I’ve just started my run of Kellie Smith’s brilliant debut play Wilderness Downstairs at The Hampstead Theatre. It’s a brilliant play, a great role, a wonderful cast AND is directed by the incomparable Anna Ledwich. It’s an emotional examination of modern family life and I’m incredibly proud to be involved with it.
Francesca Kay’s wonderful debut novel An Equal Stillness is now available as an audio download, narrated by yours truly. I narrated her most recent book The Long Room and I have to say that this is even more powerful. The biography of fictional artist Jennet Mallow, Kay’s novel was the winner of the Orange Prize for new writers in 2009. I found it incredibly engrossing and compelling and I hope I’ve done it justice!
The audiobook for Richard Wilson (not THAT Richard Wilson) and Kate Pickett’s fascinating study of modern living The Inner Level : How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-being is now available, narrated by me. The authors of the seminal The Spirit Level : Why Equality Is Good For Everyone, this follow-up focuses on mental health as the by-product of today’s consumerist society and is both brilliant and disturbing in equal measures.
Just shaved my beard off and done my first day's filming on the the third and final series of ITV's Unforgotten, written by Chris Lang and directed by Andy Wilson for Mainstreet Pictures. I've worked with Andy before - playing an apocalyptic Death Cult member checking into Hotel Babylon and ordering unsmoked bacon for David Walliams (an every-day kind of gig) with a future commander of The Revel Alliance - and he's so lovely. In the show I'm playing Neil Morrissey's boss, an utterly unsympathetic character who makes his life hell. It's going to fun!
Delighted to have just finished a lovely shift on BBC's mighty Silent Witness. It's been a secret wish of mine to get on this show for ages and it was great down to the studios where they film it. Not allowed to say too much about it, but it's Episode 5 in the 21st series, is called "One Day" and is directed by the brilliant Thaddeus O'Sullivan.
My reading of Johnny Mercer's compelling and inspiring autobiography We Were Warriors is now available from Audible. I found Johnny's story - from emotionally challenging upbringing to soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan to campaigning MP - incredibly compelling. And my respect for the men and women who fight (and often suffer more at home than in the battlefied) has only magnified. You can have a listen to five minutes of me telling his story right here.
I've been fairly slack in posting my BBC Radio Drama work, but here is one of my last (and favourite!). The Forsytes Saga has been running for some time on Radio 4, but all good things come to an end. And here it is. I play the conflicted Hugh in the last block, featuring the brilliant Jessica Raine amongst others. It's on the iPlayer here. Check it out before it disappears!
I've been busy in the studio at the BBC recording a lot of drama. Here's the first of many - Mary Rose by JM Barrie. Adapted by Abigail Le Fleming and featuring the brilliant Bryony Hannah, Bill Patterson, Oliver Chris, James Fleet and Pippa Haywood, Alison Belbin and Mark Pendergast. It'll be on the iPlayer until mid-November. Enjoy!
I'm very excited to announce that, from this week, I'll be doing the BBC Radio Drama Rep Company. I've wanted to get involved with Radio Drama for so long, as it has been a constant and reassuring presence in my kitchen for years. I'll keep you posted about what I'm in and when, but in the meantime, I've been celebrating by growing a beard ... they matter less on radio, apparently.
I've been back in the studio this summer recording two books for Audible. The first is the brilliant Miss You by Kate Eberlen, the heart-breaking but gorgeous story of two people who should be together and whose paths cross over twenty years after a chance meeting in Florence. I really loved recording this with the lovely people at Strathmore Publishing. It's out now, and you can have a listen here.
Last year I shot a small scene with the brilliant Indira Varma in Abigail Blackmore's short film "Vintage Blood". And here it is in all it's g(l)ory.
It's been a real hit on the festival circuit as it's been -
WINNER Audience Choice Award - TriForce Short Film Festival December 2015
WINNER Best Screenplay - Unrestricted View Film Festival April 2016
- hope you enjoy it as m,such as they did!
VINTAGE BLOOD. A short horror comedy written and directed by Abigail Blackmore. Produced by Ed Barratt
starring Indira Varma, Sophie Thompson, Michael Rosen, Tracy Whitwell, Finlay Robertson, Abigail Blackmore and introducing Ruth Syratt.
I've just finished a day on the second series of the brilliant Channel 4 show "Humans". Reunited with Katherine Parkinson, with whom I worked on Doc Martin, I had a fun time shooting a scene I can tell you absolutely nothing about ...
I've just finished recording the extraordinary Anatomy Of A Soldier, the debut novel of Harry Barker - who served as a captain in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book takes a unique route in its telling of the story of a soldier wounded by an IED and the boy who planted the bomb, as it plays out through the POVs of the inanimate objects - the fertiliser, the bullet, the surgical saw - that the soldier encounters on his journey. A harrowing story filled with humanity and humour, it's the most insightful account into what it means to serve in war that I've ever read. The audiobook was record at Whitehouse Sound and will be available on Audible very soon.
It's the awkward bit between Christmas and New Year and I'm all alone at home, so I thought I'd share some of the nice reviews that "The Merchant Of Venice" at The Almeida has been getting. It's an amazing show to be part of, and I'm incredibly proud to be part of such a wonderful company. Do come if you can, we're on till Valentine's Day. Anyway, here's some nice words from people who've seen it.
★★★★ The Independent
★★★★ The Times (subscription needed)
The Merchant of Venice, Almeida, London — review
Strong support comes from Scott Handy’s earnest Antonio, Anthony Welsh’s gangsta Gratiano and Finlay Robertson’s preppy Lorenzo
The Merchant of Vegas: it has a certain ring to it. Like Shakespeare’s Venice, then the epicentre of global trade, Las Vegas is defined by money. Rupert Goold’s setting of the play in the US city makes immediate sense: the moment Ian McDiarmid’s Shylock offers Scott Handy’s Antonio a loan with a pound of flesh as indemnity, you see that transaction for what it really is: a bet; sport.
However, Vegas is more than that — or rather less. Its palm trees are plastic, every Elvis is fake. Portia (Susannah Fielding) becomes the prize of a “Bachelorette”-style game show, called Destiny. Pick a casket; win a wife. It’s a culture of instant, unearned success, and Portia — dolled up in a blonde wig, speaking in a babyish Texan gurgle — plays the pliable ingénue for the cameras.
The anti-Semitism here seems surface as well: a way of attacking a man for his enviable wealth, rather than religious or racial hatred. Las Vegans all worship money anyway. McDiarmid’s Shylock doesn’t dress Jewish at first but he does speak it: a soft Viennese purr that comes, tellingly, from within. Only when teaching this superficial society a lesson in the courtroom, insisting on his pound of flesh, does he put on his kippah.
There, McDiarmid (pictured) becomes both sympathetic and monstrous. His blood thirst is born of morality but it tips too far. He draws out his repayment plan — sharpening the knife on his shoe, marking a square to slice off — with all the sadistic relish of Reservoir Dogs. Fielding’s Portia is equally over-righteous: hostage to the rules of her game show for so long, now she force-feeds the law to others.
Goold strikes just the right balance with this problematic play. Early on, though, it all seems as superficial as its version of Vegas. Goold and designer Tom Scutt give us a thesis, not a real world, and it’s only in the court scene, when reality bites, that this Merchant truly grips.
Strong support comes from Handy’s earnest Antonio, Anthony Welsh’s gangsta Gratiano and Finlay Robertson’s preppy Lorenzo, who pays to pass for a playboy. Viva.
Having begun the year wanting to do a little bit more theatre, this morning I found myself starting rehearsals for my third play in a three months. I'm very excited to announce that I'm playing Lorenzo in Rupert Goold's "Merchant Of Venice" at The Almeida. We open on 5 December. Do come, it's going to be extraordinary. You can read all about it and book tickets here.