Jake Gyllenhaal has told of his fears – and how he conquered them – of taking on a one-person play.
Gyllenhaal plays the role of Abe in the second half of Sea Wall/A Life on Broadway.
Tom Sturridge stars in Sea Wall, the other half of the pair of one-act monologues.
After his show opened, Gyllenhaal revealed: “Before I did it, I was terrified.”
But he said he found confidence in an unlikely place – the story of Alex Honnold’s 3,000ft climb of the El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park.
Gyllenhaal said: “I was sort of quaking in my boots thinking about it. Then I saw Free Solo, that documentary about the free climber Alex Honnold that won the Academy Award. Amazing, amazing documentary, and I thought to myself, if he can do that without any rope, I can do a monologue. And then that was it.
It was a little different for Sturridge. “I feel like weirdly – like before I walk on stage I feel fear. But I feel safest on the stage,” he said.
Both actors said the lack of an onstage partner can add to the stress, meaning there is no safety net if they forget their lines.
But Sturridge said he instead uses the audience.
“Normally when you’re on stage you’re pretending to be in a room and pretending like you’re in Russia and 1920s and you’re pretending the audience don’t exist,” he said.
“But with this, I’m having a conversation with real people who are different every night. And if I blow a line, then we just change the conversation.”
Sea Wall/A Life, a pair of plays written by Nick Payne and Simon Stephens, respectively are tragic comedies that deal with love and loss.
Gyllenhaal said the emotional value shifts with each audience.
“It’s very emotional through all of it. But it changes every night. It’s different. Sometimes I’m telling the story, I’m just telling it. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes I hear someone in the audience have an emotional response. He was laughing or crying, and it makes me feel something,” he said.
Sea Wall/A Life plays on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre until September 29.
- Press Association