An Actor's Life: David Morley Hale

An Actor's Life: David Morley Hale

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Mr Morley Hale features this week in our series of interviews with the Regeneration cast.

David Morley Hale plays Cullen, Willard and Burns in the Touring Consortium Theatre Company's production of Regeneration. In this interview, David talks about the challenges of multi-role casting and tips on surviving a tour.


You play 3 characters in Regeneration. Tell us briefly about them and how they fit in the story


Major Willard is an officer very much of the old school, purportedly paralysed, though it transpires this is psychosomatic. His character serves to demonstrate the degree to which a soldier's shell-shocked subconscious can play 'tricks' on his body

Captain Burns is a similar case. His experience of being blown in the air by shell blast then landing face first in a corpse and getting rotting flesh in his mouth, has rendered him virtually unable to swallow any food without vomiting

The Cullen character's story illustrates the near barbaric methods commonly employed to treat mutism around this time, treating it as a purely physical disorder and virtually disregarding the psychological causes, which Captain Rivers addresses 


David Morley Hale as Burns in Regeneration
Do you ever forget which you're playing? How difficult is switching between them?


There is a fair amount of time between scenes to change mind-set for the different characters, so it isn't particularly difficult, and I don't forget which character I'm playing, at least I haven't so far. Fingers crossed I don't ever vomit whilst being electrocuted, could be unpleasant!


How familiar had you been with Sassoon and Owen before this production?


I knew the names, and that was about all. Scratch the surface with me and I'm afraid you'll find a few too many cultural voids than there should be. That's one of the great things about being involved in productions like this, it's been a hugely satisfying experience learning about these characters and their work, and indeed about WW1 in general


What's the most interesting thing you've learned from working on the production?


As I say it's been a wonderfully rich education on this period so there are many interesting things I have learned, but the fact that the barbaric treatments in the electrical therapy scene actually happened came as quite a revelation - that scene is based quite accurately on an actual case study from Yealland's own notes. It is one of the most 'physical' scenes I've ever had to play, and it requires quite a bit of concentration, so that has been an interesting experience


Any anecdotes from the rehearsal room?


We were doing a stagger through the whole show for the rest of the creative staff, and right at the very end during the delicate final scene between Rivers and Sassoon, a person from the group who were hiring the venue after us, a religious group, burst through the door and into the middle of the scene emphatically declaiming "YOUR TIME HERE IS OVER!". There then followed the quickest clearing of a room ever witnessed accompanied by barely stifled giggles of incredulity


You've toured quite a bit previously. Prior to Regeneration what's been your touring highlight?

Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall, the show about Spike Milligan was very memorable, an extensive tour of a great show about a fascinating man's experience of WW2 with us cast members getting to play and sing some great 40s music


Any tips on how best to cope while on tour?


I enjoy touring and have never really found it particularly challenging to any great degree. I've been lucky on the whole with the digs I've found and it's usually possible to get home once a week if you want/need to. It's a great opportunity to discover the UK and personally I like to take my bike and go exploring as much as possible. 


How important is the music in this production of Regeneration? Tell us about your music projects


Music is always a crucial element of most productions, as obviously it helps set an emotional tone, and Stuart Earl has done an immaculate job in doing precisely that. He has also incorporated the song referred to in the piece, 'After The Ball Is Over' into his score, on which he's based a number of variations to great effect

My music making is a bit of an obsession. I studied it at college, have usually got a project on the go and have had a couple of tracks played on BBC Radio 2 and 6Music and released an album of contemporary classical piano music. I suppose I'm still secretly hoping to be a music superstar one day :-)


Give us your elevator pitch: Why should audiences come and see Regeneration?


It's a powerful, moving, often shocking story and theatrical experience, based on real characters and events from one of the world's darkest periods only just beyond living memory, and in which many peoples not too distant ancestors will have played an active part. 


Regeneration premiered on 2 September 2014 (previews from 29 August) at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it continues until 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.