Death Takes A Holiday is currently running at London’s Charing Cross Theatre, so we spoke to the actor who plays the lead role, rising American star Chris Peluso.
Hi Chris, how long are you in London for?
I’m in London indefinitely! I love it here! I just got my Tier 1 visa approved, which allows me in the UK for at least five and a half years with the chance to reapply once that time period is over.
Great news! What do you love about the city?
My absolute favourite part of London is actually taking my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Peety, to the parks. Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Hampstead Heath are my favourites so far. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is for me to walk around a park and see happy people and happy off-leash dogs running around together. In many parts of the US the leash requirements are much stricter. I also love the history, architecture, theatre, charm and food.
For those who don’t know, what is Death Takes A Holiday about?
Death Takes A Holiday is essentially a love story between two highly unlikely beings. One is an Italian woman named Grazia, played by the lovely Zoë Doano, and the other is the spirit of Death, who takes human form to explore the physical world for a two-day period. Over the two days, Death experiences what it’s like to be human and faces the consequences of finding love, and understanding why humans fear death.
The original story is almost 90 years old – are its messages still as relevant and important today as when the play debuted in 1928?
I believe the themes and messages of Death Takes A Holiday are timeless. Everlasting love, life and death will be questioned and explored as long as sentient beings exist in the universe. To fear or question the concept of death is to explore your personal relationship with the world and those that you would be the most shattered to leave; those you love. In a time when politics of the world are pitting us against each other, it’s vital to remind ourselves of our relationship with life, love and death. I believe it is important to understand that the fear of losing a thriving life and love can sometimes cause us to do and act in ways that are in fact damaging to the very things we try to protect. Love can and should rise above the fear. “Love is stronger than death” is in fact a direct quote from our show.
What are you enjoying about being part of this production?
The score is one of the most beautiful scores I’ve had the privilege of working on. The director, Thom Southerland, is excellent at honing the import aspects of the story, keeping the action flowing and providing a solid play ground for the actors to create. The cast is immensely talented as well. I already mentioned the leading lady Zoë Doano, but the other actors are all equally stellar. The orchestra led by Dean Austin sounds phenomenal. And the Charing Cross Theatre is one of my favourite spaces I’ve ever worked in. Its intimate and somewhat eerie setting under railway arches make it the perfect venue for our play.
How did you begin to play a part like Death?
I wanted Death to crave and desire the same things that humans do. I see Death in this play as a initially lonely/isolated soul searching for something that he can’t quite grasp – connectedness, love, oneness. I wanted to focus on the emotional journey of the character and the struggle he goes through to find himself and his relationship with the world and with love. So I approached playing Death as if were human.
What do you think happens after we die?
I have no idea. I suppose I believe we are always connected with the universe in life and death in ways that are not limited to the present human form we currently reside in. Our bodies become the world and the world becomes us. So I think that life is just one very temporary stop that we must appreciate and cherish while we have it. Love is an acknowledgement and expression of this oneness that life and death is apart of.
What would you ask Death if you were stuck in a lift with him for 20 minutes?
I would ask him to please let dogs live a bit longer; I just love them so much! Honestly, if I saw Death in a lift I would probably just focus on, listen to and feel the presence of him/her/it, and hope to learn something.