WhatsOnStage Logo

Brief Encounter With ... Janie Dee & Rupert Wickham

WhatsOnStage logo
Janie and Rupert, many thanks for taking time out of your busy rehearsal schedule for Private Lives at the Nottingham Playhouse to talk to us.

How are you finding working together? Is it something you have done often in your careers?

Janie: We met on Judi Dench’s production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and I fell in love with him immediately. Working together now 18 years later is a privilege – not without challenges.

Rupert: The last time Janie and I worked together was when we danced together at the Capulets’ ball in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre before we were married. It’s great to be able to kiss each other and shout at each other for money. But seriously for a moment, Janie is a wonderful actress – graceful, sparky, intuitive – and it’s a privilege to have the opportunity of finally getting to work with her with such an extraordinary script.

Private Lives is one of the greatest of 20th Century British comedies – how are you enjoying working with Coward’s wonderfully witty script?

Janie: It’s truly brilliant. He’s one of the greats and I’m so grateful to him for giving us this ‘language’. The vocabulary is exciting and vibrant and as profound as it is fun.

Rupert: It’s glorious and infuriating at the same time. Whenever you find yourself stumbling over the phrasing of a line, you invariably look at the script and discover that you’re actually getting the lines wrong and Coward has phrased it much more simply and exquisitely. Genius! But it’s a mistake, I think, to dismiss the play as simply witty. It is of course riotously funny, but it is also a profound and extraordinarily modern meditation on marriage and the unrealistic expectations of all of us in affluent societies.

It must be very tempting to sneak a look at clips from previous productions – have you given in to see how others have tackled these iconic roles?

Janie: I’ve seen the play 3 times before and nearly always enjoyed every moment. But it feels fresh in the hands of Giles Croft, our director and as the production comes together.

Rupert: We’ve both seen the play a couple of times, I think, and we’ve got a wonderful old recording of Noel and Gertie performing the ‘balcony scene’. As to watching DVDs, we’ve both been too busy learning all those lines!

Nottingham Playhouse has a wonderful reputation as a leading regional theatre – how are you enjoying working there?

Janie: I love Nottingham anyway – it’s a delightful city with very friendly people, a nostalgia of medieval England. But the Playhouse is modern with an Anish Kapoor installation and a stunning and exciting programme of work.

Rupert: The Playhouse is wonderfully welcoming and an extremely pleasant environment, especially in this glorious Indian Summer we’re having. I’d only been here twice before, once to see my father play Creon in ‘Antigone’ in the early 70’s, then last year to see our friend Stefan Bednarczyk in Nottingham Playhouse’s own cult show, ‘Forever Young’ – not to be missed!

What is next for both of you? Any more plans to work together?

Janie: We’re taking the children on holiday immediately afterward to reward them for waiting. Then I am doing ‘Noises Off’ at the Old Vic in November through to the end of February and opening my cabaret at the New Talk of the Town.

Rupert: I’m launching my new one-man-show, ‘Stalin’s Favourite’, at the National Theatre in November, then on tour from January to March 2012. As to working together again, watch this space, but I think the children might want a little looking after before we start swanning off anywhere in a hurry!

Thanks again for taking time to talk to us – and all the best for the production.


Tagged in this Story