The Swan Theatre opened during my first season at the RSC in 1986. There was a season in Stratford and then a season in London; It was a very big deal in Stratford because there was a lot of interest around the first season at the Swan. It was my first season as a working actor and - especially with it being at the RSC – it was hugely exciting to be in a play that hadn't been done for many a year.
It was a great cast at the time, but you don't know that until you actually do it. It was the third show out of four in the season. As far as I'm concerned, it felt more or less like an extension of drama school because it was non-stop. You were doing shows for 12 months in Stratford, and then for another 12 months in London. It was a very big part of my grounding in the theatre. Working in such a lovely space like the Swan was a privilege. I've now done quite a few styles and genres, and acting at the Swan still holds right at the top there as the best.
I'd basically describe The Rover as men chasing women chasing men chasing women… chasing men… chasing women. That's it. You can talk about "battle of the sexes" but basically, that's the basic premise of The Rover. It's extensive and a lot of fun, but it's tiring and knackering, especially when you're not a youngster anymore.
First time round, I was one of the minions. One of the parts I played back then was called Biskey: a relatively small part. I was a sort of bodyguard to a high-class whore, and then did lots of little parts in terms of the carnival. It was a great romp and a joy to be in. This time round I'm playing Belville, the colonel. It's fantastic. Hugh Quarshie played it first time round. It's exhausting, though.
I've lived in Stratford-upon-Avon for the last twenty years. It's a beautiful place, especially to bring up your children. It's the first time I've worked and lived in Stratford. It's nice to be home so soon after rehearsals have finished when you're working on such a knackering show like The Rover.
The Rover runs at The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 11 February 2017.
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