper Street' and I couldn't have a better cast mate.

DOH: Is it comforting working on something difficult with someone you know well?

AR: Yes, because me and her have each other's best interests at heart – from there you can start to be really ugly on stage to each other. Only in acting do you get rewarded for behaving reprehensibly and it's good to have somebody that you have a bond and trust with.

DOH: What additional demands does the environment of Found111 present?

AR: I don't think it really places any demands, if anything it helps the show. The space is about as big as a motel room, so I think it's perfect. Everything about the space is a real asset to what the play asks of us. I hope it's going to come off as a new play, very fresh and energetic because the whole experience is right in line with the spirit of what Shepard would have written for this play – I think.

DOH: You have built a huge career on TV whilst also working onstage in New York. How important is it to you to be able to juggle both of those mediums?

AR: None of my life has been that choreographed, but I think it's really important. On television at least, not to be cynical, you make a living. You also have to know your place and trust in the editor and what the director is going to do. In theatre you always have to take responsibility for yourself, but you become a lot more responsible for the audience's experience of it. That's an empowering and terrifying thing for an actor to do and only good things come of it.

DOH: What does the play say to audiences in London in 2016?

AR: I think that everyone wants an experience and everyone wants to feel like they've shown up for something that people talk about. Hopefully this is the right play, and the right space, that gives people a shot at that.

Fool For Love begins performance on 26 October 2016.

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