Not a Challenge, but an Ambition: Donal Finn gives us a Glimpse into the Albion Rehearsal Room, sharing what it’s like to breathe life into a pre-existing production
Mike Barlett’s Albion was first on the Almeida stage in 2017. Rupert Gould’s revival just three years later sees this critically acclaimed play back on the Almeida stage with seven of the original eleven cast members back in for a second round. For many, the idea of working alongside actors such as Victoria Hamilton (The Crown, Doctor Foster), Margot Leicester (Broken Glass – The National Theatre, King Charles III) and Nigel Betts (Emmerdale, Boy Meets Girl) may feel daunting enough, let alone when those actors have already starred in the play just a few years earlier.
But not for Donal Finn, who plays the aspiring writer Gabriel in the 2020 Revival of the play. Rather, joining Albion’s impressive original cast was an exciting opportunity to work with actors who already knew the play inside out, learning from their knowledge and experience, and pushing himself as an actor. “It wasn’t so much a challenge” he said, “it was like an ambition… they can say things to you with an authority and a history behind them, and all of that history is coloured and detailed, so you’re just trying to match them as quickly as you can”.
Having graduated from LAMDA in 2018, Finn made his professional debut in Soho Theatre’s rock n’ roll fable Chasing Soho, and has since landed roles in Netflix’s The Witcher and the film-adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s How To Build a Girl, due to be released later this year.
Whilst the history and authority of original cast members was respected in the rehearsal room, Finn asserts that the returning cast also saw this as a new, exciting opportunity to explore the text again. “It felt incredibly free in the rehearsal room”, with telling us that the original cast “weren’t just trying to recreate something that’s happened before, they were looking to explore it again”.
This idea of change and re-examining is reflected in Rupert Goold’s intention to revive the play, wanting to examine the idea that plays can change over time. For Finn, this approach drew him to the project: “Something about the play being alive…I suppose that attracts me to it, because it’s quite an active play, something that’s sitting on top of a political climate right now”. Just three years on, the play’s commentary on family, politics and grief will land differently with audiences, highlighting just how important the audience and their experiences are to a play. Like Albion’s own garden, Bartlett’s play is alive, constantly growing, evolving, changing. With parallels frequently drawn to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, I wonder how differently, or not, Albion will be received in years to come.