Friday 20 September 2019

Interview with actor Robert Daws

SoGlos speaks to Poldark actor Robert Daws about comedy, Cheltenham, and the irresistible charm of playwright Alan Ayckbourn, ahead of his visit to the Everyman Theatre in How The Other Half Loves.

Boasting a star-studded cast, rave reviews, and plenty of laughs, How The Other Half Loves is set to delight Everyman Theatre audiences from Monday 6 to Saturday 11 November 2017.

Discussing the play’s farcical comedy, highly relatable characters, and balance between comedy and sadness, actor Robert Daws speaks to SoGlos ahead of his visit to Cheltenham.

How’s the tour going so far?

We’re enjoying ourselves, that’s for sure! We’re in Guildford this week, we’re coming into the final stretch really and it’s been great fun. It’s an ensemble piece and we’re a jolly ensemble and group of actors. We’ve had a lovely time.

It’s such a star-studded cast; what’s it like to work as part of that?

The overall effect is an ensemble, although some parts are bigger than others, everyone has a vital part to play thanks to the nature of the play.

We’re all a group of friends as well, so we enjoy going to work and working with each other, which is an added bonus!

You’ve been to Everyman Theatre before; are you looking forward to coming back?

Yes, I think this will be my fourth visit over the years and it’s one of my favourite theatres. It’s a beautiful theatre and a beautiful town – not that I’ll be seeing much of it I don’t think, as I’m also filming Poldark in Bristol during the days!

It’ll be a hectic schedule as we have very early starts in Bristol; especially by the time you’ve got your wig and tights on, and get on set, it’s a completely different time scale to theatre.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about How The Other Half Loves?

It was Alan Ayckbourn’s first big commercial back in 1969, a play he wrote when he was 28 and he’s now 78! So from that point of view it’s very interesting to see a playwright’s early work and to see what an extraordinary talent he was at 28.

It’s a play which is basically about infidelity and the effect of almost casual infidelity, if there is such a phrase. It can affect people in so many different ways, and the play looks at the ripples it can cause.

Ayckbourn explores the subject comedically, but being Ayckbourn doesn’t just stick to the farce and the comedy, there’s an underlying sadness about the situation which comes through in the play. But undoubtedly, the play is best known as a comedy.

It's a classic comedy by one of our greatest living playwrights. If you fancy that, come along!

Unlike television, do you like getting an immediate reaction from theatre?

I do! It’s lovely. I don’t do as much theatre as I’d like by any means, so it’s a lovely opportunity to get in front of a live audience – there’s nothing quite like the buzz, certainly with a comedy when the reaction is immediate.

It’s constantly changing and keeps you on your toes – it’s never the same twice!

It’s quite a sensitive theme; is the play more funny than dark?

Definitely! There are some set pieces that are a joy to perform and the audience seem to like very much indeed.

It’s one of those rare plays that isn’t just a farce although it contains many farcical elements, and it’s not just a comedy because it has dark aspects too, which I think are very satisfying to balance the play.

Predominantly, audiences are finding it very funny – well they seem to suggest it’s funny by their response! It’s one of Ayckbourn’s lighter pieces and it’s just great fun to come and see.

It’s a classic comedy by one of our greatest living playwrights. If you fancy that, come along!

What was it that first appealed to you about the show?

I’ve long been a fan of Ayckbourn’s work but have only ever done one of his plays before – unlike Matthew Cottle who is in it, I think this is about his 28th Ayckbourn play!

Really, what first attracted me; I just read the play, and thought it was a wonderful piece of writing.

It’s very challenging to get that wonderful naturalistic flow of words; to make them look effortless takes an awful lot of what I call ‘paddling out of the water’, because Ayckbourn is very testing and very precise in his writing.

He writes these wonderful characters which audiences tend to recognise on sight, so that’s a lovely thing. You come off stage, bump into someone, and they say ‘I know someone just like that character’. His observation of humankind, and certainly the British, is second-to-none.

It’s infidelity, sex, class struggles, a comedy of manners, and farce. Only Ayckbourn can throw all of those things into the mix and come out with a play as good as this.

Can you tell us a little bit about your character and role?

Frank really sort of drives the play. He’s the company man with his apartment, very well-to-do, a pompous man but with a heart of gold. He’s stuck in time – he’s in the 1960s but his mind is in the 40s where things were done in a certain way and the sexes behaved in a certain way.

He gets everything wrong, unfortunately. He knows there’s something wrong in the house of Frank Foster and he suspects that is his wife having an affair, but he can’t prove it.

His journey to realisation of what’s really happening is a very amusing one, but also a very painful one as well. So, I was drawn to the character because although his dilemma is part of his own making, you hopefully also feel a little sympathetic towards him – even if you don’t feel entirely sympathetic towards his attitude!

This is a period play set in the late 1960s because you have to – the attitudes in society have thankfully changed greatly by now; although with news breaking sometimes you wonder if it’s moved on as much as it should have done…

People come and say ‘Oh God, is that really what people said and thought in those days?’ And yes, it is, it’s how people lived their lives.

It’s infidelity, sex, class struggles, a comedy of manners, and farce. Only Ayckbourn can throw all of those things into the mix and come out with a play as good as this.

How The Other Half Loves runs at Everyman Theatre from Monday 6 to Saturday 11 November 2017. For more information see How The Other Half Loves, call (01242) 572573, or visit directly.

By Kathryn Purvis

© SoGlos
Monday 30 October 2017

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