Roger Allam interview: ‘Caryl Churchill is like Picasso — she’s able to stay at the edge of things’

Nick Curtis – Go London
4th February 2020


Photo by Adrian Lourie

The first time Roger Allam encountered the work of Caryl Churchill was in 1976, in a north London squat.

A newly formed, explicitly feminist company Monstrous Regiment was mounting Churchill’s witchcraft drama Vinegar Tom; Allam had been working in an office, auditioned for them at their rehearsal room in the aforementioned squat in Camden Square — unthinkable now — and became one of the company’s two male members. It was his second-ever professional job.

“It was fantastic,” says Allam in that lugubrious, treacly voice. “I was an actor, but I think they hired me because I could play various instruments and sing, do bits of lighting, this and that, manage the financial books…”

Now 66, Allam is about to appear in a Churchill play once again, in Polly Findlay’s revival of A Number at the Bridge Theatre, and this time he won’t be doing the lighting, or the books. Starring alongside Merlin’s Colin Morgan, he plays Salter, “a complete disaster, a drunk, [on] drugs, violent”, who after his wife kills herself ends up putting their young son in care. Then, missing him, he contrives to have an illegal clone of the boy made.

“He gets the chance to do it all again, and becomes kind of addicted to being a good and loving father, until the fiction he has built up between him and the second son is completely destroyed. I think it’s incredibly emotional and tragic.”

A Number is one of two Churchill revivals in London this month — next week Far Away opens at the Donmar Warehouse. Winner of the Evening Standard Award for Best Play in 2002, it was written a few years after the creation of the first mammal clone, Dolly the sheep. “The subject is now not so novel, but she writes about it in a very challenging and mischievous way,” Allam says. “The play has become more about the story of these particular people and about free will and destiny, whether we are the agents of our own lives.”

Churchill, now 81, has been in the rehearsal room. “She is such a lively, interesting and interested presence whose comments are always immensely practical. She seems to live exactly the same life she did in 1976 even though she is revered now.

“I read a piece recently that said as a writer, she is a bit like Picasso. As time goes on and a new subject comes up, she has to reinvent how to write about it in a different way. It may be my ignorance, but there seems to be less that’s avant garde than when I started going to the theatre, but Caryl seems to have been able to stay at the edge of things.”

Most actors will tell you that success is down to luck as well as talent, and Allam seems to have been unusually blessed in both departments: he always seems to arrive at just the right time, starting from his birth in the newly optimistic Fifties. His extraordinarily varied career embraces Shakespeare and Chekhov, Stoppard and Frayn, Game of Thrones and the Inspector Morse spin-off Endeavour. He was the original Javert in Les Miserables and has played Hitler, a drag queen and the founders of both the SDP and Glyndebourne on stage.

He’s often cast on screen as a shifty posho, like his sublimely self-interested Tory MP Peter Mannion in The Thick of It, but he’s from humble London stock. One grandfather was a baker who became a decorator after he was gassed in the First World War, the other was a stonemason.

His father, though, stayed on at school, got to King’s College and became a vicar, tending parishes in Putney, the Isle of Dogs and the City: one of Allam’s two older sisters is also a vicar now. Their parents “loved amateur dramatics and rambling, believed in education and also in being well-spoken as being the way upward” — hence that orotund voice.

Allam was sent on a bursary to the independent charity school Christ’s Hospital, where he excelled in music, singing and acting. His first experience of the professional stage was seeing the likes of Laurence Olivier and Paul Schofield at the Old Vic, when a gallery seat cost 15p, “the price of a Tube fare”. He studied drama at Manchester and during the holidays received singing lessons from English National Opera’s vocal consultant for £2 an hour. As a young actor, he lived in Wapping and Stoke Newington when they were dirt cheap.

Soon after his work with Monstrous Regiment, Allam joined the RSC, acting in Peggy Ashcroft’s last-ever production under the direction of a young Trevor Nunn. Les Misérables was an RSC co-production that became a massive hit, but Allam left the role of Javert to appear in an Arthur Miller play, which Miller found extraordinary.

“Arthur thought that on Broadway, people would long to stay in a big musical,” Allam says, perplexed. “Well, I’d done it for nearly a year, which felt easily long enough, thank you very much.” Ever since he’s darted back and forth between new plays, classics and the odd musical, between TV, film and theatre, ideally always doing something different to what he’s just done, always governed by the voice that says “ooh, I’d LOVE to do that”. As an older character actor he’s also lucked into a boom time in TV drama.

The one thing he was late to was fatherhood. Allam and his wife, actor and writer Rebecca Saire, have two boys aged 19 and 14 and now live in East Sheen. “I sometimes wish it had happened 10 years earlier, just so I would be around longer while they are,” he says. “It altered everything for me. Every time you play a father now it gives you a different take on it, not always a very pleasant one.” The boys have the showbiz gene: William is at Guildhall: his younger brother Thomas is “obsessed with film”.

I realise I’ve never heard him express a political view in an interview. He says he keeps quiet about it because the one time he personally posted to the Twitter account run in his name by fans — a link to a tactical voting guide before the last election — he got trolled. “But yeah, I am Left-wing,” he says. “I was nervous about a Corbyn government, although I would have supported it because a lot of the policies were good. I was far more nervous of a Conservative government but here it is, we’ve just got to deal with it.

“Life will go on,” he drawls, giving a pouchy, laconic smile, “until it doesn’t.” Someone should put him in Beckett.

Endeavour series 6 episode 2 preview: Morse and Thursday interrogate two witnesses in new clip

Pip Ellwood Hughes – Entertainment Focus
17th February 2019


 

Mammoth Screen/ITV


Endeavour kicked off its sixth series Sunday night on ITV with the first of four brand new films.

This Sunday the second film will air and we’ve got a preview clip for you. In the short video, DS Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) and DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) interrogate two people for information about the murder of an astrophysicist and his girlfriend.

 

From the look of the clip, the two men may well be hiding something. Is it just us or were they behaving a bit strangely?

The synopsis for Sunday’s episode is:

As the highly-anticipated moon landings of Apollo 11 draw near, Endeavour, now at Castle Gate CID, finds himself investigating the death of promising young astrophysicist Adam Drake and girlfriend Christine. Their deaths seeming to be a result of a tragic car accident on first inspection, but when the clues start to point towards foul play, Endeavour enlists the help of an injured Thursday to uncover the truth.

Endeavour actor Roger Allam discusses the new series of the Morse prequel, The Thick of It and being typecast

Chloe Hamilton – inews.co.uk
15th February 2018


 

Roger Allam attends the Evening Standard Theatre Awards at The Savoy Hotel on November 17, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

The actor, known primarily for his work on stage, has an authoritative presence. His voice is instantly recognisable

There is one great unmentionable on the set of ITV’s Endeavour – one subject that hangs like a spectre over the cast and crew, ignored and unuttered but ever-present: Inspector Morse.
 
Colin Dexter’s curmudgeonly detective was made famous by John Thaw, who played the character for 13 years. With his love of beer, vintage cars and the opera, Morse was the embodiment of cosy, early-evening drama in the 90s. Audiences across the UK would snuggle down in front of the TV to watch as Oxford’s body count rose bloodily. Fourteen million viewers tuned in to the final episode in 2000 to watch the great man’s finale, as he died of a heart attack. Many were left bereft.
 
Perhaps this is why, on the set of Morse prequel Endeavour – which is set in the 60s, when the title character is a young detective – all thoughts of the show’s predecessor are shoved firmly to the back of the cast’s collective mind.
 
So says Roger Allam, who plays Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, Morse’s gaffer and mentor. “We try to ignore all things Morse,” he says, a slightly sheepish look in his eye.
 
Sheepish isn’t a word typically associated with the 65-year-old. The actor, known primarily for his work on stage, has an authoritative presence. His voice – which somehow manages to be both booming and silkily subtle – is instantly recognisable. Were it not for the absence of DI Thursday’s trilby, trench coat and pipe, it would be easy to kid yourself, sitting in front of him, that you are at Oxford’s Cowley Road Police station, having been hauled in for questioning.
 
 

Everyman detective

Thursday is a brilliant character: tough but steady; sometimes morally questionable but ultimately a good guy. Allam, who describes the hat, coat, and pipe as his “route” into the character, agrees.

“He’s a proper, feet on the ground, decent – well, trying to be decent – human being,” he says.

“He reminds us of that generation who were ordinary and who went through the extremity of the most awful war ever in terms of the number of people killed. Really ordinary people who faced the worst possible thing.”

Thursday was never mentioned by John Thaw’s character, which doesn’t bode well for the character’s future. Allam isn’t fazed.

“We all die in the end,” he says, with a throaty chuckle. In fact, he adds, playing an entirely new character is something of a blessing.

“I didn’t have anyone to live up to.”

 

A shade darker

Our love for crime dramas, Allam says, stems from the fact that people “love murder and death”.

Although Endeavour is, arguably, a shade darker than Morse, it is by no means gritty, especially compared with series such as Luther or Line of Duty. The show airs pre-watershed, which limits what can be shown. Viewers are more likely to see a victim neatly strangled to death with a don’s cravat, for example, than dismembered and stuffed in a fridge freezer.

“Luther starts at nine o’clock. Once a show starts at nine o’clock, you can spread someone’s innards on your toast,” he says. That wouldn’t happen in Endeavour.

“No, it’d be Marmite, instead,” says Allam.

Indeed, Endeavour is the dramatic equivalent of a cup of tea and a slice of toast. Yet the series has been accused of becoming too convoluted – a criticism seemingly levelled at every crime drama currently on our screens. Allam nods when this is put to him.

“Well, they’re certainly complicated,” he says, of the show’s plots.

“Obviously part of the fun of a whodunit is that you’ve got to have the…”

Here he stops to act out a red herring, waving his hands around, saying: “Look at me, look at me!”

It’s impossible not to. So how is he at solving TV crimes himself? He shrugs. “Neither awful nor great.”

 

Accessible arts

Allam’s love for performing was sparked by a trip to the theatre when he was young. He paid 15p for a ticket to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic. It ignited a passion in him that has burned ever since.

These days, the idea of getting a theatre ticket for so little – the equivalent of £3.30 today – beggars belief. Would Allam be where he is today had he not been able to get a cheap seat? Perhaps not. It is something he feels strongly about.

“In a sense, it doesn’t really matter what the top price is,” he says.

“What’s important is that whatever price structure you have, in whatever theatre, it can include people who have very little money.”

Although he is supportive of live theatre being shown in cinemas as a means of inclusivity, he is unsure that it can really replicate the experience of being part of an audience.

“Being in the same room as the performance is just tremendously exciting.”

 

Takes all sorts

Over the years, Allam has taken on a broad variety of roles, never stopping for long enough to be typecast.

“One of the things that appealed to me about acting was seeing people on stage playing different roles,” he says.

“I always worry about being typecast, which is why I try to do so many different things.”

Most notably, Allam played Inspector Javert in the original London production of the stage musical Les Misérables, appeared as the merchant-prince Illyrio Mopatis in the HBO series Game of Thrones; and starred as Peter Mannion MP in The Thick of It. He has been nominated four times for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor, winning twice, once for Captain Terri Dennis in a revival of Privates on Parade and once for Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. He has become, in the process, one of the UK’s most distinguished actors.

It is refreshing, then, to find that, like many of those roles, he is also very funny. When I ask about his latest project, a play written in 1912 by Githa Sowerby, he says: “It’s a pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, anti-industrialisation kind of play,” before raising an eyebrow and deadpanning: “And not as dry as that sounds.”

 

The Thick of It

His response to a question about whether he watched Inspector Morse when it first aired is that he did but that there were “only four television programmes” on TV in those days. And when we, somehow, find ourselves on the subject of extortionate rail fares, he suggests that if he were to pay more than £200 for a ticket to the Midlands, he would expect to be “wrapped in silver and carried” to his destination.

Of course, this sense of humour will come as no surprise to anyone who watched Allam – as Mannion in Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick Of It – utter the immortal line: “I’m bored of this, I’m going for a Twix.”

Playing the Tory MP and Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Citizenship was “such good fun”, says the actor. But whether or not the series could return to skewer the increasingly shambolic Brexit is something he remains tight-lipped about.

Would Mannion be a Leaver or a Remainer?

“He would try to survive,” says Allam, grinning. “He would sit on the fence for as long as possible to see which way it fell.”

He’s clearly put some thought into this. Is there really no chance of the series returning? Allam stonewalls. “It would be down to Armando.” A politician’s answer if ever there was one.

Read this article at inews.co.uk

Roger Allam: ‘King Lear? I might do it in a corner somewhere where nobody notices’

Nick Smurthwaite – The Stage
3rd April 2018


Roger Allam at Glyndebourne. Photo: Piers Foley

A familiar face on film and TV, Roger Allam is returning to the West End in The Moderate Soprano. He tells Nick Smurthwaite about being inspired by Pavarotti and Paul Scofield, and why the stage remains his first love

Fans of Roger Allam’s silky baritone will not be surprised to hear that he nearly became an opera singer instead of an actor. As a boy, the vicar’s son sang in his church choir and carried on singing into his late teens.

“In the early 1970s, I took singing lessons with John Hargreaves, a leading singer with English National Opera, when I was home from university,” says Allam in a break from rehearsing The Moderate Soprano, which opens at the Duke of York’s Theatre on April 12. Encouraged by Hargreaves, he toyed with the idea of training to become an opera singer, but the lure of acting proved more seductive.

“I loved the variety of acting: turning your hand to different things and bringing whoever you were to it. There is something almost amateurish about it that appealed to me. You know: stick on a beard and have a go at King Lear. Opera requires an enormous commitment. You must devote your whole life to producing that extraordinary sound.”

Allam says he had an intimation of that commitment early on when, as a student, he witnessed Luciano Pavarotti singing in Tosca at close range at the Royal Opera House.

“It was a prom performance, with really cheap floor seating at the front of the stalls,” he says. “To be in the same room as Pavarotti when he hit a top C quite literally took your breath away. That’s the extraordinary thing about opera: it has the power to elicit a physical reaction. I don’t know if I’d have been any good or not, but I do know that I was never committed enough to find out.”

Four decades on, Allam’s feeling for the magic of opera is serving him well in David Hare’s play telling the story of the founding of East Sussex opera venue Glyndebourne.

He plays John Christie, the eccentric landowner and opera lover who fell in love with the soprano Audrey Mildmay, 17 years his junior, when he was 48. Together they established an opera house at his country estate in the 1930s.

Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam in The Moderate Soprano at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

The play was first produced three years ago at Hampstead, where Allam’s performance as the improbable impresario garnered rave reviews. Michael Billington in the Guardian said he captured Christie’s “extraordinary mix of obduracy, uxoriousness and visionary zeal with spine-tingling magnificence”, while Paul Taylor in the Independent found his performance “killingly funny and achingly sad”.

The role of the bald, portly Christie requires an hour of make-up before each performance, and when he emerges from his dressing room, the Roger Allam we know and love from TV shows Endeavour and The Thick of It is nowhere to be seen.

He says: “I love dressing up in silly costumes and disguises. When I first read the description of Christie in David’s script, saying he is ‘short, fat, bald and wearing lederhosen’, that was it. I had to play this man. I was also drawn in by the passion and emotional heft of the story. I think for Christie, as for many of us, things that are sublimated in our lives get expressed through opera and other art forms, feelings we find difficult to access in everyday life.

“It might seem to some a surprising thing for David to have written but it is really about the importance of art and how Christie brought all these fantastic German musicians fleeing the Nazi regime – people like Fritz Busch and Rudolf Bing – to Britain to help establish his rural centre of excellence.”

That The Moderate Soprano took three years to reach the West End after its Hampstead run in 2015 may well be down to the workaholic actor being committed to other projects in the interim. The fifth series of Endeavour, the popular Inspector Morse prequel, recently drew to a close, and there are two feature films awaiting release: The Truth Commissioner, about a diplomat appointed to head up a South African-style truth commission in Northern Ireland, and the comedy thriller Ilkley, in which he plays a Richard Dawkins-type atheist author targeted by Christian fundamentalists.

After The Moderate Soprano closes at the end of June he will revert to being Detective Inspector Fred Thursday in Endeavour. Though it purports to be about the early years of Morse, the world-weary Thursday has become, in TV critic Christopher Stevens’ phrase, “the emotional heart of the drama”.

Although he wasn’t born until 1953, Allam understands perfectly the buttoned-up trauma of a man who “experienced terrible things” in the war. He says: “People of my age, who were born and grew up after the war, were aware of the effect it had on the older generation. I think about Fred’s background a great deal when I’m playing him.”

Unlike many actors of Allam’s generation who became big TV stars – John Thaw, Michael Kitchen and John Nettles among them – he has always returned to his first love, the theatre.

“I don’t like leaving it too long before I go back to the theatre,” he says. “It was the thing that drew me to acting. I love the fact that you have a strong relationship with the creatives, the director, the designer and the writer. Then after they’ve all done their work it’s just you and the audience, and I love that relationship as well. It’s that thing of being in a room with other people, all enjoying a live acoustic experience.”

As a stagestruck teenager, who were the actors who inspired him? “The first time I was really knocked for six was at school, hearing a recording of Paul Scofield as King Lear; that extraordinary voice. Then, a bit later, discovering I could afford to see people like Scofield and Olivier in the flesh at the Old Vic, sitting in the gods for a few shillings. What was so impressive about them was that miles from the stage you could hear every word they uttered. That ability to shrink the room is a wonderful gift.”

He continues: “When I was at the National, under Trevor Nunn, we started using microphones because of the acoustic problems in the Olivier, and I really didn’t like it because you no longer feel in control of your own dynamics. It produces a different kind of energy.”

With his formidable track record – stage roles stretching back to the 1970s and screen appearances since the late 1980s – has Allam become something of a role model to younger actors?

“I don’t know about that,” he shrugs. “I remember when I was doing Troilus and Cressida at the National, there were some young people in the cast who were very complimentary and generous, and wanted to pick my brains about the play. But I think that whole thing about leading a company is a bit of a myth. My attitude is you treat what you’re doing seriously, but you also want the company to have some fun, otherwise what’s the point?”

Allam is the first to admit that he works too hard, moving seamlessly from stage to screen to radio and back to the stage. “My wife [the actor Rebecca Saire] tries to get me to slow down. It does take its toll. I started getting searing headaches and convinced myself I had brain cancer. The trouble is, I love what I do, and it’s very difficult to say no to good jobs.”

Will he attempt the mature actor’s biggest headache of all – King Lear – the first role he ever wanted to play after hearing the Scofield recording? He shrugs it off with a wry smile when asked about it: “Nobody has asked me to do it, and besides there have been so many lately. I might do it in a corner somewhere where nobody notices.”

It seems inconceivable that an actor of Allam’s stature, age and work ethic, who has already played Prospero, Falstaff and Macbeth, would not want to tackle Lear at some point in the near future. But as Detective Inspector Thursday might have put it with a knowing look: “Each thing in its season.”

Q&A: Roger Allam

What was your first non-theatre job? Stacking shelves in Sainsbury’s.

What was your first paid theatre job? A play called Scum for Monstrous Regiment.

Who or what was your greatest inspiration? Paul Scofield.

What do you wish you’d known when you started out? I wish I’d been bolder in going for things I thought at the time were beyond me.

If you hadn’t become an actor, what would you have been? A singer.

What’s your best advice for auditions? Wear rubber-soled shoes. When I auditioned for Glasgow Citizens as a young actor I couldn’t stop my leg from shaking, and all you could hear was the leather heel of my shoe clattering against the floor.

Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions? It depends on the show. My ritual for The Moderate Soprano is padding up and putting on the bald cap, which takes about an hour. I quite like the process because it helps you to focus.

CV: Roger Allam

Born: 1953, Bow, east London
Education: Christ’s Hospital; University of Manchester
Landmark productions: Theatre: Les Miserables, Royal Shakespeare Company (1985), The Seagull, RSC (1990), City of Angels, Prince of Wales Theatre, London (1993), Macbeth, RSC (1996), Albert Speer, National Theatre, (2000), Privates on Parade, Donmar Warehouse, London (2001), Democracy, NT (2003), La Cage Aux Folles, Playhouse Theatre, London (2009), Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Shakespeare’s Globe (2010), Uncle Vanya, Minerva Theatre, Chichester (2012), The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Globe (2013), The Moderate Soprano, Hampstead Theatre, London (2015). TV: The Thick of It, BBC2 (2012), Endeavour, ITV (2012-present)
Agent: Independent Talent

Roger Allam, Derek Jacobi, Anna Maxwell-Martin to star in black comedy ‘Ilkley’ (exclusive)

Tom Garter – Screen Daily
16th February 2018



Roger Allam, Derek Jacobi and Anna Maxwell-Martin will lead the cast of black comedy Ilkley, which Independent is introducing to buyers at this week’s European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin.

The film is the second feature from former Screen Star of Tomorrow Harry Michell, whose debut Chubby Funny saw the director nominated for the Most Promising Newcomer BIFA in 2016.

The film is set in an idyllic Yorkshire spa town during its annual literary festival. As the world’s most controversial secularist is set to make an appearance, two hapless evangelicals are tasked with killing him. Harry Melling, Vinette Robinson and Flora Spencer-Longhurst also star.

Michell co-wrote the screenplay with Jamie Fraser and the director is reuniting with his Chubby Funny producer Helen Simmons on the project. Executive producers are Independent’s Andrew Orr, Screen Yorkshire’s Hugo Heppell, Ivy Gate Films’ Roger Le Tissier and Frances Le Tissier, Featuristic Films’ Julien Loeffler and Fabrice Smadja, Kevin Loader, Andy Brunskill, Farah Abushwesha, and Ahmad Ahmadzadeh.

The film will be a Guinea Pig Productions and Aimimage Productions project in association with Independent and Featuristic Films.

Finance is coming from Screen Yorkshire, Ivy Gate Films, Umedia and Featuristic Films. Principal photography is scheduled to begin later this month in Yorkshire.

Producer Helen Simmons commented: “I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Harry again on our second feature. We have managed to attach a fantastically talented cast and with the unending support of our financiers and Independent, we look forward to making a hilariously funny and brilliantly original film.”

Sarah Lebutsch, Independent’s head of sales, added: ‘’With Chubby Funny, Harry has shown an enormous natural talent for writing and directing comedy, and we are delighted to be able to work with him on his second feature. The filmmaking team have gathered an incredible cast for Ilkley, we can’t wait to see Harry’s hilarious script on screen.’’

Roger Allam and Derek Jacobi are represented by Independent Talent. Anna Maxwell-Martin is represented by Troika. Harry Melling is represented by Curtis Brown.

Q&A: Roger Allam: ‘I just want to be remembered’

Rosanna Greenstreet – The Guardian
3rd June 2017


The actor on being found in a compromising position in a dressing room, his chins and lots of good kisses

Roger Allam: ‘My wallpaper? A rather nice picture of me, actually.’ Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian


Born in London, Roger Allam, joined the RSC in 1981. On television, he has played Peter Mannion in The Thick Of It, Illyrio Mopatis in Game Of Thrones and DI Fred Thursday in Endeavour. He currently stars in The Hippopotamus, based on Stephen Fry’s comic novel, which is released on 15 June. He is married with two sons and lives in London.

What is your earliest memory?
The sound of the tug boats and barges on the river in Bromley-by-Bow, where we lived in the rectory.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Wasting time.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Bullying.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Many years ago, I was found in compromising circumstances in a dressing room by a security man. The other person was hiding.

What is your most treasured possession?
Some paintings by a very old friend.

What is your wallpaper?
A rather nice picture of me, actually.

What would your super power be?
The ability to control people’s actions.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My chin. I’ve got another one underneath the first one.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Cary Grant.

Is it better to give or to receive?
At my stage of life, give. I’ve got plenty.

How do you relax?
Cooking.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was a child, it was a bus driver or engine driver; then, when I was a teenager, I went to the theatre and wanted to be an actor.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Always liking rather too much wine.

What do you owe your parents?
A sense of the value of ordinary life.

What was the best kiss of your life?
I am lucky that there have been many very good kisses.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?
Yes, especially when I didn’t know what love meant.

Which living person do you most despise, and why?
Donald Trump for lying and introducing such potentially dangerous chaos to the world.

What is the worst job you’ve done?
Picking tiny bits of glass out of long grass for Haringey council, 45 years ago.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not being active in my own desires.

When did you last cry, and why?
Reading aloud the last two pages of a book about Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell. It was about his relationship with his cat, and a letter to a friend whose dog had died. It’s about letting the unexpected happen to you, and how that can really be what life is about.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I was very proud of doing Falstaff, because it seemed to go well.

What keeps you awake at night?
The third or fourth glass of wine.

How would you like to be remembered?
Just remembered, really.