Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Matt Jopling: The Canterville Ghost

By | Published on Friday 7 October 2022

I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I am a big fan of ghostly stories of all vintages, so it’s no surprise that my ears pricked up when I heard that a favourite company of ours –  Tall Stories – are bringing an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Canterville Ghost’ to Southwark Playhouse this week. 

It sounds like the company are doing some really interesting things with the source material, so I wanted to find out more about what to expect from it. I spoke to Matt Jopling, one of the four stars of the show. 

CM: ‘The Canterville Ghost’ is a fairly well known tale, but for readers who haven’t come across it before, can you give us an idea of what to expect, plot-wise?
MJ: When the thoroughly modern Otis family move into Canterville Hall, its ghostly inhabitant, Sir Simon De Canterville, finds he can no longer haunt things his own way! 

In our version, the story is told by four vaudevillian music hall performers – a compere, psychic, illusionist and comedian, each of whom have their own unique act, and tale to tell. 

CM: What themes would you say are explored through the play? 
MJ: The story deals with the idea of legacy and the importance of truth. 

CM: How would you describe it in terms of style and themes? Is it funny? 
MJ: The storytelling is direct and engaging. The music hall framework keeps the energy high and the audience included. And it is funny! Expect plenty of laughs in the hands of our resident Ghost, our Psychic, our Ventriloquist, and Mrs Umney the housekeeper. 

CM: Can you tell us about the role you play? What attracted you to it? 
MJ: I was part of the original devising team, so have been involved from the very start!

I loved getting to grips with sleight of hand magic and mind reading. I play the part of the Comedian, who we decided would have a ten minute ventriloquist act.

I hadn’t ever done ventriloquism before so I was throwing myself somewhat in the deep end, but it’s been an amazing challenge. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the rest of the cast? 
MJ: They’re fantastic! They’ve had an incredible amount to learn in a very short space of time and I’ve been so impressed with how they’ve thrown themselves into the world of the show. They’re all experienced performers who bring their own unique qualities to each role. 

CM: What’s great about this production? How would you persuade people to come and see it? 
MJ: It’s a show that really does have something for everyone. A fantastic story, plenty of comedy, live and original music, ventriloquism, mind reading and magic. 

CM: And now can you tell us a bit about yourself? Did you always want to perform? How did your career begin? 
MJ: I have always enjoyed performing and loved the thrill and adrenaline of doing something exciting as part of a team, be that through sport, music or theatre. Training as an actor always felt like a natural step for me, though I maintain that having a variety of other interests and hobbies is really important. 

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
MJ: I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some amazing places whilst working in theatre. Performing ‘Wilde Creatures’ – a different show I devised with Tall Stories – at the Sydney Opera House felt like a once in a lifetime gig! I also loved travelling the waterways of the UK on a narrowboat with Mikron Theatre Company – a totally unique experience with some amazing people. 

CM: What hopes and ambitions do you have for the future? 
MJ: To keep working! It’s been an uncertain couple of years for the industry and a lot of actors have had to diversify. I’ve recently become a dad for the first time, which is my most important role yet. If I can be as present and engaged as possible doing that, whilst maintaining an acting career and keeping a roof over our heads, I’ll be well chuffed!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
MJ: A family Christmas! I’ve done a fair bit of Christmas theatre work over recent years so I’m shamelessly looking forward to putting my feet up for a bit. I’ll also continue to focus on voiceover work. I built a home studio over the lockdowns – along with every other actor ever! – which keeps me busy and means I can work from home. 

‘The Canterville Ghost’ is on at Southwark Playhouse from 11 Oct-5 Nov. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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