The actor, famous for his roles in Cold Feet and Joking Apart, talks to Tickemaster about embodying the cartoon investment banker Alex at the Arts Theatre from 11 October to 8 December.
1. If you had to sum up your new play Alex, what would you tell people?
It's a stage version of the long-running cartoon strip from the Daily Telegraph. Alex is a corporate financier; we follow his business and marital crises as he slithers from one deepening disaster to the next. It's a one-man show with a large and expensive cast of cartoon characters.
2. What are the challenges for an actor bringing to life a cartoon character?
What's good about theatre, when it works, is that everyone knows it's not real but they're happy to pretend. Mixing live action and cartoon will seem strange at first but the challenge is to allow the audience to get taken along with the story.
3. What was it about this play that attracted you to it?
I've been a fan of the cartoon strip for ages. I thought this stage version was funny and had the possibility of some interesting invention. I was intrigued to see if it could be done and wanted to be the person to try it. Also, there can't be a fight at the cast party.
4. Alex is described as being "the devious and manipulative corporate financier - facing incipient middle age, juggling his job, his marriage and his on-expenses social life" - is this, in any way, like you in real life?
(Taking the charge sheet one by one...)
Devious and manipulative? Probably.
Incipient middle age? Advanced, more like.
Juggling job and marriage? Of course, the two are incompatible.
On-expenses social life? Not guilty. Alex is defined by the size of his expense account, it confirms his status. He is the sort of person who spends so much time on corporate entertainment that he's tired of lobster. As for me - pass those pliers...
5. You have had a varied career to date, but you are probably best known for your television role in Cold Feet. Do you have fond memories of making this series and are you still in touch with your co-stars?
Cold Feet was five years of good scripts, good cash and very good fun. The cast are all up to different stuff but we bump together occasionally.
6. You have worked with some very famous actresses on the stage over the years, including Felicity Kendal, Kristen Scott-Thomas and Dorothy Tutin. Who would be your fantasy co-star and what would be the play?
Fantasies should stay that way, though I did once do a pop video with Claudia Schiffer. I want to do any good new play; maybe Claudia will be free again.
7. What has been your career highlight to date and why?
"Joking Apart", the 1990s BBC sitcom. I'll never do a more enjoyable job. It was written by Steven Moffat and lots of people seem to remember it. At last it's available via www.replaydvd.com.
8. You have worked in TV, theatre, film, adverts and voiceover. Which is your favourite genre to work in and why?
In TV and film you have to put enjoyment on hold until it comes out and you can see if it was any good. In theatre you find out that evening and, never mind, there's always tomorrow. In voiceovers, the plotlines can be a bit thin.
9. What was the last West End show you saw and did you enjoy it?
My family had been voting for Lee Mead in the BBC "Joseph" auditions, so we went along to the Adelphi and screamed with everyone else.
10. What is next for Robert Bathurst?
Not answering questions addressed in the third person. Sports presenters do that to curry favour in a pally-but-respectful way: "Amir - did we see the real Amir Khan tonight?"... "Lewis, did Lewis Hamilton expect a podium place?" What am I doing next? Very busy at the moment and we'll see how Alex goes.
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