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Robert Bathurst: 'Life won't be complete until I've done my new show'

The Cold Feet and Downton Abbey star is performing in a new show at the Edinburgh Festival

Robert Bathurst
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Known to most people for starring in the hit '90s TV series Cold Feet, Robert Bathurst has had an extensive career on stage and screen over the last thirty years. He has made a regular appearance in Downton Abbey as Sir Anthony Strallan and on stage has starred in Alex – based on the comic in the Daily TelegraphWhipping it Up and Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit and Present Laughter. He returned to the relaunch of Cold Feet in 2016 and this year is starring at the Edinburgh Festival in his show The Song of Lunch, an adaptation of Christopher Reid's work about two people trying to rekindle old love.

I told Piers Morgan that The Song of Lunch is a verse comedy with cartoons and he looked completely blank and asked me about Downton Abbey. It's difficult to describe. It was written as a book of verse, and is about a disastrous date in an Italian restaurant, where someone is trying to get back with an old flame. Projected on a screen at the back of the stage are black and white illustrations by Charles Peattie. We don't have tables, menus, glasses: no props. The animation means we can be stylised with our performances.

It's not the first time I've worked on theatre with cartoons. I was in a play called Alex, which was based on Charles Peattie's cartoon strip in the Daily Telegraph. That went well and I was trying to think of some other project to do. That's when I read Reid's The Song of Lunch, and knew it would work. It's a celebration of language, it's witty, immediate and poignant too.

Rebecca Johnson and Robert Bathurst in The Song of Lunch
© Karla Gowlett

Life won't be complete until I've done this show. I've just got to the stage where I have to put it out there and see if people share my passion for it. It's been brewing for a long time, and I did a run of it in Chichester and cabaret versions of it in art galleries. I chose Edinburgh because I thought it was time to expose it.

The first year I was in Edinburgh I was here as a student and we shared a theatre with Rowan Atkinson and saw the early Mr Bean. We saw The National Theatre of Brent too. It was before Edinburgh got all these smart stand alone venues. Before Edinburgh got pro. We're a part of that now, with this show.

I can do publicity on my other projects because of my TV stuff. That's the commercial reality of it. I'm happy to exploit that. But I love doing both TV and theatre. I love really good writing first and foremost. Often you don't find that in TV, which is why I leapt at Christopher's material.

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