China Chats With Neill Fleming

In this installment of China Chats, indieFEST Best Actor Award winner Neill Fleming talks about his love of China, how he gets into a character, and his biggest rehearsal struggle. 

A strange, unpleasant thing has happened to me in both rehearsal periods for Made in China. I wake up one morning, and everything seems fine and dandy and then out of nowhere get struck with the worst case of diarrhoea imaginable. Pure pressure hose. Stomach cramps. Dehydration. Light headedness. It’s awful; normally I would never suffer from intestinal distress of any description. If something in my fridge is a day or two out of date, or smells ‘A bit Madonna’ (i.e. Borderline) I’m more than likely going to eat it anyway. Say nothing, lash it in a curry-- be grand. I have absolutely eaten things well over the week, possibly even ten day mark and suffered no ill consequences.

Then, I start rehearsal for China, get ‘bout a week in and all of a sudden, tectonic plate shifts, volcanic eruptions ensue. Kilby has taken up residence. Neill Fleming is only a paper thin mask, swept away in the foul flood that is The Kilby. 

There is internalization, and then there’s this. Subconscious. Fetid. Mephitic. Surreptitious.

I’m not much of a ‘method’ actor. I don’t generally spend a lot of time talking about and analyzing (pun intended) the character or go through a methodical process of character creation. I like to get in there, say the words, see how they make me feel, try to figure out how the character feels, say the words again and see how they sound then, listen to my director, play the scene with and for my fellow actors, milk it a bit, milk it some more, bring it back to reality and hopefully after all that messing and playing around, have discovered some things without really trying to, but more by experiencing what that has done. I usually don’t even bother reading the script before rehearsal starts -- finding everything out, especially the ending, at the first read through is a great joy.

I treated Made in China no differently. It started for me a good few years ago; myself, Ed, another actor, and a director sat down in the old Factory to have a read through. I’d never looked at it before I opened me mouth, but it just flowed out of me. Fluid. Feculent. Funny as fuck. The cadences and comedy were innate and natural, the darkness intriguing and terrifying. I knew these lads, had lived moments of their lives. Spent nights with mates just trying to wreck each other’s heads, and dying laughing because of it.

Most of all, it reminds me of a time in my life when going to the local row of shops to ‘Videolink’ to search the shelves for a kung-fu movie, or manga, that we hadn’t seen was Friday night. (We’d seen them all, but we still spent ten fruitless minutes every time scouring the five or six shelves labelled ‘Action’)

 I still know most of Invincible Pole Fighters, The Fearless Hyena, and Ninja Scrolls by heart, word for word, frame for frame.  I certainly was never ‘battering’ people for money, but I certainly knew me fair share of Snorkels, loved the film Serpico and most of all spoofed my face off with my best mates.

So it’s safe to say that Made in China has a special place in my heart. Apparently, it reserves a very particular place in my bowels also, and when I start to become the ‘permy cocksucker’, my body prepares in an extremely debilitating, painful manner. And when that is happening to someone else, it’s fucking hilarious.