How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: An interview with actor Marc Pickering
With a career that began at the early age of eight, as the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, Marc Pickering has appeared in acclaimed plays such as The Toxic Avenger, the TV series Boardwark Empire and even worked alongside the likes of Helen Mirren and Julie Walters in Calendar Girls. He is back on stage with the hotly awaited revival of the Broadway smash hit How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Wilton’s Music Hall, playing the lead role of J Pierrepont Finch. The Upcoming caught up with Marc to talk about musicals, his dream role and his latest production.
What is your favourite song from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying?
I Believe in You. It’s Finch’s love song to himself in the mirror before his big meeting as Vice President in charge of advertising.
The play was first performed in 1961, do you feel it remains relevant in 2017?
Absolutely, the fact the play starts with a voice over saying “If you have intelligence and ability, so much the better, but remember many people have succeeded without any of these qualities…” which is relevant to a few famous people out there and a certain person in the White House at the moment! It’s set in the 60s and unfortunately lots of the issues we still hear about in the news with regard to women in the work place are visible in the show.
Do you believe plays should educate and engage with current issues rather than being purely for entertainment?
Not really, I don’t mind seeing something that’s not obviously relevant but I find you can always find relevance in anything you watch. After all, theatre reflects the society we all live in. I think it’s fascinating to see society in its different stages reflected on stage. But, a show doesn’t HAVE to relate to what’s going today. Theatre can sometimes be fantastic escapism.
What would you say is your dream role to play in any musical?
Since I was a little kid I’ve always wanted a crack at Micky from Blood Brothers. It’s probably my family’s favourite musical so I hope they bring it back in a few years.
What is the most memorable play you have acted in and why?
Play? I guess Elephant Man at Trafalgar Studios. My old drama school mate Bruce Guthrie offered me the role of Joseph Merrick as soon as I graduated. It was probably the most physically challenging and emotional role I’ve portrayed. Plus, I had to be completely naked onstage, you never forget that!
You started acting when you were very young, has it always been what you wanted to do?
Yeah, it really has! It started as something fun to do with my time rather than knocking on people’s doors and running away. I got a buzz from making people laugh and the people I started to befriend in the industry are the best people ever.
You have worked with director Benjii Sperring before on The Toxic Avenger, did working with the same director for How to Succeed make it easier or more difficult to get into your new character?
I feel we’ve built a great trust over the years, he knows what I can do and I think he’s very open to my suggestions and trusts my instincts; like any role in theatre though I feel you never quite nail it till late on in the run, when it’s in your body and you can really let the audience in.
How far do you relate to J Pierrepont Finch? Is he a likeable character?
I think he is likeable, I hope he is anyway. We talked a lot about whether he is good or bad. The fact he manipulates people to get what he wants seems a bit self-centred and arrogant. We weren’t sure how to play it and how he would come across to a modern audience. We’ve found that it’s important to really trust the text. His arrogance is mixed with a lot of wit and intelligence, which is fun to play with, and I think allow the audience to warm to him. I mean who isn’t a bit arrogant really? I think an audience like the way he does it. It’s his quick wit and ability to play the game that an audience find charming…
After working on How to Succeed do you think you would take a career change and go into business?
Hell no, I’d be bored senseless
What are your plans for 2017? Any more roles lined up?
Hopefully some TV or film. I’ve done a lot of slate work over the last 11 months so a change would be good, my agent’s on it, so we’ll see.
Photo: Darren Bell
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is at Wilton’s Music Hall from 8th until 22nd April 2017, for further information or to book visit here
Read our review of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying here.