Daddy’s Girls in a Brave New World

Brave New World with Abigail McKern, right

Brave New World with Abigail McKern, right

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DYSTOPIAN. Prophetic. Familiar. First published in 1932, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is acknowledged by many as one of the most important novels of the 20th century.

Set 600 years in the future, human life has been almost entirely industrialised and humans are created and conditioned in a lab according to a strict caste system, in a World State whose motto is ‘Community. Identity. Stability.’

Sophie Ward

Sophie Ward

Monogamy, the family unit and the ‘natural’ process of giving birth, are considered horrific and unnatural, and material comfort and physical pleasure - provided by the drug soma and recreational sex - represent society’s highest good.

A new adaptation of the novel by award-winning playwright Dawn King comes to the King’s Theatre this week.

Ironically, for a piece which eschews family life, two of the production’s cast come from well-loved theatrical dynasties. Abigail McKern, daughter of Rumpole of the Bailey star Leo McKern, plays Linda, while Margaret Mond, Regional World Controller for Western Europe is played by Sophie Ward (Land Girls, Heartbeat and Holby City), daughter of Simon Ward, best known in the 1972 film Young Churchill and as Sir Monty Everard in Judge John Deed and Bishop Gardiner in The Tudors.

Here they tell Liam Rudden about growing up with famous fathers.

ABIGAIL MCKERN

Was there a moment you realised your father was famous?

“I have a very clear memory of my father telling me he was going to be making a movie with the Beatles (HELP!) and that I would be spending a month on location in the Bahamas and Austria while it was being shot.

“I remember being completely breathless with excitement and unable to sleep that night.

“The Beatles were absolutely huge at the time and although I was only 10 years old, I was as obsessed with them as anyone else.

“I couldn’t wait to get to school the next day to tell everyone the good news but I was very naive to expect all my school mates to be happy for me.

“There was incredible amounts of jealousy and I learned the hard way not to ‘show off’ about my good fortune.”

Did having a parent in the business influence your ambitions?

“I was always told by my parents that I was ‘artistic’ - I certainly wasn’t brainy. I was encouraged to draw and paint and I must have been good because I was asked to illustrate a children’s book when I was 10.

“When I was 18 I got offered a place at the Wimbledon School Of Art but ended up going to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

“I spent a lot of my childhood on film sets and in West End dressing rooms and I always found it endlessly fascinating, so it must have rubbed off on me, but my parents certainly didn’t encourage me to act.”

Initially, did your father actively try to discourage you from entering the profession?

“Both my parents were very pragmatic. They didn’t believe in interfering in their children’s lives. They got on with their own lives and didn’t try to influence me one way or the other.

“My father couldn’t bear what he called ‘spoilt brat child actors’ which is why when Disney offered me a film (again when I was 10 - everything happened when I was 10) he said ‘Absolutely not’

“I think he changed his mind when he worked with Jodie Foster in the early seventies. He had great respect for her.”

Did he try to protect you from his fame?

“Although growing up with a well known father meant we were often disturbed in restaurants and shops with people wanting autographs, it was nothing like as intrusive as it is for celebrities today.

“There was no social media and the ‘paparazzi’ were much more respectful of people’s privacy.

“My father wasn’t interested in being famous. When we were in Ireland for a year making Ryan’s Daughter he used to hang out with the local fishermen more than the other film stars.”

Can you recall the first time he saw you on stage?

“My first professional acting part was playing Carole in Time And The Conways by JB Priestly. I was enormously touched when my father turned up to my first night.

“I really didn’t expect him to come - he was always so busy working and it was a long way for him to drive from his home in Oxford.

“He gave me some very good acting notes and told me to pay special attention and learn from Marcia Warren the actress playing my Mother - I’m still in touch with her today.”

Did you ever work together?

“My Father and I were very careful not to work together too quickly after I started in the business. He didn’t approve of nepotism.

“I had already been working at the National Theatre and had won a couple of acting awards before we did Rumpole Of The Bailey together. We also did She Stoops To Conquer together on stage at the Sydney Opera House which was sadly, the last play he did before he left the planet.”

What was the best piece of advice your father ever gave you?

“My father was very practical and his advice was always down to earth; don’t take yourself too seriously, turn up on time, be polite, work hard, believe in yourself. That kind of thing.”

SOPHIE WARD

Was there a moment you realised your father was famous?

“People would often tell me how much I looked like my dad, but it was a while before I wondered how they knew what my dad looked like.”

Did having a parent in the business influence your ambitions?

“My parents weren’t keen for me to be an actor but I joined a local drama group after school and there were lots of great young actors there and then I got my first job when I was 10.

“Mum and dad let me do it but they weren’t thrilled.”

Initially, were you actively discouraged from entering the profession?

“Because I’d gone out and joined a drama class on my own, dad didn’t stop me but he often tried to discourage me.”

Did he try to protect you from his fame?

“I’m not sure ‘fame’ was really the same thing as it is now, in terms of intrusiveness.”

Can you recall the first time he saw you on stage?

“The main thing my parents (mum was an actor too) wanted me to know was the importance of being professional and not letting people down.

“So even when they came to a school play, of which there were many, they would want to know that I was part of a group, it wasn’t about one person being amazing.”

Did you ever work together?

“I only got to work with dad twice; for a few screen seconds on a film adaptation of Wuthering Heights and on an episode of Heartbeat, where he kindly came up to Yorkshire to play my dad for an episode.”

What was the best piece of advice your father ever gave you?

“‘Don’t be late’ was the main advice. Everything else was up to me.”

Brave New World, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, tonight-Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £14-£29.50, 0131-529 6000