Monday, 28 November 2016

INTERVIEW - Otto Farrant

HE may only be 20 but Otto Farrant but has already got plenty of notable acting credits under his belt.
The former Graveney School student, who lives in Tooting, started his career aged 11 as Robin in The Merry Wives Of Windsor at the Globe. Since then he’s gone on to appear on both stage and screen including roles in A Streetcar Named Desire at The Young Vic, ITV’s Marcella and in the BBC dramas Silk, War And Peace and The White Queen.
He’s currently brushing up and perfecting a German accent as part of his latest role, that of Rudolf Kammerling in Once In A Lifetime which has just opened at The Young Vic.
A satirical comedy, by Moss Hart and George S Kaufman and directed by Richard Jones, it is about Hollywood’s transition from the silent movies to the talkies.
Set in 1930 it tells the story of how three vaudeville New Yorkers head out west to cash in on the advent of the talkies by setting up an elocution school to teach the actors how to speak.
However Hollywood is a city full of clueless ingenues, all powerful studio bosses and neurotic screenwriters, so success is not as easy to come by as you might think.
And as the three try to become the next big thing in Tinseltown, misadventures fall thick and fast.
The show marks a welcome return to the Waterloo-based theatre for Otto as he appeared there alongside Gillian Anderson in its production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 2015.
“Streetcar was such a great production,” he enthuses. “To work with such a fabulous cast made up of actors who were all such consumate professionals and who were so great to learn from was fantastic - and to work with Gillian was just a dream - I loved every moment of it. 
“We also got to take it to New York which was amazing and an incredible experience - you don’t get much better really.”
But he tells me that actually this latest role is just as good, if not better, as he gets to work with Harry Enfield, who is making his stage debut in the play as movie mogul Herman Glogauer, Kevin Bishop and director Richard Jones. 
Indeed as we chat during his final week of rehearsals, he tells me it was a no brainer to be part of the production which he describes as “very funny”.
“The play is such a lot of fun and the cast is amazing so I’m having the best time,” he says. “It’s great because it’s so different from Streetcar. It’s the Young Vic’s Christmas show so it’s light and lovely, the characters are very nice and it’s very funny. 
“When I got this job I was so excited because I’m a huge fan of Richard Jones - his body of work speaks for itself. It’s always very visual and he has a strong eye for humour so I’m ecstatic to be part of this.
“I play Rudolf Kammerling, a young director from Germany who has come from a studio there to direct a movie they are working on. He’s quite wispy and slight and contrasts with Harry Enfield’s larger than life Glogauer. 
“He’s also focused and artistic and takes himself very seriously and that’s where the humour is - someone so young thinking they are the best thing on earth.”
Otto says as well as working with Richard and the rest of the cast, it was the challenges of the character that drew him to the role adding that he prefers parts that take him out of his comfort zone.
“I’ve never played anyone like Kammerling before so it’s been a fantastic role to tackle,” he says. “I love playing with accents and the idea of creating a character that’s different to the one in the script.
“I’m only 20 and he’s never been played by anyone so young before so it’s been a challenge for me to make sure I can convince people he’s a successful director despite his young age. 
“How on earth is anyone going to believe that a 20-year-old would be such a successful movie director and would come to America from Germany? I love the challenge of trying to convince the audience it’s possible. 
“I’ve also had to learn a bit of German for this role and a few phrases which has been interesting as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I want the audience to believe I’m from Germany rather than some English chap doing a German accent!
“He’s huge fun to play though and the whole piece is so well written you can’t go wrong.
“I have a few scenes with Harry - he’s incredible and you can’t get a better mentor really in terms of comedy though as you can imagine rehearsals are a hilarious at times as he’s so funny.”
The other draw was to come back to the Young Vic, a theatre Otto has huge affection for.
“It’s also wonderful to be back here of course,” he says warmly. “The fact it’s in South London and not too far from where I live in Tooting is a bonus. 
“South London is blessed with so many great theatres and the Young Vic is lovely with a really sound ethos. 
“David Lan [artistic director] is fantastic and he has wanted to do this play for a long time as it’s one of his favourites and I can see why as it’s really good.
“They are so good at what they do here, producing work that gets you thinking. I love it.”
It’s plays like this, and ones that are provocative, that Otto says he’s naturally drawn to and hopes to do more of in the future, especially as his first love is the stage.
And despite his full CV he tells me he has not had any formal training.
“It was always a burning passion and I’ve always loved acting,” he laughs. “At school I was not academically that great at English, I was much better in maths and sciences, and I almost did a degree in physics and maths.
“However, I was always in the school plays. One day I was picked to do a play at the Globe and off the back of that I got an agent and from there it snowballed.”
And despite being still at school Otto says he managed to juggle academic work alongside the acting. So much so that when he left school he decided to ditch the idea of doing a degree and pursue acting as a career, something he says he has no regrets about.
“I just put all my energy into it and went straight into it,” he says warmly. “I’ve not really had any training, although in the future I think I’d like to - I’d love to study the craft in depth, explore and experiment with different things. 
“I love Shakespeare and Chekhov and so those three years of training would be helpful if I wanted to do any of those classic roles and that would be the reason to go. But at the moment I’m learning so much on the job.
“In terms of what I love most about my job now, theatre is definitely at the forefront of what I enjoy. I just the love live aspect of it and how much closer you get to the company you work with in theatre.
“I’d really like to work with Emma Rice before she leaves the Globe as I think she’s great at bringing audiences in and taking them to a different world. 
“It’s much like what we are hoping to do with Once In A Lifetime, taking the audiences’ minds off what’s going on in the world at the moment and having some fun.”

Otto Farrant appears in Once In A Lifetime, directed by Richard Jones at the Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo until January 14, 2017. Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 0207 922 2922.

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