Wednesday, 27 May 2015

INTERVIEW - David Bamber

FROM films like Back To The Future and Sliding Doors to books such as The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe and TV programmes like Dr Who, time travel has long held a fascination for many people.
This fascination and influence has extended to playwright Alan Ayckbourn who in 1994 wrote Communicating Doors, a comedy thriller in which three of the characters are each able to travel 20 years back in time.
A new production of the play, which won Ayckbourn the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Best West End Play Award and the prestigious Molière Award in France has just opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
It boasts a star studded cast including award-winning actor David Bamber who plays the arch baddie of the piece, Julian Goodman.
It is a role that the married father of two admits has been a challenge, not least getting into the mindset of someone quite so evil.
In fact it's testament to his acting abilities that he's able to carry it off because during our conversation it's hard to see him as anything other than friendly and chatty.
"I've played nasty people before but not quite as bad as Julian so this is quite unusual," he laughs.
"However it was one of the things that interested me when I was offered the part and I was intrigued to see if I could do it.
"Julian is particularly ruthless - a terrible murderous henchman - and he has to come across as really scary and horrible so I was a bit nervous about that.
"It's not an enormous part in many ways - partly because it's more about the three women and how their lives interconnect - but when Lindsay Posner [the director] asked me to look at it I really wanted to do it.
"These sort of characters are fun to play, but this has got to work as Julian's got to be frightening and scary - there is no play if he doesn't come across like that.
"The premis is that he has killed his business partner's two wives over a 20 year period and we also find out he killed his mother and that he's about to kill another woman, Poopay.
"It's up to her and the two wives to stop him."
The murders he is alluding to are integral to the piece which is set initially in 2020.
Poopay, a hired dominatrix, arrives at the hotel room of businessman Reece Wells thinking it's just going to be a regular job. However, she finds him practically on his death bed and having a crisis of conscience about all the bad things he's done in his life.
To make amends he asks Poopay to become a signitory on a document he has written which confesses to his part in the murders of his two wives, which were committed by Julian.
However, things don't go according to plan as Julian discovers the document and decides that in order to stop Poopay from spilling the beans he will have to silence her for good, increasing his murder tally along the way.
In a further twist, when Poopay tries to escape by hiding in a cupboard she finds herself 20 years back in time and in the hotel room of Ruella Wells, Reece's second wife.
From there, once the two women have worked out what's going on and how, they resolve to stop Julian from killing them and Reece's first wife Jessica, which in turn alters history and their destiny.
David agrees it's a complicated plot but stresses it's down to Ayckbourn’s writing that makes it accessible and very funny.
"It's such a great play, incredibly well written and terribly clever the way it weaves together," he tells me.
"All the characters are great and very well crafted and there are some wonderful comic moments - particularly with the three women.
"I don't want to give too much away because there are a few twists and turns and a few surprise entrances but it's very theatrical, has plenty of dark humour and has a powerful, strong resolution."
He adds that it is also an homage to Hitchcock and Psycho of which there are a few references.
"It's quite scary which is unusual in theatre," he says. "There's far too much violence and scary stuff on TV, in fact I deplore it, but it's unusual to be scared at the theatre.
"In this there are clear references to Ayckbourn's influences including a nod to Psycho with a scene in which Julian tries to murder Poopay in the shower.
"But Ayckbourn does make a feature of time and location in many of his plays which is very clever and which is one of the things I love about his work."
And David says he too finds time travel intriguing.
"It would be wonderful and very interesting to go to the first night of Hamlet or the Marriage of Figaro and witness that moment," he muses.
"But equally you always want to re-do things in your own lives or maybe do something good for humanity like stopping Hitler.
"However, you don't know how it would trigger other things that may happen - there are always consequences.
"In this play it's all an accident that it happens - no one sets out to do it."
The play marks a welcome return to the Menier for David who last appeared there in Travels With My Aunt in 2013.
"It's a lovely theatre and a great place to work," he enthuses. "The team are great and put on fabulous stuff.
"They don't get any subsidy but continue to put on great productions. I love it here and very pleased to be here in this brilliant show with such a fantastic cast - what could be better?"
As for Julian, I wonder if he gets his just deserts.
David laughs and says: "The ending happens quite quickly. It's quite a shock and there are a couple of surprises where it could go either way. But you'll have to see it to find out."

Communicating Doors is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory until June 27. Tickets from £25. Visit or call the box office on 020 7378 1713.

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