Niamh Algar – Interview for Censor

One of Ireland’s brightest new acting talents Niamh Algar has already worked with A-list directors like Ridley Scott, Shane Meadows and Guy Ritchie. This month she appears in ‘Censor’, a psychological horror about a film censor who links a disturbing video nasty to her sister’s mysterious disappearance.

Hi Niamh. Congratulations on Censor. It’s an absolutely terrifying film. What was it like working with another director once again on their feature film debut?
Yeah. It’s um, it never felt like a debut. I never felt like I was working with someone who was making their feature film debut. This is such an accomplished piece of work. Also, the way in which she worked didn’t feel like this was the first time she was stepping on set.

And what was it like working with Prano Bailey-Bond because this is such a fascinating concept, and part of a dark history of cinema that I didn’t know about until I actually saw this film?
That was like me, I hadn’t I didn’t know about this, this part of history until I got sent the script and then went down a rabbit hole of research. So, my education into the video nasty worlds was through this project.

You worked with an actual censor who had worked during that time? What was that like?
Obviously, there was a serious amount of sexism towards women and a lot of these films were incredibly exploitive, and the way in which women were being portrayed and treated. And you know, I can only imagine that it’s an incredibly difficult situation to be in at that time, but also to be, you know, in it as a woman in a man’s world.

She’s not only dealing with her own her own personal struggles, but also the struggles of having her voice heard in a very male dominated industry.

And what was that like kind of tackling that issue because it’s prominent in the film, there are several characters that you can feel that are subtle about their misogyny, but then are also very over the top with their misogyny. So, what was it like kind of delving into that aspect of the film?
I think it’s how Prano has portrayed it is. That it’s even worse when it’s being subtle. Because they’re not that, you know, you can tell when the characters are doing it on purpose, and when they’re not. And I think it’s even when we, when you feel it, you kind of are experiencing it with the character and the fact that she has to constantly suppress it and suppress her own thoughts on us.

That can only bubble up to a certain amount before I suppose she eventually kind of snaps and it’s interesting how when we meet her at the start of the film, and where she ends is like these two complete characters are to two different people and, and for someone whose job is to constantly monitor and, and cost explicit content, but has been doing that in their own lives this whole time. And they’re, you know, they’re essentially censoring. She’s censoring what she’s seeing, but she’s also censoring what she’s saying in response to a lot of things.

And how did you find that as a character because she is a fascinating character. She’s both strong, but at the same time, she’s incredibly vulnerable, and kind of fragile. What was it like coming to that character and trying to figure out that kind of dwell that duality?
Yeah, it’s an incredibly, extraordinarily a source of both of those things. And it’s it to play someone who is guarded, but yet vulnerable, and where you choose to show that vulnerability, and it’s fascinating as an actor because you, it has to be truthful, but it also, you can’t show her vulnerability in places where you wouldn’t expect and, you know, she’s so buttoned up and reserved and held together and that there’s these milestones and particular events within the story. And one particular event is when she sees Don’t Go Into the Church for the first time and how this is the catalyst of what unravels her. And it is so true. It is so fun to play a character that is depicting something like psychological distortion, especially with a female that we haven’t seen done before and how you could present that to an audience. And for me that is, it was all challenging, but also, I feel so, so rewarded, like, so much of my, my job is just researching a character. And I got to do so much research leading up to this.

I imagine that a lot of it was highly informative and interesting. And that, especially for that time period.
You know, for her, it’s, it’s childhood trauma and how that manifests. And into adolescence and how, you know, Enid is dealing with who she truly is. And if you were to keep on picking away at your surface, what lies beneath? And is it something that you are going to be able to handle? Or is it or is it something scarier than, than what you’ve ever imagined and, and what I’ve learnt why I love so much about this film is that it’s seeped in this atmosphere of the Earth and something that we shouldn’t see.

Yeah, because you can see even see it in Enid’s character. She’s constantly picking at herself as if something has, like, obviously, something has happened. But it’s like she’s clearly like she wants to pick it up at the same time. She should not pick at it. And yeah, I think yeah, it’s like when you have a scab, and that was that’s exactly where that comes from.

Yeah. I talked to Parona about this. I was like, you know, when you were a kid and you got like, a scab on your knee and your mom be like, stop picking at it. It’s only you know, it’s never going to heal. Yeah. And the fact that she constantly keeps picking at this question in her mind of where? What happened to her sister? She’s never allowing that trauma to heal.

And I know, you’ve been a part of several film films and TV productions at this point are quite gory and tense. How was this experience? Because there’s some, some innovative and inventive ways of gore in this film. And I wonder just what how do you feel when you’re going to projects like this? I know Vikings had some stuff and then of course, we had Raised By Wolves. So, what’s your feel on them?
I see the behind the scenes and I know it’s not real and there was so much fun involved in, the movies within the movies, the films that you know, pronto created our own visit video nasties, and you know, that a lot of those a lot of the stuff that you see is from video analyses, but then she got to create her own and, and this was such an enjoyable experience, Prano she’s, she’s such a kind human being and she would go to the end of the Earth to, you know, help an actor on set and, and give them as much tools as they need for that same but the cast for Clare Holman and Andrew Havill you know, they’re the best kind of onscreen parents I could, I could hope for so it was an emotional journey to go on.

But also, one that has so many rewards and the calibre of actors that I have had the opportunity to work with, I’ve learned so much.

And you also had as well as Prano you also had Annika Summerson right? Her cinematography is really intense and again, adds to the tension and the claustrophobia of the film. How was that seeing it come to life when got to finally see the film.
Yeah, like Mogul Mowgli was a film that came out recently this year with Riz Ahmed. She has that amazing kind of Roger Deakins style. She is a character within the scene as well. She’s almost like breaking through the barrier of voyeurism and also just being in the scene with you and we shot this on film so you could hear in the scene, you know, when you call action, it’s just it’s everything silent and all you can hear is the canisters going on.

That for me, I just associate it with Annika. But it’s, it’s such a beautifully sharp movie and the formatting changes are going to be any, you know, moviegoer, any sort of cinema buffs dream because it has all these cinematic easter eggs.

Now I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I cannot wait to see it on the big screen. Seeing all of these things come to life. It’s not just the colour, it feels like it is shot during the 80s.

It’s got some very lovely purple and red hues that give it an almost psychedelic kind of tone, and you said rabbit hole earlier in the interview, because you do feel like it is going down a torturous rabbit hole that Enid really shouldn’t be going down.
It’s like that idea of, why is she going there? Don’t do that. But she can’t help it. Have you seen someone who was completely compelled to answer this question? Because if they don’t, they’ll never kind of be able to kind of rest and she’s what I love so much about when I first read the script is that she’s not a likeable character. She’s not mean, she’s not trying to be liked. And you can’t help but like her.

That’s what is so great because I felt like she was a real person. I never felt that she wasn’t someone you didn’t like just you maybe there’s something that’s difficult to get to know her.
That’s all. Yeah, she’s just very closed off god love her.

CENSOR is at Irish cinemas from August 20th