|Nicholas Le Prevost|
20 Questions with...Nicholas Le Prevost
Date: 29 July 2002
Nicholas Le Prevost - opening in the RSC's West End Much Ado About Nothing this week opposite Harriet Walter - talks about his love of Howard Barker as well as the dangers of arts administration, low pay & losing your wife in Rome.
Actor Nicholas Le Prevost returns to the West End this week, playing Benedick in Gregory Doran's RSC production of Much Ado About Nothing, which comes to the Theatre Royal Haymarket following acclaimed runs in Stratford and Newcastle.
Le Prevost walked straight into the Shakespeare stint after a year playing stiff-upper-lip Colonel Pickering, first at the National and then at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in Trevor Nunn's multi award-winning revival of Lerner and Loewe's classic musical, My Fair Lady. That role earned Le Prevost an Olivier nomination for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical.
Though Much Ado About Nothing marks Le Prevost's RSC debut in a Shakespeare production, he has other associations with the Bard, having played A Winter's Tale in the first season at the new Shakespeare's Globe, As You Like It at Sheffield Crucible, and on film, appearing as Sir Robert de Lessops in the Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love.
Le Prevost's other stage credits - in the West End, at the National Theatre and Royal Court theatres and elsewhere - include An Absolute Turkey, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Amadeus, Tartuffe, Blues for Mister Charlie, Hedda Gabler, Mind Millie for Me, Privates on Parade, The Strip and The Recruiting Officer.
Date & place of birth
Born in Wiltshire in the winter of 1947.
Lives now in...
On the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.
First big break
The Imitation Game, a film for the BBC written by Ian McEwan and directed by Richard Eyre.
Career highlights to date
I don't really have a career! Working with Howard Barker in the 1980s is a great theatre highlight. Doing Jewel was a great TV film highlight, and The Imitation Game again. More recently, things like My Fair Lady, with all the razzmatazz that comes with working on a Cameron Mackintosh project. Working with Michael Grandage as well - he's such good director.
Favourite productions you've ever worked on
Victory by Howard Barker, directed by Kenny Ireland at the Royal Court. It's a great play, and Kenny's a great director.
Martine McCutcheon in My Fair Lady because she was a delight.
Michael Grandage, Kenny Ireland, Gregory Doran, Trevor Nunn and Phyllida Lloyd - simply because they're good.
Howard Barker. He's a uniquely amazing modern writer, who writes brilliantly for actors. I'm keen on a lot of modern playwrights but I think Barker's remarkable, and he's English, which is good.
What roles would you most like to play still?
I don't have any. A job comes and you don't know what it's going to be, each job is difficult. If you'd have asked me whether I'd wanted to play Colonel Pickering, I'd have said no, but it turned out to be a good job - I found something particular in it. My life seems to be like that. I don't want to play Hamlet or whatever else it is you're supposed to want to play as an actor. These things just turn up and you're surprised constantly.
If you hadn't become an actor, what would you have done professionally?
I'd have been an architect. I had an 'O' level in Ecclesiastical Architecture. I'm mad about buildings and building new things. Architecture would be a definite choice - to be a builder of new buildings.
What was the last stage production you saw that you really enjoyed?
Shockheaded Peter. It's very inventive - so good it took itself by surprise! It was terrifically fresh and it brought up unexpected questions; there was a marvellous freshness to it. My only objection to My Fair Lady was that it was slightly too arranged. There was no room for improvisation. Jonathan Pryce is, of course, a famous improviser so we did try to do a little work around it. I like giving things a bang. Good productions can't be planned, they just occur.
What advice would you give the government to secure the future of British theatre?
Theatre suffers from the same thing as the health and education systems - it's over-administrated and over-managed. Management has become more important than the making of it. Management has become an industry with the kings the accountants who invent success and failure. That's what theatre is like at the moment - too many chiefs and not enough Indians. The arts have become hugely respectable with middle class people coming into the industry, not by being painters but art historians. The people who manage have become the rulers of the arts world. It would be nice to live without them again.
If you could swap places with one person (living or dead), who would it be?
Just someone young.
Favourite books A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
Favourite holiday destinations
Rome. It's a disgraceful city, a place where you feel you might lose your wife - forever! Your whole life could change there, you could see someone who could make you disappear. It's an extremely seductive city, too. A glorious smelly, hot, heavy city. And the food is fantastic. I live in the country so I go to the city for a holiday.
Why did you want to accept your role in Much Ado About Nothing in particular?
The role came whilst I was still in My Fair Lady so seemed different. And, most of all, it's a marvellous part, marvellous play.
How do you make the transition from doing a big budget musical to Shakespeare?
You start to realise that you have to pay your tax next year so you go shopping less! You aren't living on West End wages anymore. Mind you actors' wages have gone down so much overall. I got the same wages in My Fair Lady in 2002 as I did in a smaller part in the West End in 1992. For ordinary jobbing actors, it's very hard to get the rewards the profession used to offer.
Why did you want to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company at this point in your career?
It's not actually my RSC debut. I worked with the company in 1979/80 at the Donmar Warehouse on a modern play season. This time round I wanted to go to Stratford, which is such a marvellous place.
What's your favourite line from Much Ado About Nothing?
"Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies" (Act II, Scene III)
What are your plans for the future?
Find another job!
Following its season in Stratford and Newcastle, Much Ado About Nothing plays at the West End's Theatre Royal Haymarket for a limited season from 27 July to 22 August 2002.
CLICK HERE to take advantage of our 30% discount on top-price tickets - just £25 to 14 August 2002.