#Iris10: Q&A with actor Matthew Mellalieu

When/how did you get involved with Iris?
I first started working with Iris when relatively fresh faced and newly graduated from Drama Centre London where I had met and known Dan [Winder] for a couple of years – as he was in the year above me when training and in fact did my audition for Drama Centre. We had a slightly awkward audition where I read for him (my stock post DC audition speeches) in a small room in North London and he asked all the usual questions in a professional manner that met the criteria of the situation beyond the fact that he knew already whether I could play the part or not!  I did… and played God in the Nativity that winter (2007)… and so my association with Iris began.
What was your favourite Iris production from the past 10 years (and why)?
I have many fond memories of Iris shows. Lots of great moments that speak to me as an actor but also really did the pieces justice. The final scene of Romeo and Juliet was always such a striking visual and hit an emotional resonance with the cast and audiences alike, it was a pleasure to play each night.  Playing Badger in The Wind in the Willows was another that sticks out in my mind sharing the wonderful story with hundreds of children and families who were able to stop by Badger’s house in the grounds of the church.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream however was perhaps my favourite production as we had such a fantastic cast with unforgettable performances from he likes of Peter Manchester as Oberon, Diana Kashlan as Titania and the unmatchable David Baynes as Puck. That was a very special show and the work Dan put in to bring the world of the piece to life within the church gardens made for a very special experience for all who saw it and spent some time inside the fairy circle.

What’s your best memory of Iris Theatre?
Many great memories over the years but one that will always stick out as representing what those early years at Iris were all about was the entire cast wheeling two huge stage blocks, (one with a bath hidden inside it) from our rehearsal space in Monument through the streets of London to the Actors’ Church whilst dancing and singing and playing instruments along the way. Of course the occasional flyer for the show was also thrust into the hand of an unsuspecting member of the public as we went.

What does Iris Theatre mean to you?
The true feeling of ensemble theatre creating shows and indeed the company as a whole over my seven successive years from nativity to Julius Caesar is part and parcel of what Iris is. A company with strong ties to its location, the people that helped bring it to life and creating theatre that speaks to everyone.  I am always proud to be a part of that family as an associate artist and that we have been able to create pieces that have engaged audiences in new ways with many acknowledging Iris as the first company to produce Shakespeare they actually understood and enjoyed. A marvellous accolade for anyone wanting to inspire a love of text and the Bard!

Sum up Iris Theatre in three words!
Collaborative, immersive, engaging.