Cultural Life: Ben Whishaw, Actor

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The Independent Culture

At the moment I'm not managing to read much more than Dostoyevsky's The Idiot because I'm working on a multimedia adaptation of it on stage at the National Theatre. I first read it when I was 18 or 19. I couldn't have understood much of it but it stirred my imagination. I find I understand it more on a deeper level now. My other man of the moment is the 12th-century Persian mystic and whirling dervish and poet Rumi. I read his poems every day. They are teaching me how to live.

I'm watching a lot of Andrei Tarkovsky films – partly because our director Katie Mitchell is crazy about him and he's an important reference in our work, and partly just because they're so beautiful. My favourite is Stalker. There's a scene where a little girl moves a glass across a table without touching it which I'm especially fond of.

I'm enjoying this Estonian composer, Veljo Tormis. It's strange choral music based on Baltic folk melodies. It's very intense, pure and hypnotic. And I'm still listening to PJ Harvey's White Chalk almost every day. Her music is like a friend to me.

The last play I saw was Piranha Heights by Philip Ridley at the Soho Theatre. It was extraordinary and very moving. It put me in a kind of trance. I love the way he writes about fantasy, truth, honesty and lies with such courage, passion, humour and poetry. I think he's a true original.

I just visited Dungeness and saw Derek Jarman's amazing garden. Out of this quite blank and bleak terrain sprouts this wonderful beauty. I don't understand how the plants and flowers manage to live on the shingle and pebbles, but they do. There are weird plants that look like you'd find them at the bottom of the ocean. And odd sculptures built from junk the sea's washed up. It feels magical.

Ben Whishaw is appearing in 'Some Trace of Her', directed by Katie Mitchell and inspired by Dostoyevsky's 'The Idiot', opening in the Cottesloe Theatre on 30 July, previews from 23 July. (020-7452 3000)