Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Joseph Potter: Salt-Water Moon

By | Published on Sunday 1 January 2023

This month sees the UK premiere at the Finborough Theatre of late great Canadian playwright David French’s 1985 play ‘Salt-Water Moon’, one in a series of five plays about members of the same Newfoundland-based family. 

It’s a two-hander, the story of a young man attempting to win back the sweetheart he left behind when moving from Newfoundland to Toronto for a year. To find out more about the production and those involved in it, I spoke to one of the stars of the show, Joseph Potter. 

CM: Can you start by telling us about the story that ‘Salt-Water Moon’ tells? Where does the narrative take us?
JP: The story starts in the 1920s in St John’s in Newfoundland, off the coast of Canada – it’s a world so rarely explored theatrically, especially in the UK.

We meet Jacob Mercer, who has just come back after a year away in Toronto after abandoning the so-called love of his life Mary Snow.

The story unravels as two eighteen year olds try and decipher what their feelings are for one another, and who they really are.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
JP: The play explores so much, but the thing that really struck a chord for me – and why I wanted to do it – was the theme of identity. I’ve rarely seen a play written this long ago that is able to really capture the whirlwind of things you feel in those formative years.

David French has written two young people frantically grasping to discover who they are and what they want. It feels like a non-conforming love story, hopelessly romantic, but also radically anti-genre as you are pulled in different directions constantly.

CM: Can you tell us about the character you play?
JP: I play Jacob Mercer, he imagines himself to be Tom Mix, a famous cowboy from the time – a Clint Eastwood type. A hero ready to whisk away the love of his life – but we see glimmers of doubt and lapses of the mask…

CM: Why were you attracted to this role? What do you love about the play?
JP: I think I’ve possibly already answered this, but mainly how it captures the essence of being a troubled youth, how articulate yet complex the characters are – this makes it a joy of a text to play with.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright?
JP: David French is an amazing Canadian playwright, one of the most celebrated in the US and Canada.

However, this is the UK premiere of ‘Salt-Water Moon’ and I can’t wait for people to see this incredible story brought here.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast and crew involved in the production?
JP: Bryony Miller plays Mary, she’s such an emotionally intelligent and giving actor – it’s a gift to be doing the show with her.

Director Peter Kavanagh is our great leader. He returns to the Finborough after a superb run of ‘Not Quite Jerusalem’.

And Alex Critoph is our wonderful producer – they are all great!

CM: And can you tell us a bit about yourself now? What drew you to a career in the arts? Was this what you always wanted to do?
JP: You said it, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Ever since first catching the bug at school in a production of ‘Oliver’, playing the artful dodger. I feel so liberated and grateful to be able to discover and dig into so many people, which ultimately teaches me a lot about myself.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
JP: ‘The Poltergeist’ by Philip Ridley at the Arcola and online for Southwark Playhouse for sure. We received such a wave of amazing audience feedback and felt like we were theatrically doing something really dangerous, I look back and relish every second. Thank you Phil, Wiebs and team!

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
JP: I want to continue to learn and better myself as an artist and person, to trust the work and myself and live moment to moment. To work with more incredible directors: Rebecca Frecknall, Lyndsey Turner and John Haidar. Speak it into existence.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
JP: I can’t possibly tell!

‘Salt-Water Moon’ is on at the Finborough Theatre from 3-28 Jan. For more information and to book tickets head to the venue website here.  

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