A Tale of Two Cities: Christopher Hunter

A Tale of Two Cities: Christopher Hunter

4 November 2016

by Beth Reynard

Interview: Actor Christopher Hunter tells us about the five different characters he plays and gives an insight into what life is like on tour.

Chris Hunter as Marquis St. Evrémonde Chris Hunter as Marquis St. Evrémonde

Can you give us a brief introduction to the characters that you play?
I play five characters. The first is the judge, the judge of English Courtroom and presides over the trial of Darnay. The next is the Marquis St. Evrémonde who is Darnay’s uncle and is the symbol of corrupt French aristocracy. The third character I play is a French aristocrat. He’s a nervous, timid exile living in London, with all his money stuck in Paris. The fourth is the President, but he is the judge of the French court. He is more of a self-taught lawyer based on Robspierre and The Reign Of Terror. And I play a French revolutionary.


The Marquis is a driving force of the plot. How do you approach a role that is an archetype of everything that is bad in society and create a genuine, believable performance?
By not making him bad, not believing he’s bad. In fact, I played in this production two years ago when it was first done and I believe my characterisation of the Marquis has changed a bit since then. I began by playing him ‘bad’, picking out the ‘bad’ bits in him, but what I found happened is that I was making him judgements on him. There is a line that I try to make sound as true as possible. It is “I speak as the head of the family, founded upon ten centuries of absolute rule, repression is the only lasting philosophy” and because it is a philosophy which is anathema to me, the danger is to turn the Marquis into something who is distant. But actually, repression is very much the philosophy of even our society today. So even though repression is taken to extremes at the time of the late 1700s when the revolution happened, its practised very openly by Putin in Russia, but actually in a far more insidious way in our culture today. It is a philosophy which puts bread on our tables and butters it.


Does working from a novel offer anything different from working straight to a play script?
Yes and no. I think you can go back to the novel and find a lot of background to your character, but sometimes that might not be in the play script. You might find yourself playing things that aren’t there. When I first got cast, I went back to the novel. The weird thing is that the Marquis in the novel is very different to the Marquis that Mike Poulton has created. So, what happened curiously was that when I first approached the character, I tried to bring the Dickens Marquis into the performance. And I was doing a lot of ‘acting’, it didn’t help at all.


Do you enjoy touring a show? Is it different from doing a run in one theatre?
Yes. It is different. I do enjoy touring. What’s good about touring is that at the beginning of every week, you get a chance to reinvent the character. I can’t play my characters the same thing night after night. I say the same lines but if acting is your thoughts being expressed, then your thoughts change slightly. The way that you express the character changes slightly. And when you move to a new theatre and a new environment, it’s like a whole new dynamic backstage. It’s nice because you find different things in the characters that you play.


A Tale of Two Cities opens at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it plays from 10 to 17 September 2016. It then tours to Oxford Playhouse, Richmond Theatre, Bradford Alhambra, Blackpool Grand, Wolverhampton Grand, Brighton Theatre Royal, Edinburgh King's, Cheltenham Everyman and Nottingham Theatre Royal. 

Get tickets for this show by visiting our tour page.