An Interview with Actor, George Rowlands
AS JB Priestley’s drawing-room theatre classic ‘An Inspector Calls’ comes to York Grand Opera House, we talk to actor George Rowlands as he prepares to take the role of Eric Birling…
Did you study An Inspector Calls at school? If so, did you enjoy it when you first read it? Do you think your appreciation of the play is different as an adult?
I did read it at school, although I can’t really remember much of it. But I did always like it. I always think at school when you sit down and analyse every single word it can make you go a bit crazy, and I always thought it ruined books and plays. But now that I’m an adult, or more importantly now that I’m an actor, I definitely have more of an appreciation for it.
This production of An Inspector Calls is now 30 years old and yet still as popular as ever. What do you think makes the play so timeless and this production so engaging?
At the end of the day, at its centre it’s a play about somebody in distress, and that doesn’t get old, does it? I think at different points in time when we’ve put it on over the last 30 years, it’s been relevant. And this time around I think it’s more relevant than ever because of what’s going on in terms of the strike action and housing crisis.
“I like storytelling”
Can you tell me three facts about your character?
Eric is well educated because he’s been sent to public school. He enjoys a drink, probably a little bit too much. The third fact is that Eric really wants to be respected by, namely his dad. Unfortunately, the combination of those three facts results in some pretty catastrophic things.
What made you want to be an actor?
I think it beat doing any other boring job. I did find out quite early on in Year 6, for the end of school plays we did The Wizard of Oz and I completely rewrote the script because I thought it was rubbish, and obviously made my parts the best. I like storytelling and I like the creative and artistic aspect of it. With this production it has enabled that part of acting, and it’s been a really good creative process.
What’s the best part of about going on tour with a show?
Being able to play in these amazing theatres, I’m really excited to do that, and bringing the story to people.
Do you have any particular venues on this tour that you’re most excited to visit?
Well, I’m excited about them all. But Bromley Churchill Theatre I have a funny connection with because I did a play there last year, in the studio. I was doing Macbeth at the time, and I think Jon Bishop was playing above us. They’d hired security and there were loads of people, and we were underneath doing sweaty Shakespeare in a room. And now cut to a year later and I’ve gone up, literally upstairs. I’m excited to do that, and I also love Bromley as I lived there for a while.
“There’s no grade”
What advice would you give me about going on tour? Are there any essentials to have in your dressing room, or top tips for making yourself feel at home in each town/city?
I’m sharing a room with Simon who’s playing Gerald. I don’t know… I think a bottle of water goes a long way. A bottle of water and some Vaseline is not a terrible idea – for the lips, obviously. I get chapped lips.
What’s the most challenging part of being a performer?
With other jobs you can put a direct amount of work in, you can work more, you can do this this and this and your results will be better because of it. Like if you’re studying for an exam, the more you revise the better the result. But with acting it doesn’t work like that because being good is so subjective – there’s no grade. I think that’s quite hard. Putting lots of work in and not knowing really how it will go.
If you could swap roles with another person for a performance, would you?
If I could pick any character I’d probably pick Edna. I would love to play the role of Edna. If you haven’t seen this production, there’s a special thing that Edna is part of – a little bit of magic. She’s amazing. My second choice would be Mrs Birling. I really like Mrs Birling, she’s got such sass, and doesn’t have the insecurities that Eric is stuck with.
‘An Inspector Calls’ is at York Grand Opera House, 7-11 February