Beginning - London

A tender and funny story about the first fragile moments of risking your heart and taking a chance.

Beginning Star Sam Troughton on Making His West End Debut, Googling His Co-Star & More

Beginning Star Sam Troughton on Making His West End Debut, Googling His Co-Star & More
Sam Troughton & Justine Mitchell in "Beginning"
(Photo: Johan Persson)

About the Show

Sam Troughton has long been steeped in the classics, from Williams to Chekhov to Shakespeare, the last of which he has performed in New York with the Royal Shakespeare Company. This terrific actor is now co-starring with Justine Mitchell in the decidedly contemporary two-hander, Beginning, which has transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre for a commercial run after its National Theatre debut last fall. One of a family of actors (his father, David, heads to New York in the spring for his own Shakespeare stint at BAM), the younger Troughton took time one recent evening to talk male-female hook-ups, Netflix and the thrill of the new.

How does it feel at this point in your career to be making your West End debut?
It’s really lovely to get to the West End in something like this that Justine and I are both really proud of. I don’t think when we were rehearsing that we ever thought about a transfer. It wasn’t until we got a certain amount of five-star reviews that people started talking about it, and once [previous Ambassadors tenant] Stomp confirmed that it was coming off, we all of a sudden had the perfect theater for our play.

How did you come to be in the play?
I think it was about the end of November 2016 that I first auditioned for it, just in a room with [playwright] David [Eldridge] and [director] Polly [Findlay] and the casting director, Wendy [Spon]. It felt then as if it had gone well but it wasn’t until May 2017 that I came in and read with Justine in what must have been in the morning, and in the afternoon, we had both been offered it. It all happened very quickly.

Did you know Justine before?
I’d never met her! We both didn’t really know each other at all, so I went home and Googled her and found this quite amazing CV of theater work.

Was that sense of getting to know her useful in a way, given that Beginning is about a 42-year-old guy, Danny, who lingers on at the house-warming party of a woman, Laura, 38, whom he also doesn’t really know?
I’m sure that played a part in it, definitely. One of the great things about the play is that you must be wondering at the top what on earth is this guy doing in this girl’s flat and what is going on there. But the more they reveal of themselves, the more it makes sense. 

Has Laura engineered it so that Danny stays behind after her other guests have all left?
When the play starts, people sometimes wonder whether Laura planned this, and I don’t think she did. But at the same time, what she asks of Danny over the course of the play is something fairly considerable and it does feel as if she has found a pretty good guy to ask that of: he’s not actually someone who’s going to get up and go.

So, their burgeoning relationship has legs?
During the opening 45 minutes, we get these vicarious gasps from the audience, wondering how clenchingly awkward it’s going to get. I just think if nothing happens between Danny and Laura long term that this night is still going to be something that they will remember for the rest of their lives. 

Do you sometimes feel there are more than two people onstage, since other characters get talked about even if they aren’t seen?
There’s definitely a third character in the play who’s just left at the start and that would be Keith, Danny’s best mate, who leaves to get that early taxi. You could argue that he kind of rescues Danny by exiting when he does and by forcing Danny to have the balls to make something of the situation: Keith is a classic unseen character.

Can you sense the audience pondering what might happen to Danny and Laura in the [unwritten] sequel?
The lovely thing with this play is that every person walks away with their own idea of what could possibly happen, so each night there are 300-odd “beginnings” that walk off into the night. Everybody has a different scenario, some more positive than others.

Has your immersion in the classics over time helped on this play?
You know, one thing I thought when I first read this was that it reminded me of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, except longer and between two people who aren’t virgins. I really do think that’s the template for every love scene that has come after.

Are you amazed that your credits range from Romeo through to Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar?
The funny thing is that I’ve never really gone after or engineered playing something. I mean, I would never have said I wanted to play Romeo and Stanley, but I’m quite proud of that sort of mixture and also with Edmund [in King Lear] and Brutus [in Julius Caesar] and Tusenbach [in Three Sisters] all part of quite an eclectic mix.

What about screen work: any interesting TV or film coming up?
I’m in Mike Leigh’s new film Peterloo, which is about the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819. I play a member of the Home Office at the time called Henry Hobhouse. And I’ve got a horror film coming up on Netflix called The Ritual with Rafe Spall and [Downton Abbey actor] Rob James-Collier. It’s about a group of university friends who go on a hiking trip and take a wrong turn—which you know you shouldn’t do in a horror film [laughs].

Oh, I have to ask: given how many years Stomp ran in this same theater before your play got there, do you ever get disappointed playgoers who arrive expecting an evening of drumming and percussion?
I’d like to think there are enough signs out front indicating what we are—unless, of course, you’ve got some hard core Stomp-er, in which case we’ve got a kitchen on the set, so I suppose we could rustle up some beats!