Simon Lipkin on learning the ‘Brian & Roger’ play in eight days
Typically, performers spend weeks in rehearsals, developing scenes and memorising their lines. But what happens when that time frame is drastically reduced? Simon Lipkin found himself with limited time for preparing for his latest show, called in to play Brian in the world premiere of Brian & Roger - A Highly Offensive Play just eight days before the first preview.
"I had a friend meet me every night and we would work in the theatre until late," Lipkin told London Theatre. Learning 700 lines in just over a week is no mean feat, but "literally fear and a lack of any other options" has carried Lipkin through.
In our Brian & Roger review, "Lipkin keeps the show moving, driving the conversations from 0-100 in seconds." Now, with his head not stuck in a script, we asked Lipkin about the short rehearsal process, working with the original Brian (Harry Peacock) and adapting podcasts for the stage.
When did you learn you were joining 'Brian & Roger - A Highly Offensive Play', and what were your first thoughts about taking on the role with such little time to prepare?
I got a call from director David Babani on a Saturday, but I was still filming a TV show so I couldn't start until the Wednesday after. So I had 8 days to learn and prepare for the show. But that included tech, so really I learnt the script in three/four days and then just prayed that I remembered it. It was horrible for the team that they were in this situation, so I just wanted to make it less stressful for them and try to make them proud.
Had you listened to the 'Brian & Roger' podcast before joining the 'Brian & Roger' cast?
I had!! A mutual acquaintance Preston Nyman had told me about it a while back as he was a massive fan. Not knowing him well, I didn't know whether to trust him or not. But it turns out he has good taste.
You've had to learn over 700 lines in just over a week. Was it a challenging task?
Yes.....hahahaha. My head still hurts.
What tricks do you have to learn that many lines in a short space of time?
It was literally fear and a lack of any other options! I had a friend meet me every night and we would work in the theatre until late just going over and over it. I personally learn much quicker when I'm on my feet and saying it all out loud. So, he was a godsend. Thanks Lloyd!
How did it feel to join the show midway through the rehearsal process?
It's very intimidating. You never want to join something because someone isn't well enough to perform. It's not a fun thing. But, speaking to Dan (Skinner), Harry (Peacock) and David, they'd worked so hard on making this brilliant fun play that they wanted to see it through. All of them were so supportive and kind and made me feel welcome. And if anyone comes to see it and thinks I'm even remotely good, it's only because I'm piggy backing their brilliance!
Harry Peacock has had to step away from the production for medical reasons. Were there any opportunities to work with Harry Peacock on 'Brian & Roger' creatively?
We've chatted about the show, and he's been so kind and helpful. He's given me little tips and tricks and insights into his brilliant character. Obviously, he hasn't been around. But he was there to watch it and that was awesome having him in the room, mainly so that he gets to see the play he wrote.
This is the first show to play The Mixing Room, the smaller space at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It must be exciting to present new work in a new, intimate venue?
It's so great! I love the Menier Chocolate Factory. I did Assassins there a few years back and fell in love with it. Playing smaller spaces is so special, it's a completely different vibe. Especially for comedy! You can be so close to it all. And I'm not giving anything away, but there are some fun things we get to do because of how close we all are!
Has the 'Brian & Roger' story changed much from the podcasts to the stage? Are there any notable differences or similarities?
Well, the inherent structure is the same. We still communicate through voicemails to each other, and the humour is definitely the same. But obviously on stage it has to be slightly bigger and more epic. So, we travel across the world with the help of some brilliant set and video design. The podcast can be so small and intimate. The fun was trying to keep that whilst making it play to an entire theatre.
Podcasts have become popular in recent years, especially in the pandemic. Are there any aspects of podcasts that lend themselves well to a stage show?
Well, I think adapting a podcast to a play is new ground. It's something I hope we see a lot more of! It's really exciting to take a new medium like podcasts and play with how that works live. Something that only exists in your imagination gets brought to life. That's exciting.
'Brian & Roger' is based on a podcast. Do you have any favourite podcasts you listen to regularly?
Brian & Roger... it's now all I listen to...
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