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James Lance: 'Splitting my trousers on stage brought the house down. And my trousers too'

Lance currently stars in Of Kith and Kin, a piece of new writing debuting at the Sheffield Crucible

James Lance in Of Kith and Kin
© Mark Douet

James Lance, who has appeared in TV shows such as I'm Alan Partridge, Spaced and Hotel Babylon, is set to star in Of Kith and Kin, which opens this week at the Sheffield Crucible ahead of a transfer to London's Bush Theatre next month.

The darkly comedic show sees a gay male couple hoping to have a child through a surrogate, when the tensions and stresses cause cracks and issues in their relationship. Lance plays Daniel, the elder of the pair.

My experience acting started when I was 10. A casting agent was looking for boys around my age to play Warren Clarke's son in a TV series and after winning the part I was hooked. At the age of 12 I moved to London, and from there just kept plugging away.

I fell in love with Joanna Lumley while doing Absolutely Fabulous in 1992. I was playing Daniel, and the experience launched me into the comedy circuit, from there I got jobs on shows like I'm Alan Partridge and Spaced.

Most of my auditions in the industry have been cringe-inducing. I've done some lovely projects though, theatre-wise starring as Bertie Wooster in Perfect Nonsense in 2014 was definitely a treat. What was delightful was that I gained a great new friend in John Gordon Sinclair. It was like playing in a great band when all the elements are coming together. We all got on like a house on fire.

During one performance of Perfect Nonsense my trousers split right down the middle. It was very embarrassing and much more revealing than I'd expected. Though, on the plus side, as my trousers came down, it brought the house down. I loved that show.

The Bush kickstarted my theatre career, I've done three or four shows there. I performed in a show called The Back Room by the late Adrian Pagan, set in a boy's brothel in Earl's Court. I played a Spanish rent boy called Madonna. The doorbell used to ring and I'd shout 'Doorbell!' in a high pitched Spanish accent. That's the thing I remember most.

It's exciting to pop the seal on Of Kith and Kin. I'm always excited when a new piece of writing comes into my inbox and then later to discover the piece in rehearsals while everyone else is doing the same. It's also my first time at the Sheffield Crucible - Robert Hastie has created a fantastic energy here and the vibe is so exciting.

The show is very funny, and at the same time very unfunny. It's the epitome of a dark comedy. Writer Chris Thompson has set it today, which is a really interesting time in terms of gay politics. Gay men have largely moved from being persecuted to being part of the mainstream, and Chris has shown that there's a lot of rage amongst older gay men. There're huge themes here - betrayal, love, compromise, loyalty, abuse.

Of Kith and Kin runs from 15 September to 7 October at the Sheffield Crucible, before the show transfers to the Bush Theatre in London from 18 October to 25 November.