3rd March 2023
Interview: Amy Bell
An anarchist has fallen to his death from a police station window. But did he jump or was he thrown?
As the police prepare for an inquiry into the incident, an unhinged showman known only as the Maniac is arrested and brought into the station. Seizing the opportunity to put on a show, he leads the police in an absurd recreation of their version of events, exposing the cover-ups, corruption and profound idiocy of an institution in free-fall.
Ruby Thomas (Fi Phelan) previously performed in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at Sheffield Theatres. Thomas is now going to perform in the show in London from mid March. We got to chat to Thomas about her role, behind the scenes and what's next after the show ends.
Hi Ruby, thanks so much for talking to us, when did you realize that you wanted to become an actress, and what made you realize you had a talent for it?
I played the Virgin Mary in a production of The Mysteries at school when I was 11 – there’s nothing like giving birth to a messiah to make you feel special. No, I’m kidding. I’m not sure you ever have a realisation about whether or not you’re talented, for me it was more that I became convinced that acting and writing were how I wanted to spend my life.
Can you remember the first audition you went for and how has your perception of the theatrical world changed since then?
I started doing a few auditions when I was thirteen – I remember doing one for the film The Chronicles of Narnia. I think at that age everything feels both way more important and way less. With time I’ve learnt to respect the craft of acting more, but feel less awe about the industry: it’s just individuals with subjective opinions doing their best inside a big system, in the end.
You are starring in ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, from the 13th March-8th April, what made you want to go for the role of ‘Fi Phelan’?
I think Tom Basden is a comedy genius and I was quite starstruck to be working with actors who I’d watched and admired in other TV and theatre. Acting in a quasi-farce like this is a real test as it’s all about comic timing, rhythm and team-work. The underlying subject matter, of police brutality and deaths at the hands of the state, also resonated deeply given the current times.
Ruby Thomas with her co-stars in rehearsals.
Photo Credit: Helen Murray
You had previously performed in this role when it was in Sheffield theatres, what made you want to replay this role in London?
I felt lucky to be given the opportunity. We only ran for a month in Sheffield and it felt like we had more to give. I think the work of the charity we’re collaborating with, Inquest, is so important, so I’m glad more audiences will get to laugh at Tom’s jokes, but also pay attention to the message beneath.
Can you tell me about the behind-the-scenes of this and what a typical day of rehearsals looks like for you?
We tend to rehearse from 10:30 until 6. It’s quite technical building a comedy, so there’s lots of work done on timing and blocking in order to make the physical moments sing. But there’s also a lot of silliness and testing the boundaries of how absurd we can be.
The play is all twists and turns with some fantastic work done by yourselves, if someone was looking to buy tickets for this, how would you describe it in 3 words?
Hilarious, surreal, important.
After this has come to an end, what is next for you?
I write as well and I’m currently writing an episode of a TV show called A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, adapted from the books. The showrunner Poppy Cogan is brilliant and I’m loving spending time in the world of teenage sleuths.
Grab your tickets and see Ruby Thomas in 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ here.