Interview with James Hyland

Photography by Dom McHarrieIn 1998 Brother Wolf was established by Artistic Director James Hyland and has since produced award-winning theatre, TV, film and radio productions. Over the years James and his team have produced a rage of brilliant and critically acclaimed productions which have played all across the country. We’ve been lucky enough to see a few of Brother Wolf’s productions this year and so wanted to take the time to get to know James a little better. 

You have given audiences a range of amazing shows, but which has been your favourite to produce and perform?
It’s very difficult to pick a favourite show as they all offer their own challenges and, as a result, their own rewards. ‘A Christmas Carol – As told by Jacob Marley (deceased)’ is my longest running production and therefore holds a particularly special place in my heart. This year will be its tenth consecutive tour with a special 175th anniversary performance (with respect to the original novella) at the Royal Albert Hall.

You have played some incredibly interesting and morally questionably characters from Fagin to Jacob Marley to name but a few. Which has been the most fun to bring to life and why?
Again, it’s impossible to choose but Mister Hyde offers something which no other character does in the portrayal – absolute freedom; no restraint, no remorse. Playing a character like that, even though he is morally reprehensible, is utterly liberating.

How do you decide which character to portray next?
I always begin with the story. If I believe there is a refreshing way to communicate a story whilst staying true to the source material, I will then move forward with the project. From this point on the characters will often reveal themselves to me, sometimes in a flash of inspiration. Background research is the key, whether the story is based on a novel, a particular event in history, or something from your own imagination. It’s important to delve deep and explore thoroughly.

Photography by Hayden Phoenix

Are there any characters you’ve not yet played, but are on your acting bucket list?
I’ve always wanted to play Randle McMurphy the protagonist of Ken Kesey’s novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. I have huge admiration for the original book as well as the fantastic film. ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is the only story that has made me laugh and cry until it actually hurt. I find the themes of freedom and confinement to be particularly poignant. These specific themes can also be found in my own productions, every single one of them.

Brother Wolf began in 1998 and since has gone from strength to strength. What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Value your team. I believe it is my duty as a producer and an artistic director to fully respect the skill set of each particular company member and let them get on with their job without stepping on their toes. Of course, a certain level of guidance may be necessary depending on their experience, and there’s always a specific brief to adhere to, but it’s important to give them the space to do what they do best otherwise what would be the point in hiring them in the first place? A case in point, I make it my responsibility to offer the resident technician of each venue I perform at the opportunity to express their individual creativity. Even though the lighting and sound brief may be very specific, and oftentimes quite minimal, there is always leeway for extra invention. I welcome this as a professional creative. At the end of the day, theatre is a team effort so it’s very important that each member feels valued and is given the opportunity to express themselves creatively and to their full potential.

In your career so far what has been the most stand out moment(s) for you?
Meeting The Queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace has to be one of those moments. I received recognition for my part in Dickensian scholarship as regards my productions of ‘A Christmas Carol – As told by Jacob Marley (deceased)’ and ‘Fagin’s Last Hour’. The atmosphere was phenomenal and I was made to feel very welcome indeed. Another moment I will never forget is performing ‘A Christmas Carol – As told by Jacob Marley (deceased)’ to an audience of people with special needs. They were highly vocal in their response to the show which I greatly welcomed. One boy in particular made a whooping sound every time I portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge. He absolutely loved the old fellow! This filled me with great joy and is one of the many reasons why I do what I do.

If you could only use one sentence to advertise Brother Wolf’s productions, what would you say?
When the wolf sings, the forest dances.

Thank you to James for taking the time to answer our questions. For further information from James and Brother Wolf head to their official website.
Click here to read our reviews A Lesson from Auschwitz and Fagin’s Last Hour. 

Images courtesy of the Brother Wolf website.

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