Interview: Aaron Sidwell, starring in Henry V at Cirencester’s Barn Theatre

Aaron Sidwell and Laura Samuel in Henry V at Cirencester's Barn Theatre

Aaron Sidwell and Laura Samuel in Henry V at Cirencester's Barn Theatre - Credit: Archant

We talk exclusively to actor Aaron Sidwell ahead of his leading performance in Henry V at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester

Where are you staying in Cirencester?

I'm just down in South Cerney...I think that's how you say it. We have a lovely little lodge. It's right by Isis and Windrush lake, so we are smashing it. We have a perfect set up - currently living the dream.

Sounds idyllic, you must be loving it.

Yes! It's gorgeous. I've been in a lot of digs over the years, you know, but its somebody's holiday home so it's absolutely amazing. I couldn't ask for better. Jamie, [the show's producer] booked this for us so we were really lucky. We've been having the cast over once a week for food which has been lovely.

In that sense, do you enjoy doing shows on tour rather than in London?

Not really no. I think I've got to an age where I just want to be at home with my cat and my girls! Although, this show isn't touring so it's perfect for me because I can get settled, but I don't enjoy living out of a suitcase. It's why you see actors of a certain age turning down tours, I think.

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That's very fair, I think. But do you reckon you're more likely to come back and visit the Cotswolds now you've spent some more time here?

Well, my fiancé and my best friend are doing The 39 Steps, The Barns' next show, and the Director is a really good friend of mine. I was his usher and he will be mine. So yes, I'll be here for most of the summer.

Oh! So, Cirencester and The Barn are becoming a full family affair then?

Yes! And Iwan [The Barns' Artistic Director] is a really good friend, so 2019 is my summer in the Cotswolds. I'm super excited.

Is there anything else on your bucket list whilst you're here?

The whole cast and company have been invited to the Gerald Balding Cup Final on Monday to watch the Polo in Cirencester Park. We're all looking forward to having some down time in the fresh air and seeing something very personal to the people of the Cotswolds.

Are you a country boy at home as well? Or is being in the countryside for the summer a new experience for you?

I'm originally from Maidstone, so although I went to school in the countryside, I'm not really a country bumpkin. I quite like living in the countryside on the outskirts of a city because I love having both speed and complete calm and peace.

It'll be super refreshing to be here for a while then, to give you some time to breath!

So, a little bit about the show. What have your main challenges been throughout the process?

One of the really interesting things we have in this version of the play is that although Henry doesn't necessarily interact with every character, he interacts with every single actor on the stage in a very deep way at some point. For example, my relationships with Bardolph and Williams, who are both played by Alicia Charles and therefore both gender swapped, are vastly different, but they both have an enormous impact on the rest of the show. It gives it a very interesting feeling where I have to learn to sort of, disengage with who that actor was once playing, so there's a lot to play with.

Going on from that, do you find learning and rehearsing Shakespeare more difficult than 'normal' shows, because of the complexity of the language?

Yes, for sure. But I think that one of the really nice things with this play in particular is that Henry is mostly written in 'verse', so you know if you're missing something, because there's a beat missing from the line. To me, Shakespeare isn't meant to be read, it's meant to be performed and watched, so the way I learn my lines is to record myself saying them and then listening to them back or sticking on a previous production and have it on in the background.

*Alicia Charles walks in*

Oh shut-up!

*Aaron replies like he's talking to a younger sibling*

No, I will not shut-up actually, I'm doing an interview, that's why I'm talking loads. I've just been talking about what a beautiful performance you're giving us as Williams and Bardolph.

*Alicia laughs awkwardly and walks away. Aaron and I get back to serious interviewing*

A lot of people will know you from EastEnders. Do you ever find that that brings a certain stereotype of what people assume you can and can't do as an actor? Potentially if they don't know of your other credits?

Yes. But not where you'd think. That stereotype lingers in people who should know better *he laughs*. There was a certain reaction from people when I left EastEnders for the second time, and even more of a reaction when people found out I had left to go into a Musical. So many people were like, "I had no idea you could sing!".. and obviously, I've been in bands, and I've done lots of Musical Theatre in the past that potentially people who had come into the latter part of my career didn't know about.

I think the beautiful thing about what The Barn have done with this production, is that there's a real mix within the cast. Alicia's done lots of television, Matt Ray Brown has done a lot of 'straight theatre' as we'd say, whereas Lauren and I have done a lot of MT. There was no stereotyping when it came to casting.

Places like this are so wonderful because they're so open to everyone.

Why should the people of the Cotswolds come and watch Henry V, especially if they're worried that Shakespeare isn't for them?

That in itself is a perfect reason. If you haven't been exposed before then this is the perfect opportunity. I defy anyone to walk out of this theatre and think it's not for them. I don't think anyone could walk out and feel like they haven't got their money's worth and more! This theatre is working at full capacity. There are literal stunts going on left, right and centre! It's a tremendously versatile way of telling the story; whether that's through music or movement, battle sequences or the technology, sound system and lighting.

Our main objective is to really TELL the story, but in a modern way. It's a very unique production of Henry V, and you're not going to see anything like it anywhere else. I think that for the price, you're getting performances that are at the absolute highest level of the industry. And I mean everyone - from the performers, to Hal the director, and the technical team too. It is a stunning piece of theatre.

Henry V is on at The Barn Theatre from May 22 until June 22.

To book tickets head to or phone the box office at 01285 648 255.

Read our review of Henry V here.

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