September 8th 2010

Ghost in the Machine: Andy Nyman Interview

Written by Dan Collacott
Ghost in the Machine: Andy Nyman Interview
Written by Dan Collacott
If you are one of the few people living in the London area who hasn’t seen the play ‘Ghost Stories’ yet, then what the hell are you doing? Stop reading this and go see it! Ok, ok, wait!  Come back, read this first! Then go!
After a successful run at the Lyric, this spooky and highly innovative piece of theatre moved to the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End and has continued to give Londoners the willies ever since. If you like horror films and enjoyed shows like the ‘Woman in Black’, then ‘Ghost Stories’ is something you must experience. The play is from the dark and comically horrific minds of ‘League of Gentleman’ writer, Jeremy Dyson, and anarchic actor, Andy Nyman – co-creator and director of Derren Brown's television and stage shows, and star of ‘Dead Set’ and ‘Severance’.
We got the chance to catch up with Andy, fresh off his stage performance, and talk about all things 'Ghost Stories', 'Dead Set', working with Derren Brown, Charlie Brooker and his pretty cool TV and film career to date. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the LF Interview with Andy Nyman!
It is rumoured that 'Ghost Stories' was inspired by 'Paranormal Activity'.  Did you try and recreate the feel and affect of that film on theatrical audiences?
Not really. Jeremy really loved the movie, but our inspirations come from all over. 'Dead of Night', 'Drag Me to Hell', the 70's Amicus movies, plus ghost novels and novellas too numerous to mention.
Do you think modern theatre is an undersold medium to deliver horror?
Absolutely. If you look at the purest form of scary 'theatre', it's telling a ghost story around a campfire. There's nothing to match that fear, [and] that’s what we wanted to capture. Theatre can deliver like no other form of entertainment.
In the show your character examines what scares people and why people want to be scared - what things most scare you and why?
The only thing that really scares me is something awful happening to the people I love. I think I can cope with everything else.
In the showing I saw, several people had to leave during the second act/story. Have you been surprised by how easily audiences have been scared and how they've responded to the play?
We have people leave through fear every night, it's such a compliment! It's not easy to properly scare people so to have people have to leave through fear is just brilliant.
One of the primary themes in 'Ghost Stories' (without giving too much away to those who have not seen it) is that of guilt.  What influenced this theme - are there any skeletons in your closet?
I think if we're honest, we have all done something were ashamed of. Jeremy spoke about our lives and tried to tap into some of those feelings. I think this theme is one of the things that has made the show so successful, people can relate to the characters.
What are your favourite horror movies?
My current favourite is 'REC', it's so scary. If you haven't seen it, read nothing about it, just buy or rent it and stick it on. It's brilliant.
You and 'Ghost Stories' co-writer Jeremy Dyson met at camp - what did did you get up to as kids?
Dirty jokes, horror films, sitcoms, comics and magic. Truly nothing has changed.
Were you a 'League of Gentlemen' fan before your worked with Jeremy?
Of course, they changed comedy in this country. The four of them are so talented.
You've worked with Charlie Brooker on 'Dead Set' and 'Screen Wipes' - how did you come to work together, and are you a fan of each others work?
I was sent the script for 'Dead Set' and couldn’t believe how good it was. We've kept talking about other projects - we'll see. I'm certainly a fan of his, I hope he is of mine.
Are you a big Romero zombie film fan?
Of course! 'Dawn of the Dead' was a seminal movie in my teenage years.
How similar are you to the character Patrick in 'Dead Set'?
What do you think?
What is really your opinion on reality TV and 'Big Brother' - are you a fan?
Mixed feelings. On the one hand I don't like it, but like most people if there’s a reality show on I don’t like - if you watch two minutes you get hooked.
You've starred in a number of films and most recently 'Black Death'.  What film or role are you most proud of?
Hard to say, I’m proud of all of them, but maybe 'Dead Babies' pips the others as it was my first movie.
Who have you been most star struck by when working with?
I think when I worked with Jon Voight in 'Uprising'.
What was it like working with Frank Oz on 'Death at a Funeral'?
Amazing. I was such a fan of his. Since the movie we have become incredibly close friends and will be working together again soon.
What do you look for in a script?
An interesting character that has lots of interesting stuff to do.
How did you get into magic and what is your favourite trick or show concept worked on?
I always loved magic as a child, I started to learn it when I left drama school. My favourite trick is something I invented called 'The Sophie Trick.'
How did you and Derren Brown come to work together?
They wanted me to be the front man for the show, but I had no interest in doing so, I turned the show down but I said I'd happily work with whoever they found for the job. They found Derren and we spent the last ten years creating all Derren TV and stage shows together.
Can you tell us more about your new upcoming C4 comedy series 'Campus' and give us a preview of the characters and stories?
It is the new show from the team behind 'Green Wing'. I play Jonty De Wolf, the monstrous vice chancellor of Kirke University. Expect lots of odd, dark, outrageous comedy.
What sitcoms and comedians have most inspired your work and coloured your sense of humour and writing?
I adore Jewish humour - Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Jackie Mason. I also have a great love of all types of comedy. I've always loved sitcoms too, in fact we're just re-watching a really underrated BBC sitcom called 'The Peter Principal', its hilarious.
You have so many career paths and talents, what do refer to yourself as primarily?
An actor first and foremost.
What is your career highlight so far?
Right now, I would have to say 'Ghost Stories'. I stand on that stage every night and cannot believe it.

Find out more about Ghost Stories and book here.

Watch first episode of Campus on 4OD!

Dead Set:

More about Andy Nyman here:

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