Bonjour la, Bonjour

I had long admired the work of French Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay, and so when I was asked if I'd like to direct something at the Royal National Theatre studio, I found this play and did it.
In a way, looking back at it, I can understand why I was drawn to it for my first stab at directing in the professional theatre: just like the films I have directed it's about people trying to communicate and finding a way to get along.  That's all I am really interested in, really, when it comes to directing.  I just want to see people in a certain situation, watch them struggle, and the come to some form of resolution.
When you work at the RNT studio you have access to the amazing actors in the main building, but I was also allowed to being in a few from outside too, so I was really spoiled.  I gave the play a Scottish setting, as I think the sensibility and the issues in Tremblay's work really resonates with the Scots.  So I had some great Scottish actors like Ralph Riach (who had been in the year above me at drama school, had played my boss in Taggart and would also play Tiresias in the Bacchae with me fifteen years later!), Myra McFadyen, who had been in Sleeping Beauty with me at the Tron in Glasgow, Jo Cameron Brown, Sally Dexter, Mandana Jones, Mark Lockyer, Barbara Horne and Hilary Lyon.
This is the only play I have ever directed thus far.

Micky Love

Micky Love was part of a series of three films made for Granada TV under the umbrella title Rik Mayall Presents.

Rik plays the title role of Micky Love, a TV game show host, and I played his nemesis Greg Deane, the presenter of a youth TV show that was claiming Micky's prized time slot. It also starred Jennifer Ehle (who later worked with me in Design For Living) and Eleanor Bron (who later played my mother in Hamlet). It was shot in Manchester at Granada TV studios, and directed by Nick Hamm.


In 1992, the director/designer David Ultz asked me to collaborate with him on a new adaptation of the Russian play Dragon by Yvgeny Schwartz, which was to be produced by the Royal National Theatre later that year.

The play concerns a village that lives under the thrall of a dragon, but as the play progresses it turns out there is no dragon at all, and really the dragon represents a fear that they need to have as they have been so conditioned to it for so long. The play was also a thinly veiled attack on the communist regime Schwartz was living under.

This was a really difficult play to adapt. There were so many things in it that didn’t translate well, and we wanted the show to have a very urban, modern feel to it that kids could relate to. I think there was a big mistake in using Spitting Image for the animatronics and then putting a big dragon on the poster. Because of course, there was no dragon, and so a lot of kids were really disappointed when the play ended and they hadn’t seen one.

But I still have a Dragon ruler which the National shop sold.

Lee Jeans Commercial

I was a Lee Jeans boy! My friend Paul Weiland directed this.
He had previously directed me in the BBC film Bernard and the Genie, and shortly after he came to see me in a play in London, La Bête. We walked to our cars and he was driving a swanky BMW and I was in my beaten up Citroen 2CV. I think he felt sorry for this starving artist and so put me in several of his commercials over the next few years. Bless him!

The Airzone Solution

The Airzone Solution is a sort of Doctor Who homage, and indeed features four actors who played Doctor Who in the cast.  It was made in those wilderness years betweenDoctor Who series on the BBC, and I became involved with it via my friend Bill Baggs who directed it and who was an AD on The Last Romantics. We shot it in Nottingham, and I liked being a baddy.

Blood and Ice

This Yorkshire Television play was based on the theatre piece by Scottish writer Liz Lochead. The story again concerned the poets Byron and Shelley, and again I played Shelley! This time though, the focus was on how Mary Shelley came to write her novel Frankenstein.

La Bête

This play was written by David Hirson, directed by Richard Jones and designed by Richard Hudson. It was produced at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith by Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Group.

I played Valere, a hugely over-the-top, flamboyant and obsequious showman, who is favored by the Prince and offered a place in the acting troupe headed by Elomire.  The play is a rhyming couplet pastiche of a Moliere play (the name Elomire is an anagram of the French playwright) and an extraordinary argument between art and commerce.

The play is also an incredible challenge for the actor playing Valere, as there is a nearly half an hour long monologue in the first act.

I was so exhausted by this play.  It really did me in. I love the feeling when I think I'm not going to be able to do something, for real, and this really came close to that. But I still think it is one of the best parts I have ever played, and I wish the play would be recognized for the masterpiece it is.

I was nominated for an Olivier Award in the Comedy Performance of the Year category.