Robert Bathurst On ... Alex & the Credit CrunchDate: 24 November 2008
Robert Bathurst is an actor whose recent stage credits include Three Sisters (Playhouse), Members Only (Trafalgar Studios) and Whipping it Up (Bush). His TV work includes My Dadís the Prime Minister, Cold Feet and Joking Apart. His one man show Alex, adapted from the Daily Telegraph cartoon series, enjoyed a critically acclaimed run at the Arts theatre last year and returns to the capital this month at the newly refurbished Leicester Square theatre.
The recent freefall of the markets happened as we were opening in Sydney, and Charles Peattie, the author of the cartoons, was sending back updated versions all the time to keep pace. I think Charles and Russell (Taylor) have done a great job during the current crisis, theyíve come out with some excellent material. In terms of the show, it has been updated from last year, though the core narrative is still essentially the same. There are plenty of references to the credit crunch, and I think the whole situation makes the show more pertinent now than it was last year.
Alex is irrepressible and I think his buoyancy helps him survive whatever the markets can throw at him. He has always faced disaster and has met it with his own brand of duplicity and cynicism which is bizarrely charming. He puts a human face on the city, exposing himself to a degree that people in his position rarely do. He confides in the audience. He tells them what heís thinking, when in fact he is saying something completely different to the characters on stage. I wouldnít say heís pleading for audience sympathy but they do get to understand him better. And inevitably they do start to hope, against their better natures, that he succeeds.
Itís a one man show, but according to most audience members I speak to, it doesnít feel like that. There are eight characters in it, including his wife, his boss and this hapless graduate trainee who is actually much better at the job than he is, all of whom appear in cartoon form. I interact with them but I also speak as them, so Iím doing all the voices yet I only ever actually appear as Alex. Whatís great about it from a stage point of view is that you can have cartoon rules so you can snap in and out of situations and time frames in a way that only a cartoon can.
I like it when people come to see the show with no expectations. During the last London run, a lot of bankers came with their wives, many of whom didnít have any knowledge of the cartoons. But people surrender to the whole notion of live action and animation in a way which is really, really satisfying and as soon as you know youíve hooked them, you can just enjoy taking them along for the ride.
I would love to do it in New York. Iím currently trying to manoeuvre an Off-Broadway run, so weíll see if anything comes of it. When we did it in Sydney and elsewhere, we never made any concession to the fact that we were doing it outside London, we didnít try and transplant it. It is very much set in London, just as much as Chekhov is set in Russia; you donít need to set it elsewhere in order to get it. His brand of petty snobberies and cynicism is a very British thing and the very British-ness of it is a large part of its appeal.
Alex is at the Leicester Square theatre from 27 November (previews from 25 November) to 20 December 2008.