David Mercatali – why Johnny?
As soon as I read Johnny I had to do it. It's a deeply political story but at it's heart it's so HUMAN. I found it very beautiful, I loved and cared for the character of Johnny, loved hearing about his childhood and family, struggled with his adversities, rooted for him throughout. And I knew an audience would too. Sometimes you just read a script and you just love it, every bit of it, and this is how I felt. When you feel that way there is no 'choice' in it any more, you just have to do it. I love this play and it is now our job for the audience to love it too.
As soon as I saw Jack read the part, I knew he was perfect. He has such empathy, such warmth. He also totally understands the journey of the piece, he has an intuitive feel for it. And he loves the script as much as me. That's important. There is a disproportionate strain on an actor in a monologue, practically, but also emotionally. There is nowhere to hide or get a break in rehearsals, there is very little time to rest, in all the rehearsal time the focus is upon you. Having no fellow actor to share the burden with can be a bit overwhelming, so it needs strong characters with passion and belief in what they're doing. Jack has this and that is why I feel very confident.
When I was approached to do the piece I was very aware that the timing was very deliberate. It's the centenary year of World War I, the so called 'Great War', and despite what Michael Gove thinks there will be a certain amount of gooey eyed nostalgia throughout this year. Johnny is an important antidote to that. It shows us unflinchingly the suffering of young privates sent out to 'fight for liberty' at the behest of their superiors. I'm not interested in brainwashing. Johnny is a heartfelt story of a young man who had a good life, who lost it all and worse, to fight for a cause he wasn't aware of. I just hope we make people feel something for him...