Interview: Olly Alexander and Ruby Bentall of ‘Peter and Alice’ talk Judi Dench T-shirts and Cake

Written for Spoonfed. Originally published on 12 March, 2013
Olly Alexander and Ruby Bentall, stars of the West End show Peter and Alice, give us a sneak peek into the rehearsal room and tell us what it’s like working with Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw.

Ruby Bentall and Olly Alexander have been making a habit of starring alongside heavyweights of theatre and film. You’ll know Ruby from the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford and The Paradise; and Olly from Mike Newell’s Great Expectations with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter. Now they’re rapidly making a name for themselves on stage.

In John Logan’s Peter and Alice, part of the Michael Grandage Season, they play Alice Hargreaves and Peter Llewellyn Davies, the insirpation for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. When Alice gives a talk at a library and Peter finds himself in the audience, their fictional counterparts (Olly and Ruby) begin to grow and invade the world of their namesakes played by Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench.

Olly and Ruby took a break from rehearsals to answer a few questions for us.

How does your day begin?
Olly: I normally get up and drink five cups of coffee and then get on my bike and race to rehearsals and then drink more coffee. I like the mornings but mornings just don’t like me.

Ruby: I’m not a morning person. It’s one of the best things about doing a play, once the play’s up and running you only work in the evenings and you can get up late.

What part of the day do you most look forward to?
Ruby: Teatime! This has been the best job for people making and buying cakes.

Olly: I also love teatime! This job has really shown off people’s baking prowess. I’ve had more rocky roads and brownies in the past month than I’ve had in years.

What’s the most daunting part of your day?
Olly: So far I’ve found making my entrance in the play terrifying. My heart beats so fast and I can feel my face turn bright red. Hopefully I will get over this by opening night.

Ruby: I find it really scary when the writer John Logan is watching. I always think he’s cringing inside at how I’m saying his lines.
Ruby Bentall in Peter and Alice

Can you give us a picture of the rehearsal room, who’s around and what are they up to?
Ruby: We’ve been rehearsing at the Jerwood in Southwark. It’s a massive rehearsal room and we have the stage marked out on the floor. We have four stage managers, Michael the director, the assistant director and sometimes the understudies who watch our rehearsals and rehearse after us.

Olly: Ruby’s described it perfectly. Sam Mendes has been rehearsing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the room below us and sometimes we can sing along to the music that comes through the walls.

What’s it been like working with Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench?
Olly: It’s amazing to watch them. I’m obsessed with Judi, I follow her around like a puppy. I might wear a Dench t-shirt for press night. The whole company is ridiculously friendly and nice.

Ruby: They are both incredible, talented and very lovely people. I thought I would be so in awe of Judi that I wouldn’t be able to speak to her, but she so funny and easygoing that it’s just been wonderful. It’s a really great cast, everyone’s so friendly.

Can you tell us about your characters? What are their biggest challenges and have you found them easy to empathise with?
Ruby: I’m playing Alice in Wonderland. She’s supposed to be the archetypal Alice, the Tenniel version that everyone thinks of when you think of Alice.

Olly: I’m playing Peter Pan. I’ve always loved him. In the script he’s described as being full of bravado and nerve, something I lack entirely. So I’ve been working on that and learning to play the panpipes and trying to fly. Barrie described him as being a heartless boy, so I’m trying to be as magical and heartless as possible but I don’t know if I’ve managed any of it.

Peter and Alice runs from 9th March until 1st June at Noel Coward Theatre

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