An Interview with Ryan Simms
Being the son of East End gangster, Danny ‘Longdog’ O’Halloran, meant for rather an interesting life, & more than enough material for a fascinating one-man play…
Hello Ryan, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Ryan: I’m from Newham in East London, Manor Park to be precise, which isn’t too far from Upton Park and Stratford.
When did you first develop a passion for theater?
Ryan: I think the passion for acting was always there. It came out in my personality as I was growing up but with no direction. My dad didn’t see acting as a real job , which is quite ironic as being a criminal isn’t exactly a real job either. Not one you can declare anyway.
What for you makes a good piece of theater?
Ryan: Being truthful for me is always good but you need to take your audience on a journey with a story and have them invested in the actors.
Can you tell us about your training?
Ryan: My training at the Poor School was right up my alley, the directors there, including the founder Paul Caister, pull no punches and if something’s not good enough they let you know. I was brought up around people who don’t mince their words so this was very familiar to me. The directors there had different styles but all accumulated into making is more rounded actors .
You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Ryan: If I had three famous people coming round for dinner I’d chose Nicola Tesla first. Alexander the Great would be another one as he conquered the known world during his time and actually fought in his wars and didn’t hide in a bunker letting other people die for him. The sights he would have seen should be enough to keep everyone interested at a dinner party. I’d also invite Tommy Cooper or Spike Milligan. I wouldn’t cook because I’m rubbish at home cooking. I wouldn’t want to mug myself off with bad food so I’d secretly order the best takeaway I know. I have a brilliant Chinese restaurant near me called Chans – I’d call them.
You are in the middle of bringing a play, Prairie Flower, to London, can you tell us about it?
Ryan: Prairie Flower is a snippet of my dad’s life, belief and moral code. I wanted to show warts and all what my dad’s world was like, Many people who write books and make films of the same genre haven’t a clue. Paul Caister (my director and producer) saw that I had far too much to show everything on stage so developed my original script into something that works on stage for two hours. It’s still evolving as we go and Paul has had new ideas and things change every week.
How is it going so far?
Ryan: Prairie Flower has been very well received by the audience who have seen it. The public aren’t stupid, the crime genre is riddled with stuff that makes people not believe what they’re seeing and hearing. I’m using everyone’s real names and real situations that happened, this is history as well as a play.
What materials did you use during the research period?
Ryan: The research period wasn’t that hard, I already had a life time of information locked away. These are real people and real stories so to get more accuracy I spoke to family and family friends who were around at that time to get the extra detail. And permission to talk about it. The people I speak about have either passed away or have already served time for the crimes I talk about. So I’m not breaking the rules, as my dad would put it.
What compelled you to write & star in a play about your father?
Ryan: What compelled me to write this is that my mum and dad’s life was more interesting than any book or film I’d come across. The fact my dad wanted to remain in the shadows was a shame as his story is jaw dropping . But because it’s real and true I wanted to share his story with everyone.The fact I’m playing him means it will be done right. Who better to play my father than his own flesh and blood?
How is director Paul Caister handling everything?
Ryan: Paul has handled this brilliantly and over the course of a couple of years has soaked up as much information as possible to understand how to direct it. He has given me absolute freedom to play my father whilst having the technical ability to tweak and fine tune what I’m doing so it works on stage.
What do you hope an audience member will take away from watching Prairie Flower, on what levels do you want to connect with them?
Ryan: What I hope audience members take from watching our show is a little bit of authenticity. Nothing is ever black and white and my dad’s world was a complete grey area. He never wanted to glorify his way of life and would advise anyone to stay away from it at all costs. He was proud of the man he was but at the same time had so many regrets. He was from a bygone age and if the audience are left with wanting to know more at the end of it then I’ve done what I set out to do. Only a TV series could cover the detail I have.
Highgate Village, London
September 25-29, October 2-6 (19.30)