Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

National Treasure

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

National Treasure

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL HALLIBURTON

The future looks bright for 25-year-old actor Dominic Cooper, whose work under Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre has been widely acclaimed.

As he prepares for his latest role in Alan Bennett's new play The History Boys, Rachel Halliburton meets him

To say that most young actors would kill for the career opportunities that Dominic Cooper has enjoyed to date would be something of an understatement.

At the age of 25, he has already played a male prostitute in Mother Clap's Molly House, and the 12-year-old Will in His Dark Materials, both directed by Nicholas Hytner. You may also have seen him as a sexy but thick farmhand in the television series Down To Earth. As he embarks on his third production by Hytner, his career shows no signs of slowing down. In Alan Bennett's anarchic new comedy The History Boys, he has been allowed to graduate from 12-year-old to sixth-former. Bennett's magpieeye for eccentricity has led him to satirise the absurd aspects of our education system, with Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour taking lead roles as members of staff on the point of a nervous breakdown in a grammar school.

As one of Hytner's proteges, Cooper is in the supremely enviable position of being earmarked for success by an artistic director still being feted by journalists and audiences, who are smitten by his bold reinvention of the National Theatre. Cooper's reviews for playing Will in His Dark Materials showed that Hytner's confidence has not been misplaced. One critic lauded him for being 'totally at ease: insouciant and graceful', while, in the Evening Standard, Nicholas de Jongh commended him for being 'brooding and intense'.

Not bad for a boy who remembers that when he applied for funding to get into drama school, 'someone asked me if I would get a part in The Bill in years to come.'

The knowledge that, unlike so many actors struggling to make their careers, he will not be donning a policeman's uniform for television does not seem to have inflated Cooper's ego. On the contrary, he still seems slightly incredulous at the chances life is throwing at him. Talking about his current work on The History Boys, he exclaims, 'Having Alan Bennett in the room - a writer I've always looked up to - is wonderful but quite frightening.'

It was even more challenging having Philip Pullman in the room when he was preparing for His Dark Materials.

'He'd been working on those characters for 10 years of his life, and here you are, running around and shouting, and somehow trying to be truthful to the books.'

One of the greatest challenges for Cooper is that he is playing in the Lyttelton and the Olivier at the National - vast theatres that can overwhelm actors with far more experience than his. Nicholas Hytner declares, 'I don't think he's ever been told that it's difficult to work on a big stage and it's never occurred to him that it is. …

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