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Interview with Finlay Robertson from the cast of The Vertical Hour

Finlay Robertson
Finlay Robertson

Finlay Robertson, plays the role of Philip in the first London revival of the David Hare’s The Vertical Hour.

Finlay’s theatre credits include Casualties, Toast (Park Theatre), An Invitation, Hostile Reconnaissance (Soho Theatre), The Night Heron (Royal Court), Speed Death Of The Radiant Child and Blown (Plymouth Drum), Screams From Job (Southwark Playhouse), Ring (Fuel/Battersea Arts Centre), Riot Pilot (Hackney Empire), The Alchemist (Riverside Studios) and Kissing Bingo (Finborough Theatre).

Finlay wrote and performed the one-person play Strong Arm as part of the inaugural Old Vic New Voices Edinburgh Season.

For television Finlay’s work includes Doctor Who, New Tricks, The Curse of Edgar, Scott & Bailey, Body Farm, Taggart, Garrow’s Law, How Not to Live Your Life, Persuasion, Life Begins, Robin Hood, Hotel Babylon, The Bill, Doc Martin, The Golden Hour, Ny-Lon, Prime Suspect and Peak Practice. Finlay’s film credits include In a Day, Hammer Of The Gods, Cocknies vs Zombies, Alfie, F and The Story Of.

Finlay took time out to answer a few questions about his career, and The Vertical Hour.

You have performed on television and stage. What do you like most about stage acting?
The terror of walking out and saying your first words in a play is something that will never disappear! But the buzz that comes from feeling the audience reaction will never disappoint. It’s also so great to actually have time to rehearse, research roles and collaborate with others to make a character that you’d have a harder time coming up with on your own. And working with the unconscious choices an audience makes – responding and acting “with” them – is really a privilege, as well as nerve-shredding!

What can you tell us about the audition process for The Vertical Hour?
After being sent the script by my agent I knew immediately that I wanted to do it. I was in the middle of rehearsing “Toast”, the show that was in the Park 200 just before “The Vertical Hour”, and so my head full of Hull bread factory-workers when walking into the audition room! I was so pleased when I got the call saying they wanted me to do it.

You play the part of Philip. What can you tell us about your character and how he fits into the storyline?
To me he represents the emotional heart of the story. Nadi and Oliver are locked into a dynamic struggle of intellect and it’s an amazing experience watching them trade blows. But for me, the part of the story that I responded to most was the father-son dynamic of Oliver and Philip. I think we all know people who have dysfunctional relationships with their parents and I talked to someone after one preview who said she knew well the experience of “walking up to a parent with an open wound expecting them to rub salt into it”. Philip will never forgive his father for what he feels he did to Philip’s mother, and he also believes Oliver will never respect him and the choices he made in his career. For Philip, America – and an outspoken and driven American girlfriend – represent a new beginning and an opportunity for him to redefine himself. But old wounds never heal, they just scar. And either Nadia will be his super-hero and annihilate his father through passioned argument, or Oliver’s seduction of his girlfriend will only confirm what Philip’s mother believed – that Oliver was a “despicable person” all along. So – it’s complex! And that’s why it’s such fun to get stuck into him!

There is so much to see on stages all around London. Why should everyone get along to see The Vertical Hour’?
Aside from the emotional and very human drama, the issues discussed by Oliver and Nadia are universal. And watching issues bleed from nations into individuals is incredibly moving. Simply put, the discussions in the heart of the play are poised delicately between the personal and the political. And although it seems macabre to point out the parallels with current activities in the parts of the world Nadia talks about in the play, it is an uncanny coincidence that Parliament has voted to commence military activity in Iraq in the week we’ve opened.

What else do you have planned for 2014/2015?
My wife’s having our second baby in November and I’m also writing my next play – and we’re buying a house! So yeah, busy!

Interview questions by Neil Cheesman

The Vertical Hour
Oliver Taheri Productions in association with Mini Productions and Park Theatre presents the first London revival of
The Vertical Hour by David Hare
Peter Davison as Oliver, Thusitha Jayasundera as Nadia, Cameron Cuffe as Dennis Dutton, Finlay Robertson as Philip, Pepter Lunkuse as Terri.

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Monday 29th September 2014


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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