A Tale of Two Cities: Interview with actor Jonathan Dryden Taylor

A Tale of Two Cities: Interview with actor Jonathan Dryden Taylor

14 November 2016

Interview: Jonathan on his roles as Jerry Cruncher and Peasant Father 

Jonathan Dryden Taylor as Peasant FeatherJonathan Dryden Taylor as Peasant Father

Tell us about the roles you play
I play Jerry Cruncher, who is a kind of bodyguard-slash-enforcer, and the Peasant Father, who is a character we meet right in the middle of the biggest catastrophe of his life.


How do you approach playing different characters? Is it difficult to switch from playing the emotions of the peasant father to some of the other roles?
We live in an age of ensemble productions really so most actors are used to playing more than one part in a particular show. With the Peasant Father, it’s not so much how I switch back as how I get there that’s the challenge: it’s a big emotional scene early in the show and I need to be able to jump off the top board right at the start of it.


What had been your experience of Dickens before taking this role?
Similar to most people, I should think- I’d read some of the novels for A-Levels and as a student, seen the big TV adaptations, not to mention Oliver! and Muppet Christmas Carol… I was a fan of Dickens on-stage though, having seen Geoffrey Beevers’ wonderful adaptation of Hard Times at the Orange Tree years ago.


How relevant do you think Dickens’ stories are today?
My first line in the show is about how the period of the play is ‘almost indistinguishable’ from our own, so that’s a pretty bold statement to back up! But there’s so much that chimes with today: issues of nationality and patriotism, issues around the wisdom or otherwise of crowds, even mental health issues- there are characters in the play we would describe now as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression. And politically it seems very current, especially the Marquis’ terrifying fascistic speech about treating less socially fortunate human beings as animals.


When did you first decide to go into acting?
It was in the blood! My parents and older sister were all in the business so in some ways it was inescapable. But I think it was pretty much confirmed when I was 7 and was roped in when a local drama school needed a child for one of its productions.


Is there a previous role of yours that you look back with a particular fondness?
Lots! But the ones that spring to mind are Tito Merelli in Lend Me A Tenor and Trotter in Journey’s End. Tito because he’s a big cartoonish character in a farce that leaves audiences helpless with laughter, and Trotter because I just liked him so much. In many ways he’s there as comic relief but I think in the nightmare of the trenches there’s something heroic about being ‘the cheerful one’.


If you could play any role, your dream role, what would it be?
Now that I’m past forty, a lot of the dream roles are in the rear-view mirror- I won’t depress myself by listing them! But I’d love to play Sweeney Todd, Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra or Reverend Hale in The Crucible. And- in about twenty-five years time- Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.





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.