Profile of Shakespearean actor, LAMDA graduate and Sodium Party star James Corscadden

25 Oct

James Corscadden

LAMDA graduate James Corscadden has just finished a run of King John at the Union Theatre. He also stars in an independent film by an Irish company, Sodium Party, to be released in April.

With a firm handshake and a twinkle in his eye, Corscadden is brimming with insights and anecdotes about his latest play, King John. Although one of Shakespeare’s less well-known texts, it is reportedly full of political insights with a modern resonance.

We grab an evening coffee at Starbucks and he spoons it with vanilla sugar, and starts describing his new projects. Animatedly, with an Irish lilt. “Well one of the main things is, there hadn’t been a production in London for ten years. Not many people even study it academically… though it was very popular in Victorian England.” The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will be doing a production in April, though their version will reportedly only be half the length.

So why is it relevant? Firstly, the way public opinion surfaces as a consideration by the characters, at a time when monarchy was still defended by the principle of divine right. He describes a key scene where the Cardinal tries to justify the legitimacy of the young boy Prince Arthur, (nephew of King John.) The Cardinal professes that not to give the true heir his due will turn the people against the government. This is even more significant when seen against the context of Magna Carta, which does not feature in the play but looms in the background.

Corscadden himself relates most to a passage in a speech by Philip the Bastard, about commodities. “It’s one of the best bits of Shakespeare for me,” he says. “People have such honourable intentions but drop them as soon as something comes along that they want… though Shakespeare obviously put it more skilfully.” Greed and material desire are evidently still relevant issues today.

So is nationalism and violence, particularly among the younger generation. When his character, Louis the Dauphin, and Philip the bastard, learn that the original reason they went to war has gone away, they carry on regardless. “They miss the point of the political problems and get caught up in nationalism, perhaps because their elders have set such a terrible example.”

The play has been very well received, and Corscadden is able to cite just one poor review, by the Guardian. “She still gave us three stars. Which, from the Guardian, is pretty respectable. But the way she wrote the article, it sounded like she had more of an issue with the play itself.” One of Shakespeare’s earlier pieces, from the early 1590s, some of the scene changes are rather contrived.

He is also eager to talk about his film project Sodium Party, which he was talked into doing while still a full-time student. Essentially it is about a girl and her imaginary friend. The subject is that of madness and delusion, fuelled by drugs and the love of a bad boy, Danny – played by Corscadden. In her attempt to grow out of her childhood trauma and escapist fantasies, the protagonist ends up caught in a web of unreality. The cinematography is also apparently incredible.

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