“I suppose it’s changed my perspective on things really, amazed me a little bit. I’ve been a few places, travelling around,” says Liam Walpole, who’s pondering how a film can change your life – or, in fact – his life. With no training as an actor, or much interest in it before casting, he’s plunged feet first into writer and director Guy Myhill’s debut film The Goob and left quite an impression. Walpole has a purity and spirit that cannot be gleamed from years at stage school. In fact it would do the opposite, and strip it all away.
“I worked in a skip recycling place for eight months. Then when I left I didn’t really work for a while. I’m landscaping at the moment, which isn’t going too well because of the weather but the work’s there when it gets a bit warmer. I also worked on a chicken farm for a while – which I hated.” His path is liltingly evocative of a rare British arts lineage, from cogs-whirring working class to cultural scorch. Like Shelagh Delaney, Manic Street Preachers or last issue’s Man About Town cover star currently rousing Hollywood, Jack O’Connell.
Set in Norfolk, Walpole plays 16-year-old protagonist Goob, who we follow from uniform-chucking liberation on the last day of school. He begins helping his mum (Janet, played by Sienna Guillory) out at their roadside burger bar. She’s seeing Gene Womack (Sean Harris), an abusive beef farmer who doesn’t miss an opportunity to try it on with other women and cheat his stock car to win races on track weekends. He’s a non-champ that struts like the opposite – and hates Goob.
As Larry Clark and Gus Van Sant blur borders of reality and fiction to create exquisite pieces of American cinema, Myhill does in casting Walpole, who grew up in Norfolk, for a very English story. Is the film an accurate portrayal of life in East Anglia?
“Yeah, definitely. Like, when I was growing up the parental side of things was difficult. But I guess that’s not specific, that kind of thing goes on everywhere. Banger racing, that’s really popular. A lot of my friends have got cars that they enter into races. I’ve been to quite a few events, I used to go a lot when I was younger. You make a lot of friends there.”
The cut ’n’ shut leitmotif of banger racing is at once a metaphor for frustration – the endless crashing violence of it – and freedom. Speed is the most visceral sense of liberty and adrenaline rush you can get, after all. Goob is warned to “get out of this shithole,” but first he’s got to spend time just floating along, being.
“[Acting] never really meant anything to me until recently. Until I did The Goob. I’ve always loved films and I’d always just sit there and watch things over and over again when I wasn’t working. It’s kind of surreal now being in one. But it’s definitely something I’d like to keep doing.
He was cast on the street. “Like, I guess I was just walking along playing on my phone – I’d just got a new phone so I remember not really paying attention, and someone came up to me and gave me their number. I remember thinking they were joking.”
The jobbing Walpole was hoping he’d find something he’d enjoy doing between the recycling plant and the chicken farm. Instead it found him – and just as fantastic, what’s being hailed as the English Gummo will become the region’s first reference point since Alan Partridge. Reality bites.
TEXT DEAN MAYO DAVIES
PHOTOGRAPHY OLIVER HADLEE-PEARCH
FASHION DANNY REED
MAN ABOUT TOWN, SPRING/SUMMER 2015