The theatre company, Dirty Protest are currently touring South Wales with a play by Pembrokeshire playwright Mark Williams inspired by Wales’s claim to Star Wars fame.
Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock is a co-production between Wales’ acclaimed new writing company, Dirty Protest, Chapter and the Torch Theatre and takes the 1979 Pembroke Dock building of the full-scale Millennium Falcon as its inspiration.
The production tells the story of a young Star Wars fan Sam, who in 1979 finds out that the Millennium Falcon is being built in his hometown as part of The Empire Strikes Back – with his stepfather helping to build it.
Fast forward to 2014 and Sam finds himself in his 40s, divorced, with a teenage daughter and a career that’s not quite where he wanted it to be. Production of The Force Awakens has just started and the Millennium Falcon is being rebuilt in the same docks; his young and idealistic daughter Lizzie takes it upon herself to get her dad a job on the set.
Actor, Keiron Self plays Sam in the production. Keiron is widely known for playing hapless dentist Roger Bailey in BBC1’s sit-com My Family. In theatre he has worked with Mappa Mundi Theatre Company playing Hamlet, Henry V, Feste in Twelfth Night, Orlando in As You Like It and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
He has also featured in Arabian Nights for Sherman Cymru and starred as Angus in Black Rat’s production of Neville’s Island. Keiron recently discussed Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock.
What attracted you to this production?
The opportunity to work again with Dirty Protest, with whom I’ve written short plays and acted in their themed evenings. They are an exciting company, really fostering writing talent in Wales. And, of course, the chance to get my inner geek on as I’m a massive Star Wars fan.
Tell us a little bit more about your character?
I play older Sam, dad to 16-year-old Lizzie who has forgotten what makes him happy in life. He used to find joy in his work and being a father, working in the TV and film world as a props maker and designer.
Financial woes have forced him to become someone he isn’t and affected his relationship with his daughter and he needs to get his mojo back. The other half of the play is Sam as a boy of 12, where we see his enthusiasm and love of all things Star Wars and his relationship with his step Dad. We see elements of the child in the man, and also what older Sam has stopped being now that he’s an adult. It’s very truthful, and as a father of 17-year-old twins, I totally understand the elder Sam.
Your character Sam is a lifelong Star Wars fan, who seems to have given up on his dreams to focus on being a breadwinner for his daughter. As a father, can you relate to the tension between doing your best for your family and following your dreams?
Absolutely. Parenting isn’t easy, it’s full of compromises, all you care about is doing the best for your kids and sometimes who you are as a person gets lost. Children want their parents to be happy and fulfilled, that makes them better parents, rather than being super stressed and resenting life choices. It’s a real balancing act.
What were your own big influences growing up?
I have to say Harrison Ford. I wanted to be Han Solo, Indiana Jones and anybody else he played. It was a bit of an obsession. Steve Martin was also a massive influence, his sense of humour and ludicrous pomposity as a stand up was fantastic. And of course, it goes without saying, my parents. Whoever your parents or guardians are, whatever combinations they come in, they will always shape you. I was an only child, so got spoiled rotten – I had my own Millennium Falcon which my kids have also played with!
The building of the Falcon in Sam’s home town is an enormous thing for him. Did anything that exciting ever happen in your home town?
I was brought up in Newport and I remember Ray Winstone coming to my school, St Julian’s Comprehensive, when I was growing up. It was when Robin of Sherwood was all the rage on telly in the eighties. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the classes that had chats with him, but it caused quite a stir, we just watched jealously from a distance during break time. That and Princess Di and Prince Charles passing by the bottom of our road in a car!
How are you finding the Dirty Protest ‘experience’?
Supportive and enthusiastic, an organic atmosphere where everything is valued, even the psychotic whims of a fortysomething actor!
Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock By Mark Williams a Dirty Protest co-production with Chapter and Torch Theatre plays the Torch Theatre on Friday 4 May and Saturday 5 May at 7.30pm
For more details about LightSpeed To Pembroke Dock visit dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk