Thursday, 30 January 2014

Interview with actor Tam Williams

IN 2012, actor Tam Williams spent eight months hurdling across the stage as Lord Andrew Lindsey in a West End production of Chariots of Fire.This year the Wimbledon-based actor has swapped athletics for murder-mystery, starring in Strangers On A Train, on at Gielgud Theatre in central London, and he says he is grateful for the slightly less strenuous part.
"The hurdling was intense," he laughs. "I am fairly fit and like running - I've got four kids who keep me fit and on my toes - but I had to spend five weeks training down at Wimbledon Athletic track for the role including clearing the hurdles with glasses of champagne balanced on them.
"It was good fun though and was a wonderful play to be in especially with the Olympics being on at the same time and being able to celebrate Britain's success.
"The whole theatre was gutted to put the athletic track down and during the entire run I went over 7,500 hurdles and didn't knock one down which was fantastic," he beams proudly.
"But it did give me a hernia!"
We speak as Tam is juggling family life with learning his script for Strangers On A Train in which he plays Frank Myers.
"My wife and I have four kids so life is always full on," he says. "But it's brilliant and we live in a lovely part of London which is the perfect place to bring up children.
"I love the fact I can be around to help them with their schoolwork - which is what I'm doing at the moment with my eldest before I go up for the show!
"Strangers On A Train a really technical play and I have never been involved in something like this before but I'm absolutely loving it.
"It's based on the novel and has the most incredible set I have ever seen. It's all monochrome and is amazingly atmospheric.
"It's a bit like a film in the way it's staged with short, sharp scenes that build to this incredible climax. It's brilliant."
For those who have not read the original book by Patricia Highsmith or seen Alfred Hitchcock’s film version, the story concerns two men, young tennis player Guy Haines, and charming psychopath Bruno Anthony, who have a chance meeting on a train.
Bruno wants rid of his father and Guy wants to divorce his wife so he can marry someone else. It gives Bruno the idea for the perfect murder - Guy murders Bruno's father and Bruno murders Guy's wife.
However, after Guy's wife is killed, things don't go according to plan.
"One of the men is hampered by a controlling father and the other doesn't like his wife. It's a crazy drunken conversation between the two which has dreadful consequences," says Tam.
"Myers is a friend and work colleague of Guy's and starts to notice things aren't quite right with Guy. It's fantastically written and it's quite gripping - even if you've seen the film, the way it's staged here is great."
The part appealed to Tam, not least because of his love of theatre but also because he gets to work with his friend, the actor Laurence Fox
"Laurence is Guy and it's fantastic to work with him. He is terribly nice. We both come from acting families and have known each other for years so we have a kindred spirit.
"But the whole cast is great and are people I've admired for years so to get to work with them is amazing."
But despite his family background and having grown up on film sets and theatres around the world, Tam says he never really considered acting as a profession until he got a place at drama school.
"It was never part of my plan but I didn't do very well at school although I had a music scholarship. I got a place at Guildford School of Acting and had a really inspiring teacher but it wasn't until I went to the Royal Shakespeare Company and worked with director Katie Mitchell that I knew this was the life for me."
Since then Tam has worked extensively in both TV and film but it's theatre where his heart lies and speaking to him it's clear he has a real passion and enthusiasm for his craft which is infectious.
"As an actor you are never really in control of your own destiny," he says. "But I have been very lucky because I've worked with some incredible people over the years.
"Most memorably I worked with Dame Judi Dench in a Peter Hall production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Rose Theatre in Kingston in 2010.
"I played Lysander and she was Titania. Some people wait their whole career to work with a legend and I would have paid to do that job! She was just wonderful and very generous."
But now his focus is firmly on the production in hand.
"It's a lovely job to have especially over the Christmas period - there's tension, intrigue and it's very stylish and I'm thrilled to be part of it. I hope the audiences who have seen the film will feel we've done it justice."

Strangers On A Train is on at the Gielgud Theatre, until February 22.

Tickets cost from £17.50. Call the box office on 0844 482 5130 or visit

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