Pennyworth actor Simon Manyonda on the similarities between Traitors and his latest play

Simon Manyonda is an actor whose career spans film, TV, and stage work – he is currently appearing as John Proctor in the new production of The Crucible – at The Crucible in Sheffield. Simon has been seen in The Bay, Dr Who, His Dark Materials, Pennyworth and Rye Lane.

I’m currently reading:

It’s a book called Time Bends, by Arthur Miller (who is, of course the playwright behind The Crucible) and it’s an autobiography – but in fact, that does it a disservice, because it’s more like a journey of self-discovery, and it is painfully open and honest.

It’s interesting that he doesn’t examine his life in chronological order, but it’s more about themes, and people, and yes, there are a lot of references to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, but there’s so much more to it, and him, than that particular chapter in his life.

Simon Manyonda attending the premiere of His Dark Materials held at the BFI Southbank, London.Simon Manyonda attending the premiere of His Dark Materials held at the BFI Southbank, London.
Simon Manyonda attending the premiere of His Dark Materials held at the BFI Southbank, London.
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The Crucible is a big old play, and I’ve got a lot of lines – I know that a lot of people say that Miller rather dodged the issue of the McCarthy trials, which were going on at the time in America, to set his play centuries earlier, but I don’t think that that is very fair – I believe that he didn’t want to expose friends, by giving it a contemporary setting.

I read Literature at university, and I was always fascinated by films that were created on plays, particularly those of Shakespeare, and for me, the best of the lot has to be Baz Luhrmann’s account of Romeo and Juliet, which tells the story exceptionally well. It’s the one with Leo di Caprio, and the much-missed Pete Postlethwaite as the Friar.

I’ve been listening to:

Well, Chet Baker always calms me down after a show, and then there’s other jazz, and drum and bass, electronic, and some rap. Tirzah is a very fine singer-songwriter, with a lot to say in her lyrics, and I play her a lot.

And I really like film scores – the one at the moment is for Zone of Interest, and it’s by Mica Levy. I’m always listening to things around me, and wanting to find out what a particular tune might be, even it’s someone humming, so I suppose I’m a bit of a musical Magpie.

On TV, I’ve been watching:

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Traitors, which was very interesting because it reflects the structures of The Crucible in a lot of ways – just whom can you truly trust? I played Lucius Fox in TV’s Pennyworth (the Batman prequel) and that was fun because I am a great fan of all the HBO dramas. They’re so well written and there’s attention to detail, and great production values. They give you time to craft your themes.

The live performance I’d recommend is:

Try and catch Wakefield’s Pretty V somewhere, you’ll not regret it for a second. He’s only just in his twenties, and still so young, but his musical background and output is incredible. He’s a friend of mine, and it’s like watching myself growing up, because we have a very similar heritage.

I truly do believe that having friends across a wide range of ages is a good thing, because you get so many opinions and views and stories of experiences. Pretty V and I have, and I hope that he will agree with this, a sort of mutual support system.

My next box set will be (or my last boxed set was….):

Mr and Mrs Smith, which stars the multi-talented Donald Glover. Can’t wait.

The App I couldn’t be without is:

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LineLearner – you record your script, share it with others in the production, they then record their lines, and share them back, and this gives you the facility to rehearse together, even when you are apart. A colleague mentioned it to me, I investigated, and I find it incredibly useful.

Then there’s Google Maps and Citymapper, which are invaluable when you are trying to find your way around a new location.

What is right at the top of your “To do” Bucket list?:

There’s a specialist store in South Korea (it’s in Seoul) which specialises in vintage technology – tape machines, record decks, hi-fi, all sorts of beautiful artefacts, and I’d love to have time there for a lengthy browse around.

As I said, I love vinyl for the art you find on the covers – however, I do remember that, when I was much younger, I found the picture on the Slim Shady album frightened me so much I had to hide it under my bed. CDs are cool, but the artwork is obviously diminished. Technology is advancing all the time, and the old stuff is often forgotten.

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I recently had to explain how an LP worked and produced sound, to someone in their late thirties. He looked at the turntable as if it were a toaster from outer space. There’s also a Museum of Video Games right here in Sheffield, and I shall have to check that out – I try to get to as many museums and galleries as I can when I’m doing a show away from home.

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, Crucible Theatre Sheffield, until Saturday, March 30. Box office: 0114 2496000.

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