David Davies is the British actor whose work spans from Australia (where he trained at NIDA and was an ensemble member of the Bell Shakespeare Company for six years under the direction of John Bell) to the UK, (where he was a leading actor and Company Manager of GB Theatre) to Germany, (where he has toured extensively with New Triad Theatre and his own show, Hyde – the final statement of Dr Jekyll). His CV boasts many theatrical tours, most of the major Shakespearean roles, (from Hamlet, Romeo, Petruchio, Oberon and Leontes), television shows, film and many other projects such as television commercials, radio and play readings. Writing includes his adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as Hyde – the final statement of Dr Jekyll, which he has performed extensively across the UK and Germany. Other titles include The Conscience of the King, The Karismatic Effekt, Stagefright.
He chatted with me ahead of his stage show Hyde – the final statement of Dr Jekyll, which is on at Koorliny Arts Centre April 21 and 22, 2017.
Monique: You’ve been touring your critically acclaimed one-man show, Hyde – the final statement of Dr Jekyll, which you adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella. What attracted you to telling this story on stage?
David: It just occurred to me that it is the perfect one-man show vehicle because the question of how to bring other characters onto the stage is already answered in the story. Plus it is such a great story – the classic battle of good and evil in every one of us.
Monique: Why should people watch the show if they have the opportunity? Are there plans to take the tour further in Australia or globally?
David: The play is still touring around Europe with performances coming up in Germany and the U.K. People are usually surprised at how many personal questions it provokes. They enjoy and are slightly disturbed when prompted to ponder questions such as, “What would you do if you could do anything without suffering the consequences?”
Monique: Who are you more like – Jekyll or Hyde?
David: Sadly, I’d have to say Hyde – impulsive and totally out of control with my credit card. Sometimes, I think that Jekyll is the real villain – a huge ego puffed up with resentment that his dangerous ideas are not taken seriously by those around him.
Monique: What’s involved in writing a stage adaptation? Is it hard?
David: An adaptation seems like a very responsible task. You are always wondering if you are doing the pre-existing material justice. In this case it was fairly easy as the “full statement of the case” chapter reads like a monologue. I always say that the play is 70 per cent Stevenson and 30 per cent Davies. I did find that to bring it to life on stage I had to change some of the sentence tenses – mostly to get rid of so much being told in the past. It’s always more exciting if you have a feeling of the present in the theatre. I added a few speeches and a bit here and there. Then I started putting it on its feet and I edited it by rehearsing it.
Monique: What sort of training did you have for adapting books/novellas to stage?
David: I studied acting at N.I.D.A and one of the exercises was to develop a one-person movement performance based on major turning points in your life. I followed up my “movement piece” by adapting a short one-man play from an existing novel.
Monique: What was the writing experience like for you? What were some of the challenges? Highlights?
David: Writing seems lonely for me. I remember going on long walks and writing in my head. I found I could walk for miles and not get tired. Then I’d go home and type and go to bed long into the early morning and think, “Wow, the only people I’ve spoken with today are in my head!”
Monique: Is this something you’d do again? If so, do you have an adaptation in mind?
David: I’ll definitely do it again. I’m thinking of Dracula. Just trying to work out how I will manage all of those characters and whether it will be from anyone’s POV. I’m also thinking of following up with a one man Shakespeare. It’s been done to death but I’d like to throw my hat in the ring.
Monique: You’re known for your work as in Shakespearean roles. What attracts you to Shakespeare’s work?
David: Shakespeare deals with the real issues – love, friendship, rivalry, hardship etc – and the big issues – power, revenge, forgiveness etc –all wrapped in that amazing language. When you work on a Shakespeare you learn so much about yourself, society, language – it feels never ending and then you can’t get the lines and ideas out of your head. You go over and over them.
Monique: Do you have a favourite Shakespearean play and role?
David: Hamlet. It’s a haunting play. I think about it every day.
Monique: How different is your “day job” to your creative life?
David: I read an article about using your day job to feed your creative life. I’m trying to do that as far as possible. But mostly, it makes you hungry as you wonder, “Am I wasting my time doing this to pay the bills? What would I do with this time if I could do anything with it?” Oh no, not the couch with a pizza box and six-pack of beer!
Monique: What other writing-related projects are you working on at the moment?
David: I’m trying to write a novel. A friend passed an idea on to me and it’s a winner. But it’s a lot harder than I ever thought it would be. I have finished a first draft but have a mountain of work to do.
Monique: Where did your desire to act spring from?
David: I enjoyed imitation when I was young but I enjoyed the attention that came with it even more.
Monique: What do you do when you’re having doubts about your creative life? What happens when you get stuck?
David: I watch my old favourites. I listen to music. I try to forget about it. Put it out of my mind for a while and come back to it later.
Monique: What’s the biggest myth about being an actor?
David: That we are always acting when in fact we are nearly always trying to take off the mask that everyone else is working harder and harder to perfect. Actors normally need a part, to get cast in something to start the creative juices flowing. They are rarely walking around performing for the sake of it.
Monique: What has acting taught you about resilience?
David: If you have to it, you have to do it. You will toughen up if you have to do it.
Monique: When you are in the creative zone, what is your biggest weakness?
Monique: How do you deal with negative feedback?
David: If it’s constructive, I mull it over and see it any of it needs to stick. This can take a while. But I try to ignore both good and bad reviews etc. They just get in the way.
Monique: Which authors/books do you admire the most?
David: I like lots of authors I can only read in translation. I love Dostoyevsky – The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. Hermann Hesse – Narziss und Goldmund. Shakespeare, of course, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula has always been a favourite.
Monique: Which book are you reading now?
David: The Man in the High Castel by Philip K Dick – it’s an alternative history novel. Fascinating. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have won the war and have halved the U.S.A.
Monique: Which “must-read” book have you not yet read?
David: Jude the Obscure. The title always put me off.