Recently David William Bryan took precious time out of his run at the world’s biggest curated arts festival ‘Vault Festival’ to talk about his life and loves. For the first in the series, David shares how he developed ‘In Loyal Company’, the incredible true story of his Great-Uncle, missing WWII soldier, Arthur Robinson.
In Loyal Company is a true story. Did you need to seek permission from your family and the families of the other characters during the drafting process?
I cleared it with my family. It is very much centred around my Great-Uncle’s journey. Although he comes in contact with various people, I chose not use real names of the people involved. There was a nice half way point between being incredibly accurate and not having to contact many many families. I really didn’t want to go down that road.
When I gathered all the information, I would look at the photographs of his comrades and I would extrapolate their personalities. I worked that way rather than figure out who each person was and then having to ask if it was okay. I just didn’t want to go down that wormhole.
Did you take any dramatic liberties?
In that situation you have to create by piecing together the series of events. The only way you can really do that is to gather all the accounts of that incident to create something that is feasible yet dramatic enough for the script. You have to take dramatic liberties to fill in the blanks.
I know how many times that ship got hit, where and how, and how it went down, how long it was in the water. It feels almost inevitable with what happened. Having had countless veterans come to the show, I haven’t had a single person say anything less than it being incredibly accurate.
In Edinburgh, I was honestly spending an hour after every show talking to people. We don’t realise how many people have relatives that were involved in that part of the war.
You trained at the famous Stella Adler Studio in NYC. Tell us about her method.
Although the company is based on her teachings and you learn the Adler technique while you’re there, they don’t hero-worship. You get a real mix, like Strasberg and Meisner. But the Adler technique is based on creating imaginary circumstances to affect you emotionally for real.
In my shows, I operate on an empty stage. All the specificity come from my decision-making from the circumstances I know exist so I know exactly what the door looks like, where it is and how it affects me emotionally. It is pure Adler technique.
As Arthur Robinson’s great-nephew, do you feel added pressure to do your Great-Uncle justice?
There were parts in the story that I didn’t know what exactly happened to him. For example, he was on a ship to the Battle of Singapore and it gets sunk. We know he was on that ship and then we know he reaches land but we don’t know how that happened. I actually felt a great pressure to do more than ‘justice’. The longest bit of the process was the research because I wanted to be accurate. I wanted to get the tone right. I want to be extremely responsible.
Join us next time as David tells us how he went from professional rugby player to an acting powerhouse. In the meantime, see David in ‘In Loyal Company’ at the Vault Festival from 23-27 January, 2019. Get your tickets here.