China Chats With Rex Ryan

Hillary Dziminski, Creative Producer for the Corps Ensemble and upcoming national tour of Made in China, asks Artistic Director and recent Manchester Theatre Award nominee Rex Ryan a few questions about his process, character, and his biggest challenges. 

Do you feel you identify with your character? In what ways do you/don’t you?

I’m playing a young man called Paddy in Made In China. In many ways he is the purest character in the play and the other two characters fight for his loyalty throughout the story. I love Paddy. He is sensitive, caring and observant. He’s also crude, ignorant and frustrating at times. Like us all, he’s a contradiction. It’s my job to identify things within Paddy I understand, and that which I don’t initially understand I work on.

He is vastly different to me in many ways; his thought process/speed, accent, I imagine him to move totally different to me. He has a different body. I’ve become more relaxed recently with letting the character come through me naturally in rehearsals as opposed to grabbing at things. If you’re open, it will come.

What is the most challenging thing about Made in China for you as an actor?

It’s a beautiful piece of writing so it’s a pleasure to do it. I believe in the story too. The most challenging thing is probably the concentration that's required in performance. Paddy thinks totally different to myself and he often gets lost in his own thoughts while conversations continue on stage. So I need to get into his mental rhythms and stay there for a couple of hours while also being conscious of giving the story to our audience.

How do you feel that Made in China is relevant and resonant in today’s society?

It’s a story of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, parenthood…These are themes that transcend time from ancient Greek theatre, to Shakespeare, to our Dublin Noir thriller.

If we do it well, I hope the audience will see bits of themselves within the characters. I hope they will see them as complex humans, because they could easily be discounted as thugs, scumbags or simply stupid, when of course that is never the case. Life is in the grey, the unexplainable, the mystery of our ridiculous minds.

Perhaps that’s it? I’d like people to give a character they’d usually ignore on the street some more thought. I’d just like people to have an emotional experience with them…and I think today, more understanding and attention to human beings is sorely needed.

What feelings or questions do you hope an audience will take away from Made in China?

I don’t think the theatre is for ‘teaching’ or trying to militantly get a point across or to project your ‘concept ‘. We are so full of the energy and complications of life anyway that it’s enough for an audience to sit in a theatre with a bunch of characters they believe and have a visceral and emotional experience with them. A soulful experience that makes you think something that causes a stir in your soul that was asleep.

My favourite theatre affects you subconsciously 4 days later when you’re walking your dog…

The Corps Ensemble produced Made in China last year as it’s first production…are there any of the same challenges in preparing for this remount and tour? Are there any new challenges? What has it been like to revisit the script again?

We are lucky in that the script is so detailed, it holds up to a second rehearsal as you find so many more details in the story and also within your character.

I love Paddy too so I like jumping back into his mind.

And f*** me… the play is hilarious…we’ve laughed a lot.

Do you prepare for a tour differently than you prepare for a one-time run?

No, just the boring stuff. Logistics, vans, how much money do we need for dinner…does the hostel have a jacks?… is that a human head in the shower Neill? etc …

What is your favorite part of the preparation process for a show?

I love the chase of the character. There’s always one moment when something happens; a move, a thought, and you have him. It takes patience though, which I’m working on…

What I really love though is the performance. The energy.

And the fact you have to just let go at that point and see what the hell happens.

You have to trust.

Do you find it difficult to get out of the head of your character when you leave the stage or the rehearsal room?

Sometimes I’m wired and need to do a jog after a show or take 15 minutes listening to some relaxing music. Other nights I’m wrecked and just want my bed.

But if you’ve done the work, you should be able to sort of click in and out of the character when you need to.