Scott Karim on playing Brave New World's Helmholtz

Scott Karim on playing Brave New World's Helmholtz

27 November 2015

by Andrew Young

Scott Karim talks about his role in Brave New World and shares his experience of working on his first touring production. 

Scott Karim as Helmholtz How would you describe your character?
I mostly play Helmholtz Watson but also a smaller part as Alex, who is a feely star in our world. In the world in which Brave New World is set, feelies are film like events requiring people to wear equipment. They’re a little bit like a high-tech virtual reality, but they tap into your feelings as well as what you see.  People go to the feelies for full body experiences that are often a little bit dangerous and a little bit raunchy.  Alex is a star in that world, somewhat similar to an actor or movie star in the present day.

As well as that, the bigger part I play is Helmholtz – a feely writer and an Emotional Engineer. As a feely writer, he creates those same feelies someone like Alex would be in. Being an Emotional Engineer is sort of like being an Advertising Executive, but with a concentration on propaganda for the World State. The World State is this seemingly beautiful future that everybody’s living in, but it’s very manufactured and people are conditioned and raised in a set way.


In rehearsals, did you add any bits of backstory to your characters?
It’s important to think in some plays such as this, you’re in a play that’s with as many different locations and so many things going on. You’re often having ideas about how you might want to do something, but because there’s the novel and things are so open to interpretation, it’s important where we could to try and reach some sort of consensus whereby we can say ‘we’re going to go in this direction’.


Do you find the details that you flesh out stay consistent through each show or do you find that sometimes you might one week play it one way and another week another?
There are so many things that have to work quickly because it’s such a big show that it's likely some things have changed. You get to a place where it works so that you can put the show on, and then you revisit it and think actually ‘not only could it work, but there could be other elements to it’.

It’s funny because sometimes that bit that you thought was quite simple actually shows up to have little bits in it that can be elaborated on. The most obvious way to look at something is that it’s a very straightforward way of letting people know what’s happening in a scene, but then you start to realise it has a comic side or another element to it. It’s great because that can help keep you interested in terms of being able to play that scene for the fiftieth time but it might help the story too.


How have you found touring to different theatres, is there anything that helps you adjust to that?
This is the first tour I’ve ever been on. The first touring city was Edinburgh and that night was my first experience of arriving early afternoon, rehearsing in a new space and doing a show in the evening.

There were lots of things which we had to adjust to, you could take that space that used to be a metre wide in Northampton, is now less than a third of a metre wide and we can’t fit those things on that we used to fit there. So one of the things about this tour has been having faith in the company and the crew around you and that you will figure some things out as you go along. It sounds reckless but there are inevitabilities to the fact that you’re constantly moving the show. When you get to these grand old theatres, the crew do an amazing job because there’s a lot going on technically. I get so disorientated sometimes, I find myself in some theatres and going to walk up steps, only to suddenly turn around the corner and think ‘I’m leading the wrong way’.

You get used to thinking on your feet more which is probably a better place for an actor to be. It’s actually been a lesson that I’ve learnt and taken from this. I’ve done long runs in a single theatre before, and I hope that it was never to the point of it affecting the performance in a negative way, but you get a confidence in the fact you know things.

There’s ways that theatre feel when you’re stood on the stage and the way that acoustics, sight lines partly, but it’s also just the way that a theatre feels when you’re stood on the stage. You just have a little bit of fun playing with that intimacy.

Brave New World premieres at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 4 to 26 September 2015. It then tours to Edinburgh, Blackpool, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Bradford where it concludes on 5 December.