“When Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. In John Logan’s remarkable new play, enchantment and reality collide as this brief encounter lays bare the lives of these two extraordinary characters.”
Whishaw was born with his non-identical twin brother James on 14th October 1980 in Clifton Bedfordshire. He attended Henlow Middle School and then Samuel Whitbread Community College and joined the Bancroft Players Youth Theatre at the Hitchin’s Queen Mother Theatre.
Of his childhood and moving into theatre Whishaw says “I was quite a shy child … I tended to blend into the background. What I liked about the theatre was that it was a controlled place where you can be heard. Where your words are given to you. Where you can express things that you wouldn’t express normally. I think I felt more confident there than I did in real life.” Interview with John Preston Daily Telegraph
One of his most notable productions at Hitchin’s Queen Mother Theatre was as Levi in If This Is a Man, based on the book of the same name by Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz.
The play was taken to the Edinburgh Festival in 1995 receiving five-star reviews and great critical acclaim with Whishaw getting rave reviews for his portrayal of Levi.
Having enrolled in RADA, he graduated in 2004 and shortly after landed the role of Hamlet in Trevor Nunn’s 2004 production making him one of the youngest actors to portray Hamlet on stage.
The role was shared with Al Weaver that saw Whishaw playing all nights except for Mondays and matinées. Whishaw was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actor and the Ian Charleson Award.
Whishaw’s stage performances also include Elliot in Philip Ridley’s controversial play Mercury Fur 2005, Treplev in The Seagull 2006 and in Leaves of Glass in 2007.
His film and television credits are considerable and include playing Tom in the film My Brother Tom in 2001 where he was awarded the British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer and Sochi International Film Festival Award for Best Actor.
Other notable roles include, Ishmael in 77 Beds, Spud in Enduring Love, Sydney in Layer Cake, and Keith Richards in Stoned.
In 2006 he played the lead role of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, where he was nominated for British Academy Film Award for Rising Star and European Film Award for Best Actor.
A highlight from his television roles was his portrayal of Ben Coulter in Criminal Justice for which he was awarded International Emmy for Best Actor, Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor, and nominated for British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.
Whishaw has also portrayed roles on radio including Arthur in Arthur, Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, and John in Cock at the Royal Court Theatre. He will appear in the 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall, in the role of Q. He will be portraying a much younger ‘Q’ than has been seen in previous films. Of the role he says: “We’re all sworn to complete secrecy…”
It is apparent that while Whishaw is happy enough to receive the plaudits while on stage he prefers to keep his private life to himself. “as an actor you have total rights to privacy and mystery, whatever your sexuality, whatever you do. I don’t see why that has to be something you discuss openly because you do something in the public eye. I have no understanding of why we turn actors into celebrities.” January 2010
Ben Whishaw has recently appeared in The Hollow Crown, a series of Shakespeare’s history plays, starting with Richard II which aired on 30th June on BBC Two, and is available on iPlayer until Sat, 28th July 2012.
It is evident that Ben Whishaw is an extremely talented young actor, with many hailing him as the next Laurence Olivier. It will be very interesting to see how he performs alongside one of the all-time great actresses – Dame Judi Dench. I expect the play Peter and Alice to be simply irresistible! This play will be a welcome addition to London theatre.
Monday 16th July 2012