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By Open Air Theatre
We caught up with Hiran Abeysekera, who will be playing Peter Pan, to find out more about him, and what he loves about this play.
Hiran is 29 years old, born and raised in Sri Lanka and went abroad for the first time to come to the UK in 2008 to attend RADA Drama School.
When did you first discover your love of theatre?
I was in class at school, and had behaved badly so the teacher got me on the desk so that all the other teachers passing our classroom could see me standing to say, ‘this is the naughty boy, watch out for him’. There was a new teacher and she was looking for people to use in her play, so she came into the class and asked my teacher ‘who has got a lot of energy?’. And she was like ‘he dances all the time, get that boy there!’.
So I was a rat in Pied Piper, that was my first role. From there I joined a children’s theatre company in Sri Lanka called Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Foundation/PlayHouse-Kotte.
In 2007, a director called Willi Richards came to Sri Lanka and, with the British Council, he directed Romeo and Juliet as a tri-lingual version of the play - so Sinhala, Tamil and English. It was when the war was still going on, so very apt. I played Romeo, and Willi asked me if I would like to go to drama school.
Willi and the British Council paid for the plane ticket, PlayHouse-Kotte along with friends and family collected some pocket money for the trip, and I came to England for the first time. RADA offered me a scholarship so I chose there. I didn’t know anything about drama school, so none of this was a big thing, I was just having the time of my life!
What are you most looking forward to about Peter Pan?
I’m looking forward to the flying, to getting comfortable with it so I don’t have to think about it or worry about it. It’s a huge cast, with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and phenomenal skill. I’m looking forward to the whole journey and to getting to the final product.
The flying rig looks pretty epic. How are you finding flying in the open air?
When you’re flying high up there, it’s the most amazing feeling. But you are constantly reminded that you’re not a bird, you’re just a human because it hurts! It’s so technical, the whole show, even five minutes of flying is over two hours of rehearsal for safety. It’s so precise, my life is totally in the hands of the counter weight, and they’re brilliant guys! They have to know what the rhythm of the scene is, what the rhythm of my character is, I have to feel them as well. It’s not me flying, it’s them flying me and we have to understand each other’s bodies and rhythms to make it work.
So why should people come to see Peter Pan?
It’s going to be magical and it’s going to be a spectacle. I think if I was a kid, and my parents said there’s this show, I would definitely enjoy it. As an adult, I would enjoy it more. To re-live it as an adult reminds us of our childhood, and that’s something which it is important not to forget.
Peter Pan runs from 15 May – 14 June.