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Alexander Hanson

Alexander Hanson: "Florian Zeller is absolutely brilliant"

By Manon Variol

Florian Zeller’s works are the French plays which are performed abroad the most. He is only 37 and has already received many awards. In his play "The Truth", Alexander Hanson is Michel, a liar who does not realise everybody is also lying to him. FranceInLondon met him to know his thoughts on what makes the French dramatist so successful across the Channel.

The Truth is currently on at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London until 3 September. This biting comedy is expected to be a huge success, just as Zeller’s other plays, but in a totally different genre. Alexander Hanson has been in many theatre plays, including West End productions, and also musicals and TV series and films. He performs the leading role of this funny play, which surprises the audience with its twists and turns.

FranceInLondon: Florian Zeller's plays have been extremely well received by the British public over the years. Why do you think his plays are so successful in the UK?

Alexander Hanson: I think that Zeller is a really good craftsman. The subject matter is interesting and his plays are very well constructed. I have seen The Father, it was clever and brilliantly written. Thanks to this play, the audience got an idea of what it might be like to have Alzheimer's disease. 

The Truth is really different. You think you know what is going on until your expectations are subverted. So it is quite challenging. It keeps you as an audience on your toes.
Florian is absolutely brilliant. He writes plays in different kind of genres. He can write about everything, that makes him really talented. I think he is very exciting because he is only 37 and he seems to be exploring things.

What do you particularly like about your role?

I like that my role makes people laugh. And I am on stage a lot. In fact, I am performing throughout the play! It is a perfectly written piece. Moreover, I am also working with three other wonderful actors ! (Tanya Franks, Frances O’Connor and Robert Portal)

Alexander Hanson is performing on stage with Frances O'Connor
Alexander Hanson is performing on stage with Frances O'Connor

How are French and English theatre different?

I think that the French speak to all, in the comedia dell’arte tradition. The théâtre de boulevard is much more played to the audience. The different situations are demonstrated on stage whereas the English approach is more discreet. For example, a person stealing would be more hidden in the English version. It corresponds to the people: the French are more latin, more expressive while the English tend to be reserved.

You have been in many musicals and TV shows. What do you prefer?

I like them all in many ways. I think they exercise different parts of you. When they are at their best, they are all immensely rewarding and I feel lucky to do all three of them.

If I had to select one thing I like in musicals, it would be singing. I particularly love challenging music like Stephen Soundheim’s works. Concerning television, I love the concentration it needs. You transmit the emotions through your eyes. And I think theatre teaches you how to become a better actor. Because, in a musical, the music does almost all the work for you: it can tell the story to the audience, what they are supposed to be feeling… Whereas theatre has no music, so it is all up to what the actors are saying. And it is a real challenge.

If there were a role in particular that you would like to play, which one would it be?

It is a good question… I would love to play Benedict in Shakespeare’s play Much to do about NothingFor a musical, it would be Sweeney Todd in Stephen Soundheim's work. On telly, I have been catching up with a series called The Night Manager, adapted from John Le Carré’s novel of the same name. I am really enjoying it and I would love to be in something like this. I also watch Happy Valley, which is brilliant. It was created by Sally Wainwright and I would love to be in something that she has written!

Robert Portal and Alexander Hanson during The Truth
Robert Portal and Alexander Hanson during The Truth


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