Jake Gyllenhaal has praised theatre audiences in the UK ahead of his return to the West End.
The Oscar-nominated US actor is bringing his sold-out Broadway show Sunday In The Park With George to the Savoy Theatre in June.
It’s been 18 years since he last performed on the London stage, when he appeared in Kenneth Lonergan’s play This Is Our Youth.
Gyllenhaal and American actress Annaleigh Ashford are both reprising their roles of a painter and his mistress in the musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.
However, Gyllenhaal believes it won’t be the exact same show: “To bring it here to the city I feel like is the bastion of theatre, and also to an audience that listens better than any audience in the world, will be a whole new experience,” he said.
“I remember the last show we did in New York we were looking at each other singing the last song and thinking this does not feel like the end, it’s meant to go somewhere else, it’s meant to be born somewhere else, and it’s sort of being reborn here.”
Gyllenhaal went on to explain that he believes UK audiences are different to others he’s performed for.
“I think there is a big difference, and I do think it comes down to listening,” he explained.
“Not to say that American audiences or audiences over the world don’t listen, but it’s a different kind of listening.”
The actor had been on stage in London the night prior to the interview.
“I could feel it even last night, we performed a little bit last night and I remember that feeling as a performer,” Gyllenhaal said.
“You can kind of feel that searing feeling of a listening mind, and I just adore it, I love it.
“It leaves you with, I don’t know, there’s high expectations, which I like.”
The musical is inspired by the French painter Georges Seurat and his famous work A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte.
In the piece the fictionalised artist is obsessed with finishing his masterpiece, and sings about it in the song Finishing The Hat.
Gyllenhaal said he believes the song is about fear of intimacy, and using work to avoid emotional connection is something he can relate to.
“I think that so often with our work, no matter what it is that we do, I think we always revert to that,” he said.
“It is a safer space, it’s a space that may have intimacy in it, but ultimately doesn’t involve all of the complexities of interacting with another human being and trying to be close and honest with them.
“And I think this song is really about that and about how hard it is for these two people to get close, because there’s always this other thing, this other love.”
“And it is a true love – creating and making art or whatever it is that you do – but the real stuff is when you get into it with the people you’re closest to.”
Sunday In The Park with George will be on at the Savoy Theatre from June 2020.