Up West

Half way through my run of Yes Prime Minister and the play is now proving less of a mountain to climb. Audiences have been fascinating to follow. Ranging from the energetically hysterical in appreciation, to the 'is there anybody out there tonight at all?' There must be studies on audience make-up and the chemistry that exists at certain performances and then evaporates at others. A craftsperson must never blame their tools. Nor should an actor blame an audience for any perceived lack of energy or vocal appreciation on their part. Also it must be acknowledged that a quiet audience is not necessarily one that is disliking the play. Very often a positive reaction at the curtain call can catch you by surprise, after a low level energy reaction to the previous two hour traffic of the stage. This is primarily an observation about comedy. Dramas have their own distinct signs of audience appreciation - silence and a lack of sweet wrappers rustling being two that come to mind. There is of course the school of thought that suggests actors should be totally unaware of such things, their senses buried deep within the world of character and play. Well of course! Isn't that a given?  But with a comedy you have to receive and respond to laughter or indeed lack of it as and when they occur.

The fact remains that no two performances are ever the same. Actor's performances and energy levels change constantly. Concentration and relaxation vary on a daily basis. You never quite know how it will be on the night and that's what makes it such a fascinating process for both audiences and players.



It's the six week annual holiday marathon for parents with children of school going age. A time when parents may well look back fondly to their own days of endless summer hols. A time when the sun always shone and black and white european versions of Robinson Crusoe and Flashing Blades filled our morning t.v screens. Afternoons and evenings were spent down on the beach or in the park and curfew was dusk - or even a bit later. There was little supervision and the onus was on yourself to come up with exciting games and projects to while away the holiday time. 

None of this was down to bad parenting. It was a gentler, slower and less fearful time in which to be a child. I realize this is not a truth shared by all children growing up in the 50's and 60's, but it is one that a lot of people will no doubt identify with - so long as they are my age and older!

I'm not saying that those times were better, just a little less pressurized for children and their parents. It's evolution I know, but I think childhood lasted a good deal longer then than it does today. Should I mourn that? A little perhaps, but then when I see the huge amount of stimulus and access to learning and experience my children now enjoy, I realize King Canute achieved nothing in his attempts to stop the tide coming in.


Yes Prime Audio!

May has taken an interesting direction. Am now about to start rehearsing with Jonathan Lynn for the West End run of Yes Prime Minister at Trafalgar 1, still thought of by me as the Whitehall Theatre. The plan is to have me attempting to be a Prime Minister - sorting out the Eurozone and deciding what colour tie to wear etc - at one end of Whitehall, while that famous double act, Cameron and Clegg, attempt to go head over farce at the other.

All this, plus opening a new recording studio - Classic Audio Productions - and finishing my first crime novel, have meant it's been a bit hectic.

Hope the sun comes out for you all soon and that Spring will happily spring into Summer.



New Year Resolutions Come The Spring

Am busy taking stock of how many of my NY resolutions have actually been acted upon.  Sadly,not as many as I'd hoped. Truthfully, not a single one. Oh well, at least I've figured that out early in the year, so there might still be hope. One of my biggest disappointments is not getting around to making contact with dear friends who I've not been able to see in ages. My excuses are not good enough. Yes I've been working flat out - for very little dinero I might add, but then when was the last time an agent didn't preface a conversation with the phrase, "There's no money in this one, I'm afraid." The fact is, there's no money in acting anywhere these days! It's there somewhere, but most thespians aren't getting it! Nor crews, stage managers or writers for that matter. What this translates into is the fact that one spends more time trying to get what little there is and less time chilling out with chums. These chums know who they are - and indeed might be secretly relieved at my no show  - and are now going to get a huge shock. A call from me. There you go. I've said it. Publicly. Now let's show the money.

Meantime, on the work front, I have just completed the tenth anniversary series of Trueman and Riley for the BBC - it only seems like yesterday that Brian B Thompson and I were sat scratching our heads trying to come up with a treatment for it.  Next week I'm honoured and daunted to be playing  Arthur Lowe in a lovely play by Roy Smiles for the same broadcaster. I've also been guesting away on various t.v's for the Beeb and Sky etc and am 20,000 words into my first crime mystery novella.

So there it is. Now what were my other NY resolutions again?


A little Christmas cracker

A busy few weeks filming Jack Whitehall's 'Daddy's Little Princess' for Sky's Xmas Little Cracker series. I play the Daddy of the title - and Archie Lyndhurst plays the young Jack aged eleven. The first time I've ever played someone I actually know - the extraordinary agent and producer Michael Whitehall - and I hope I did him justice. A lovely script and production team, with Jack himself playing a modern day Robin Hood.

Then off down to the BBC's new and wonderfully proportioned 'production hub' in Cardiff. Casualty is relaunching down there and I revisited for an episode after an absence of some considerable time. It is all very impressive and moral seems very high on the show. It's certainly got a fantastic standing set and facilities to play with and the whole studio complex is alive with creativity - Upstairs Downstairs is filming there also.

Didn't have time to visit Port Talbot to try and trace some of my mum's family roots, but fell in love with Cardiff and its very friendly welcome.