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Ruben Guthrie is award-winning actor turned playwright Brendan Cowell’s bitingly sharp new play about addiction and our attitudes towards it, which runs at the New Wimbledon studio from Wednesday March 14 - Saturday March 17.

It tells the story of Ruben Guthrie, a successful young man with a prosperous career in advertising, money to burn, a model for a girlfriend, whose life couldn’t be better. Or seemingly so, after a booze-fuelled accident sends him on a downward spiral, his life is torn apart by his relationship with the bottle. Moreover though, the play follows Ruben’s efforts to clean up and get sober and the effects and reactions this engenders in his friends and family, who eye his new found sobriety with suspicion and alarm.

We catch up with Ruben himself, Nick Hardcastle, deep in the mist of rehearsals, to talk about how why Cowell’s latest production to hit London is a tale that is relevant to anyone who has experienced a western culture, and how he came to the role almost by accident himself.

How are rehearsals going?
Good, it is incredibly demanding for me though, I am pretty much every single scene, it’s going to be a really exciting production.

What scenes have you been doing this morning?
We did our first stagger through of the entire play this morning actually. After three weeks of rehearsals to go the first full run through, shows how much work we have been doing. It’s mostly finessing and tweaking at this point though.

How do you balance the humour of Ruben’s journey with the serious subject matter that he is going through?
The story is a very human story, so there is a lot of comedy, and therefore so there is tragedy and sadness. It is just very honest, most of all. Anyone that has experienced a western culture will know and recognise people in this play, or even themselves.

What is it that drives Ruben’s drinking behaviour?
Most of Ruben’s decisions are influenced by loss, he starts drinking because of the loss of his friends, and he stops because of the loss of his fiancée, who leaves him.  He doesn’t cope very well with loss and this is how it affects him.

It’s not just about alcoholics it is about how certain behaviours are created around addiction - it destroys families. It’s about how it can be partly genetic, how it can be passed on through generations, and how it can be down to environmental circumstances too. The whole nature vs nurture thing. It is about how we have created a society where we need a certain type of behaviour. And how we then function in this society.

Are there similarities between British and Australian attitudes towards alcohol?
I think there are so many similarities between the British and Australian culture, there is probably an argument where, in a land that was colonised by the British, we have taken on some of the British tendencies.  There is this culture where it’s like: “It’s been a good day, let’s go down the pub”, or, “it’s been a shitty day, what shall we do? Let’s go down the pub”.

How do you think British attitudes to drinking to differ from those in Australia?
Alcohol is so readily available here, in Australia you need to go down to a bottle shop, to a liquor store, to get booze, and most of them close by ten o’clock. So alcohol is much more of an everyday activity here.

Do you have personal experiences you could draw upon for this role?
Every actor has to find some sort of relevant experience to make the character believable, and so I have my own experiences and then those of some people around me too. When it comes to alcohol, it has been a part of my family’s culture and there have been times when it has been a problem.

Did you have any contact with Alcoholics Anonymous before starting work on the play?
I know people who have been to meetings and some people who haven’t, and some found it useful while others didn’t. I went to a couple of meetings myself, ones that were open meetings, and I talked to a load of people there about their experiences.

Does the play have a particular point of view towards AA? IT can be an almost religious group for some people but it doesn’t work for others?
Brendan does a wonderful job when it comes to portraying the AA. It would be very easy to take the point of view that he opposes it but he does put in a lot of sympathetic things in there too, about the whole movement, and the people that it does help.

How did you come to be involved in Ruben Guthrie?
Originally, I was involved in the Iron Bark pub plays readings last year in which I didn’t play Ruben but his best mate Damian. So when they were casting this one they needed someone to come in and read for them, and so that’s what I did. Although I was reading other roles against these possible Rubens I did read a lot of that role too and then by the end, our director Nicola Samer said “I know this isn’t what you signed up for but I am hearing his voice in you, and I don’t want to audition anyone else”.

Did that come as a bit of a surprise then?
It came as a surprise but it was a happy accident, and I am thrilled to be a part of it, and with Brendan being here in London, the timing is so great.

Ruben Guthrie runs at the New Wimbledon Studio, The Broadway, Wimbledon, SW19 1QG. 14-17 March. (7.45pm)

Presented by Iron bark

Tickets: £10 (concessions £7.50)

Website: www.atgtickets.com

Station: Wimbledon










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Interview: Nick Hardcastle, star of Brendan Cowell’s Ruben Guthrie
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