Hailed as a modern classic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance opened at the Young Vic earlier this year to adoration. A West End transfer was deemed inevitable – and is soon to follow, as the two-part play begins previews at the Noël Coward Theatre this week.
We spoke to Kyle Soller, the Olivier Award-nominated actor who stars in The Inheritance as Eric Glass, about the vital nature of the piece.
So Kyle, you’re fresh off The Inheritance’s last run, and close to opening in the West End – how’re you feeling?
I’m feeling great! The play’s still really funny, it’s still really heart-breaking, and it’s amazing that everybody retains all that information so easily.
We’re able to hit the ground running and there’s such positive spirit around it. We’re feeling good!
How would you describe The Inheritance to anybody who might be unfamiliar with it?
The Inheritance is a remarkable play written by Matthew Lopez, and directed by the incredible Stephen Daldry. It’s loosely adapted from the novel Howards End by E. M. Forster, and it attempts to tell that story through the prism of gay men in present day New York City.
It asks questions of what it means to love someone, to give love, to receive love, and the toll that that takes. It asks how you live with integrity in the world, and it’s hilarious, emotional, and uplifting. It’s the entire kaleidoscope of human experience in 7 hours!
Before you had even turned page one, how did you feel when Matthew’s epic script landed in your lap?
I felt really intrigued that there was a two-part play about the gay experience in New York again. I had a very positive feeling of anticipation because of that subject.
And with it being at the Young Vic, part of David Lan’s last season, and directed by Stephen Daldry, I just felt, even before I’d turned the first page, incredibly special. And then I read it in less than 24 hours, I couldn’t stop! I was propelled by the story and Matthew’s really human writing.
What makes The Inheritance a story that needs to be told?
The play brings us into the present day, asking not only what it means to be a gay man living in America, but also what it means to be a person in this world. I think Matthew attempted to investigate what the inherited responsibility is that the gay community is living in the present day.
And acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of people that fought and gave their lives, souls and hearts to allow people to marry who they want… I think that’s extremely important. [It’s important] to look into your past to try to understand your present, and to then ask the question of where we can go again from there.
Tell us a little bit about your character, Eric Glass.
Eric Glass is a mid-30s gay New Yorker, Jewish. He has a delayed maturity, I suppose, and the conflict that comes with Eric attempting to live with his good nature in the present world is sort of a contradiction.
He falls out of love, falls in love, grows as a gay man, and grows as a human being in the universe – and eventually finds his purpose in life.
As it’s a two-parter, how do you prepare yourself for such an involved show?
All of us in the cast were supported by each other in a way that I don’t know if I’ve felt before. Everybody is remarkable and most of us are on stage together the entire time, and as a result there’s such a support group there.
In terms of preparation physically, this show makes you fit just by rehearsing it! And everybody was just so spurred on by Matthew’s story, by something so much more important than the mundane banality of our everyday personal lives, that it gave us a real energy and purpose. If there are days we’re all tired, it’s very easy to forget about it when we just think about the play.
Were rehearsals different for a two-parter than with a more traditional production?
Only different in that you’ve got double the lines, and double the time to learn and rehearse them! But even then that doesn’t feel like enough!
Stephen’s rehearsal room was just the freest location. He really encourages creativity. Back in January, at the start of the process, it just felt like we had an amazing family looking out for us. That doesn’t always happen.
The two theatres – the Young Vic and the Noël Coward – are two very different venues. Has that influenced the transfer at all?
Slightly, yes. The stage will be slightly raked so that everyone gets a good view in the auditorium. The stage had to be fit onto the Noel Coward proscenium so it’s ever so slightly less wide, and ever so slightly less deep.
You do both screen work and theatre work. What makes performing in the theatre so special?
It’s such an archaic form of connection between people. People have been doing it for hundreds of years. When you are in a space with that kind of exchange of stories and emotion, you create a connection between strangers that’s extremely palpable.
That transference between the audience and the actors – the ephemeral quality of it… To experience something in the first person is unlike anything else.
Who inspired you to become an actor?
I have to say my family! Thankfully I come from a large family – I’ve got four brothers – and I was encouraged by my parents to get into acting so that I would learn to stand in one spot until I was told to move again!
I don’t know if they expected it to stick, but it really did!
Finally, if it’s not already apparent, why should people come to see The Inheritance?
Matthew’s play has changed me and changed my life. It’s changed my perception of the world around me and my knowledge of the gay community. I feel more responsibility as a participant in this world.
I think people need to come to this play to be touched by its humanity and its humour. Why wouldn’t you grasp the chance to have your life changed over one day or two nights?
From an interview conducted by Carly-Ann Clements.