Interview: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star Jon Robyns

By December 6, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

Amy Griffiths as Truly Scrumptious and Jon Robyns as Caractacus Potts. Photography by Antony Robling (2)

All photographs courtesy of West Yorkshire Playhouse and credited to Antony Robling

TSOTA chats to actor Jon Robyns ahead of his role as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

You’re staring as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Why did this role appeal to you?

I’ve been a fan of the film for many years. It’s a film that has been passed down through two generations and I’m very proud to be part of this stage show bringing it to new audiences. 

What’s been your most challenging role to date? Has this also been your most enjoyable role?

All roles are challenging in different ways. It’s never easy thinking as someone else. But, I’d have to say Huey Calhoun from the show Memphis. He’s on stage for a solid two hours and is in constant motion, physically and vocally. It’s everything an actor could want from a part. 

You’ve played some incredibly serious roles, contrasted by some lighter ones. What different sets of skills are involved for serious/comedy parts?

You can never think of a part as being completely comedic or serious. What happens to the character happens and whether the audience cry or laugh is up to them. My timings with the material may vary depending on what the script requires. That can sometimes make a difference to comedy or tragedy. But the skills are always the same. 

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Do you have a favourite musical/play? Have you had chance to act in this production?

Les Miserables was and still is a favourite and I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the show twice. I’ve yet to act in a Shakespeare production, which I’d love to do. 

What first inspired you to want to act?

Looking back on it I suppose it’s not a decision you make so much as a need you have to fill. But certain performances pushed that instinct along. One was watching Jesus Christ Superstar at 16. That had a lasting effect on me. 

If you had to offer a piece of advice to those just starting out, what would it be?

Acquire as many different skills as you can. Sing, dance, act, play instruments anything you can think of to give yourself the best chance of being comfortable in all performance styles. But mainly, do what you enjoy. If it makes you joyful to do this madness, keep doing it. 

Who is your acting inspiration?

I love watching Kevin Spacey act and discus acting. My mentor is the director Ken Caswell. Anything I know about being a leading man came from his inspiration. 

Jon Robyns as Caractacus Potts and Amy Griffiths as Truly Scrumptious 2. Photography by Antony Robling (2)

What has the rehearsal process been like for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so far? 

It’s been very enjoyable but quite intense. The show is a lot more complicated than it seems. Grounding imaginative tales like this whist not dragging down the fantastical nature of them is a fine balancing act. 45 people plus the car on the stage at the end also takes considerable organisation. Our job is to bring it all together and make it look fun and easy. 

For those that don’t know the show, could you tell us why people should come and see the show?

This is a story that will excite audiences of all ages and tastes. The show ticks every box you could want from a trip to the theatre. Song, dance, a fantastic story…and of course a flying car! 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will be at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 30th January. You can book your tickets here.