The next interview in our stagey chat series, is with the incredible Max Hutchinson. Max is currently in the West End production of The Woman in Black alongside Terence Wilton. His most recent theatre credits include: The 39 Steps, The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, The Comedy of Errors and One Man, Two Guvnors.

Get yourself comfy and join Max and I for a chat about all things stagey!

Hi Max, thank you so much for talking to Stage to Page today. How are you? And for those that aren't familiar with you, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how you got into acting?
Thanks for talking to me! I’m really well thanks - busy at the moment which is nice - so mustn’t complain! I set up a company in lockdown which tours family-friendly productions to non-traditional theatre spaces and I’m in the middle of tour-booking and fundraising for that. We’re doing a cricket-club tour of a sixty-minute adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this summer and I’ve just set up a youth theatre as part of the company also. But yes, in terms of getting into acting, I just did loads at school and then the local drama group in my village, then did National Youth Theatre and then tried for drama school. I was very lucky to have lots of supportive people – teachers and parents. And since drama school I’ve done mostly stage so far – toured with a fair bit of Shakespeare, done quite a few comedies – The 39 Steps and One Man, Two Guvnors for example – and I’ve done a couple of short bits on film recently. I got to do a little scene opposite Toni Collette in a film called Dream Horse which was awesome!

You're currently playing "The Actor" in The Woman in Black. What initially attracted you to that role?
I saw it when I was fifteen for my GCSEs and I really loved it, so I dragged my dad to come and see it again a couple of months after that!  I think I fell in love with the simplicity of the show - that the audience really has an active part in it - they have to use their imaginations. And for an actor that’s a real challenge too. It’s a great part – it has a bit of everything! So, I put it on my bucket list of parts to play and pursued it. For 8 years! I joke about it but I’m sure it’s true – I think Robin the director probably thought it was easier to give me the part than have me pester him for another 8 years.

How did you prepare for the role? Is there any aspect of the role that you found particularly challenging?
Well, I knew the show pretty well – being a big fan! So, I just made sure I was on top of the lines and had done a fair bit of the imaginative work at home before going into rehearsals – creating what the house, the marsh, the village all looked like in my head. But because it’s a show that keeps running and has done for years it’s a fairly seamless exercise rehearsing into it. You get to rehearse on stage with all the props (unless there’s a matinee going on of course) and Robin just lets you play and find your own version of it. It’s very heavily dependent on the chemistry between the actors doing it.  Actually, re-rehearsing it was harder than rehearsing it first time round. We’d done 7 weeks of the job before lockdown and so coming back to it after 540 days off was weird. I had some sort of muscle memory – like I knew I should be doing something at certain points but had no idea what!

The cast of The Woman in Black is small - to say the least! Is it difficult to work with so few people on stage? Or is that something you prefer?
I love it. There’s this feeling that once it’s started, you’re on a ride that you can’t get off (apart from an interval) until the end! Sometimes we get to the interval and I’m like “Wow, that hour went by quickly!” It would be a nightmare if you didn’t get on with the other people on stage or if you felt like they really weren’t listening to you – that’s a long show to be churning it out exactly the same every night. Luckily, Terry (who plays Arthur Kipps) is really playful and he likes to keep it fresh so he chucks in the odd new thing every now and then and we get on really well so I feel like it is different every night. 

When you were growing up, did you know that you always wanted to be on stage?
Um. I knew that it was the thing I enjoyed more than anything else – I was always trying to do bits in primary school assemblies, that kind of thing! And then at secondary school, like I say, I had an awesome teacher who encouraged me to think about drama school and my parents were very supportive also, so I started to think about it seriously. I’m interested in all aspects of theatre though – starting to produce my own work has made me realise that it’s a minor miracle that anything ever gets made!

From Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, to Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles - the roles you've played have been very diverse. Is there a particular role you prefer playing, and why?
To be really honest I like stuff that gets an instant reaction – like comedies or this play with its screams! There’s something really satisfying about knowing that the play has reached the audience in that moment.  And if it hasn’t, perhaps there’s something you can adapt and work on. And also it’s nice to make people laugh!

Regardless of gender and age, which stage role would you choose to play and why?
I’m really dying to play Benedick in Much Ado and one day also Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve never done a musical but my favourite is Merrily We Roll Along- Charley is an awesome part. Any part in Come from Away!?

If you could give one piece of advice to any aspiring theatre actors out there, what would it be?
Ooft. The thing that everyone always says to me is “make your own stuff” and I’ve never known even how to go about doing that or where to start. But somehow, I have started recently and it is so rewarding. It also gives you an appreciation of the bigger picture and how something gets made – which I think is really helpful. I also think finding a way to pay the bills in between acting that doesn’t make your heart sink – so you can look after your mental health. It’s something I’m trying to learn right now but I feel like there ought to be more out there to help creative people monetise their creativity and develop their business skills.

From your run of The Woman in Black, is there a particular moment that stands out? Funny, embarrassing, or just simply memorable!
There’s been quite a few! My trousers split down the back just before the final scene in one show – that was embarrassing. That happened before lockdown. We get the odd bit of audience ‘interaction’! They’re normally quite amusing. Towards the end of the play there’s a moment where my character does the classic thing of going back to the haunted house when everyone thinks he absolutely should not and we had a woman shout out “Oh you are f**king kidding me?!”. That was funny. 

What is it like working so closely alongside a theatre legend like Terence Wilton?
Terence who? Joooke. It is a such a pleasure and I look forward to seeing him every day. Terry has done so many amazing jobs and played so many brilliant parts - I get to hear amazing stories every day so I feel very lucky. Sometimes you can see a story come back to him and he’s just there again, re-living it. He’s also very mischievous and (not that the audience would ever notice) every now and then throws the odd thing my way to keep me on my toes.  Like I say, thank God we get on well because it would be a long 9 month contract if we didn’t!

My blog is called Stage to Page. But if you could turn any book, from page to stage, what would it be and why?
That’s really hard! Well, my company is currently adapting and developing quite a well-known children’s book to tour next year to bike shops and bike cafes for very young audiences. I’m a big David Nicholls fan so I’d like to see The Understudy on stage?!

Thank you so much for chatting to us Max. You can catch Max in The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre here.

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