The Stage online magazine carries an interview with Tom, from June 2005 just as he finished The Woman Before at the Royal Court. There is also a lovely publicity photo on the website.
It’s not every day that the principal of a drama school has to go to the Royal Court to mark his student’s end of year performance but that’s what has been arranged in Tom Riley’s case.
Still in his final year at LAMDA, Tom is playing Nigel Lindsay and Saskia Reeves’ son in The Woman Before, also starring Helen Baxendale and directed by Richard Wilson. Tom was spotted by the Royal Court’s casting director when he performed in North Greenwich, a play developed by LAMDA students in collaboration with Mark Ravenhill as part of LAMDA’s Long Project, giving final-year actors a chance to work with well-known playwrights and directors.
Four weeks into rehearsals for The Woman Before, the actor playing Andi dropped out and Tom was brought in.
“I had a week to prepare,” says Tom. “It was a massive challenge. But I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive group of people. Everyone took me under their wing.
“I did think, ‘Everyone’s a well known face apart from me!’ I’d seen Nigel in The Pillowman and thought he was amazing and now I’m sharing a dressing room with him!”
The production also called for some very stylised acting and its unusual structure - it flits backwards and forwards in time to tell the story of a man’s former lover reappearing to cause havoc with his family - has prompted some strong reactions from critics and audiences.
“It’s such an odd play and we have had very different reactions each night,” says Tom. “One night people fall about laughing, another they’re all silent.”
Tom has been involved in drama in his home town of Maidstone, Kent, since the age of four and spent his school years writing and directing plays. He studied English Literature and Drama at Birmingham University and set up a small theatre company before deciding to go to drama school. Even though it has meant he has spent six years as a student, he believes his current success has proved it worthwhile.
“LAMDA’s been great because I’ve had the opportunity to tackle lots of big parts, like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice,” he says. “Over 50% of us have got agents already, although I think I’m the only one who’s got a job, which means I can’t be at school at the moment.”
Next Tom is set to work with the Royal Court on their contribution to Cafe Direct’s Flight 5065 on the London Eye.
“Each bubble is being commandeered by a different company or performer,” he explains. “We’re doing 20 one-minute plays and I’m in nine of them. I start rehearsing that on Tuesday, so it will be overlapping with this.”
Tom also has auditions for more theatre work lined up and is hoping to do some film.
“This has been my dream job, so I’m just hoping for some more of the same. At the moment this is just a dream - I’m on a cloud of joy!”