December 12, 2013
Sam is delighted to find himself on the Swan stage playing in Antony and Cleopatra. He plays Octavius opposite Jonathan Cake's Antony.
He has always loved Shakespeare, always felt at home with it which is no doubt partly due to its being part of his upbringing. He remembers a beautifully-illustrated copy of Lambs' Tales of Shakespeare which either his mum or his dad would read to him and his twin sister when they were young.
Son of an actor
His parents are both in the acting profession- his father, David Collings and mother, Karen Archer are both familiar names at the RSC. But, Sam says, they made no assumptions about their children and certainly did not push them in the direction of acting - although after a certain age they became supportive.
Sam saw his father in Shakespearean productions from the age of six: Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream in Regent's Park and Richard III at the National Theatre.
Theatre was the world he grew up in and he loves Shakespeare so much so that he always carries some Shakespeare with him 'like a charm'.
Although he has always been at ease with Shakespeare, he admits that his enjoyment came from reading it for himself, seeing it in performance or listening to it. He enjoys Shakespeare on the radio he says, but he can't remember it from school at all.
It was only at sixth form college where he did English literature, performing arts, theatre studies and dance that he was actively involved with the plays.
Getting straight to work
He applied for drama school but at the time of his application when he was seventeen it was private rather than funded and so he spent the next three years working as an actor rather than training at a college.
Then he went to Bristol Old Vic Theatre School where he did his first year, but found it increasingly difficult to balance the demands of the course with the TV work that he was involved with and so left.
He was working with Roxana Silbert when she directed her first Shakespeare play: Comedy of Errors at the Royal Exchange in 2010. Roxana usually directs new plays and he liked the way she treated this as any other play. He learnt how to do Shakespeare in a pacy, energetic way, a skill he is using now as the cast prepare to take Antony and Cleopatra to Miami. They will play to school children in some performances here and the law states that plays must be no longer than an hour and a half for audiences of this age.
He says he feels that playing in the Swan Theatre is a real privilege. He has known the theatre since he was a child so it feels familiar and yet thrilling to be here as a performer.
I found his steely, icy presence on stage, armour-plated against emotion unnervingly exciting to watch. At times you felt there was a flicker of emotion, perhaps towards his sister or an Antony he had once admired, but the control was always there to put the damper on any perceived weakness. A man making his own legend and casting it in marble, I thought.
Sam considers future roles he'd like to play: Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing? Bertram in All's Well That Ends Well? Angelo in Measure for Measure? Before Corialanus - which is a must. He says he loves the role of Puck and I find myself seeing Ariel. Sam knows his Shakespeare so it's really exciting to meet an enthusiastic, talented, young actor who has so many Shakespearean roles ahead of him that he could play.
Image: Sam Collings plays Octavius in Antony and Cleopatra during our winter 2013 production.
by Viv Graver
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