We took the opportunity to chat with Stephen Tompkinson as he prepared to open in a new play at our very own Live Theatre on the Quayside, Newcastle.

Stephen (DCI Banks, Wild at Heart, Ballykissangel, Drop The Dead Donkey and Grafters) is taking on the role of villain ‘Freddie the Suit’. Violent and volatile with a constant thirst for the truth, Freddie is certainly not to be messed with. The part was written especially for him by his friend, North Shields born Shaun Prendergast, who has written over thirty stage plays, sixty radio plays and twenty five TV scripts (Soldier Soldier, Eastenders, Grafters, Rocket Man as well as Playing with My Heart and He Swoops to Bonk Her for Live Theatre).

Set in the winter of 2008 Faith & Cold Reading tells the story of Sam a professional medium who lives with Carla. But he owes a lot of money to Stephens character ‘Freddie the Suit’ who has recently buried his mother. But will Freddie overlook the debt if Sam can re-connect him with his mother in spirit? With the pressure on, can Sam deliver or will it be left to Carla, herself bereaved, to make the connection?

Stephen was brought up in Stockton-on-Tees and will be visiting friends and family during his stay in the North East. He has already been to the top of St Marys lighthouse with his daughter and will spend time with his aunt and uncle, who live in Whitley Bay, during the run. He actually loves being back in the North East as it has a spirit all of its own as everyone is friendly and there is a special reaction from the audiences.

While rehearsing the play, the current series of Wild at Heart is on TV every Sunday, but Stephen told us swapping between TV and theatre is no problem. But he loves the immediacy of the reaction from a theatre audience and the adrenalin that accompanies this. However with regard to appearing at the LIVE Theatre itself, he loves the ambience of the venue and is looking forward to this his second time of appearing there. He initially appeared at the venue with his great friend Robson Green in discussions about their TV series Grafters.

While rehearing the sad news of the death of Pete Postlethwaite was announced and not only had Stephen worked with him on his first film Brassed Off, he had become friends with the actor and admittedly learnt a lot from him. In fact he told us working with, and getting to know, Pete was a highlight of his career. Unfortunately his dream of working with Stan Laurel, can never come true, but he holds this comic genius in high regard and someone he has always looked up to since being introduced to Laurel and Hardy by his grandmother.

From his career the TV series Drop the Dead Donkey, is not surprisingly one of his career highlights as this brought Stephen the recognition he deserved, followed by Ballykissangel which was his first lead role. But he does not want to be pigeon holed by any character as he will move on from a role if he becomes bored, as he firmly believes this will come across to an audience.

Faith & Cold Reading runs from 9 February until 19 March at the Live Theatre, Newcastle