Chris New is no stranger to the Northwest, having performed at the Royal Exchange last Summer in Hayfever and The Comedy Of Errors at the Lowry. Earning rave reviews in London for Bent, alongside Alan Cumming, Chris is hoping that his latest role earns similar plaudits. In Prick Up Your Ears, which plays at the Lowry later this month, he plays playwright Joe Orton opposite Matt Lucas as his mentor/lover Kenneth Halliwell. We caught up with him to find out more.


What attracted you to Prick Up Your Ears?
My flat-mate James came up with the idea for the show after I heard that Matt (Lucas) was interested in doing a play. I'd known about Joe Orton since I was at college and had read John Lahr's biography. I found many comparisons between Joe and myself while I was reading - a working class background, running off to London to go to RADA etc - and my physical resemblance was also a factor. And then Matt as Kenneth Halliwell seemed like such perfect casting.  We were very lucky that Sonia Friedman, the Producer, and Daniel Kramer, the Director, were as excited about the project as Matt and I were and the ball started rolling from there.

What’s been the most interesting aspect of the play for you?
The driving force for all of us, as we started building ideas for the production, was understanding Kenneth Halliwell. We all felt that there was lots of new ground to cover when it came to portraying Ken. We wanted to make him a human character rather than a villain. We wanted to make him likable - there must have been a reason why Joe didn't just pack his bags and leave. As the years go on I think that Ken's affect on the work Joe produced is becoming clearer to us. I think there is no doubt that Joe wrote the plays, but without Kenneth...well, who knows.

The film is very well known, so did you put Gary Oldman out of your mind? How do you tackle a role so synonymous with the Stephen Frears' film?
I really haven't thought about the film much as we have created the play from the original source material and John Lahr's Biography. I've seen it maybe twice in the two years that we have been working on putting this show together - I'm not sure if anyone else in the production has watched it at all. The film and our play have both taken the title from the biography (the title was going to be the title for Joe's next play) but both pieces are very different. I'm hoping Gary Oldman will come and see the show - I think he is a wonderful actor.

 What’s your favourite line in the play?
There is one line that Mrs Corden, Orton and Halliwell’s neighbour, says in reference to a discussion about the roots of rock and roll which I won't repeat because I don't want to spoil it for the audiences.I think the line is worth the ticket price alone.Simon Bent has done an amazing job, in my opinion, and the more I work on the script the more I am impressed by it. I think one of my favourite lines is a direct quote from Joe's published diaries - but I'll not spoil it for the audience.Sorry...
 
How has it been working alongside Matt Lucas?
He is, as you might imagine, is very good fun to work with. I have a feeling he sees himself as 'just a comedian' but I sense also that all of his fans see him first as a damn good actor. It's been really, really exciting to watch Matt bring to the show his usual astounding comedy talents but also to see him stretch his dramatic wings. I think audiences are going to be very pleasantly surprised with the different sides to his skill that Matt is putting on show.

What can newcomers to the text expect from the play? Why should people come and see it?
Oh, I feel very silly if I try and sell the play. . . All I can say is that our team onstage and off have all put a huge amount of love and energy into the show so I'm really hoping it will be something very special. And it's helmed by my favourite director Daniel Kramer whose work I think everyone should see (whether I'm in it or not).



Chris New was speaking to Glenn Meads

Prick Up Your Ears runs at the Lowry from 31st Aug until 4th Sept, followed by Brighton, prior to the West End. For more information, please click here.