Ferdinand Kingsley on The Comeuppance at the Almeida Theatre

Ferdinand Kingsley. Photo: Marc Brenner

Actor Ferdinand Kingsley will be familiar to many for his high-profile television roles. This year, he’s been starring in the main cast of Amazon Prime’s Reacher as mercenary fighter A.M. and has previously appeared in Apple’s starry sci-fi Silo alongside Rebecca Ferguson, Rashida Jones, David Oyelowo and Tim Robbins and in Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s comic book The Sandman.

On-screen, he also appeared in David Fincher’s Oscar-nominated 2020 film Mank opposite Gary Oldman, playing American film producer Irving Thalberg. But Kingsley is no stranger to the stage, picking up roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company as a child, before kicking off his career as an adult at the National Theatre in the Richard Eyre-directed Welcome to Thebes and earning a commendation at the prestigious Ian Charleson Awards for his performance in Nicholas Hytner’s 2010 production of Hamlet.

Following his first foray into television with The Hollow Crown, Ripper Street and Borgia, Kingsley returned to the stage for Teh Internet is Serious Business at the Royal Court in 2014 and the Ralph Fiennes-fronted Man and Superman at the National in 2015. Now, he’s back on stage again for his Almeida Theatre debut in the UK premiere of The Comeuppance, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ biting satire which questions if we can ever break free from the people we used to be.

As the cast, which also includes Yolanda Kettle, Tamara Lawrance, Katie Leung, and Anthony Welsh, approached the end of rehearsals, we got Kingsley’s take on Jacobs-Jenkins’ play and why acting for theatre is ‘electric.’

Kingsley (right) with the cast in rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

Q&A with Ferdinand Kingsley

How does it feel to be making your Almeida Theatre debut?

Fantastic, of course. I’ve wanted to work here for as long as I’ve been an actor. There’s been such consistently great work coming out of the Almeida and I feel like the past few years have had something that excites and challenges me in every season. To be working here for the first time playing this role in The Comeuppance is fantastic.

What can you tell us about The Comeuppance and your role in the show?

The Comeuppance has a deceptively simple premise: five old school friends are meeting up before they’re due to attend their 20-year high school reunion. It’s a play about remembering and forgetting, about changing and allowing people to change (or not), and it’s a play about confronting your choices, the life you’ve lived and where it’s heading. Because, crucially, these friends are being observed at their party by something – someone – bigger than them, which has a job to do. I play Paco, an Iraq War veteran carrying a lot of physical and mental trauma whose life and choices have been complicated to say the least. Also, Paco wasn’t … strictly… meant to be at this party.

What was it that drew you to the production?

It was so simple. I sat at my kitchen table, started to read Branden’s play, finished it, took a huge breath and stared out of the window for quite a long time. I thought it was completely extraordinary. He has such a lightness of touch and depth to his thinking that they come together like a sort of magic trick. I didn’t know Eric Ting’s (Director) work at that point as he’s not directed in the UK before, but when I met the two of them to try to convince them that they should let me be in their production I could tell straight away that Eric knew how to pull off the magic trick.

Kingsley with Anthony Walsh in rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

You’ll be familiar to many for your extensive work for the screen – how does theatre compare to television and film?

There are obvious differences in terms of the technical process and similarities in terms of trying to find a truth in a performance that’s part of the bigger story. But nothing compares to mucking in in a rehearsal room for weeks and then feeling the immediacy of being in a room with hundreds of people every night to live in that story. This is not a show with audience participation, but it does rely on a direct connection with the audience and that’s something that only theatre can really do. It’s electric.

Is there anything you hope audiences take away from The Comeuppance?

I hope that they see themselves, or some dormant part of themselves. The characters in The Comeuppance are all in their late thirties so there are huge resonances for those of us around that quite confronting age, but really it’s a play that deals with the stories we tell about our lives and our choices and the meaning we try to attach to those stories. That’s something that follows you your whole life, so while it’s a play about people in their late thirties, it’s absolutely not a play that’s only for those people; it’s a play for people who are trying to deal with living.

The Comeuppance is at the Almeida Theatre from 6 April to 18 May 2024