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Paul Anderson: 'I've only just realised that Tartuffe is my West End debut'

The actor, who plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders, stars in Tartuffe which opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket next week

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Paul Anderson and director Gerald Garutti in rehearsals for Tartuffe
© Helen Maybanks

Best known for playing Arthur Shelby in the hit TV series Peaky Blinders, Paul Anderson is set to make his West End debut in the title role of a new production of Molière's Tartuffe. Christopher Hampton's adaptation relocates the classic French play to modern-day Los Angeles in Trump's America.

On screen, Anderson's credits include The Revenant, Legend and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Later this year he will play Guy of Gisborne in Leonardo DiCaprio's new Robin Hood film.

We spoke with Anderson about making his West End debut, how they're presenting a new Tartuffe and the future of Peaky Blinders.




I've never looked at Tartuffe like a big West End debut. I didn't really consider that when I agreed to do the play, it was more about the material and the character. Essentially it was Tartuffe himself, the idea of playing a character which is so multi-layered and has so many strange qualities – that was the interest. It's only now that I realise that it's my West End debut.

Tartuffe can be interpreted in so many different ways. Gerald [Garutti, the director] spoke about presenting a different Tartuffe to the ones he's seen before that are very obviously the snake, or somebody that's up to no good. I hope to bring a different quality, a sincerity and an emotional depth.

You can't really mess with Molière that much. Christopher Hampton has been on hand to offer suggestions and changes, but there's only so much you can change. It's an odd one because yes it's set in modern-day day Los Angeles and you'll get that feeling, but the changes are subtle.

Each performance is in French and English with surtitles, but I don't have to speak in French. There's a moment in the play that we discussed if I should, but there's not much room for it. There's a nice question of whether or not Tartuffe understands when French is being spoken in front of him.

Paul Anderson and Audrey Fleurot in rehearsals for Tartuffe
© Helen Maybanks

You're very lucky as an actor if you can choose roles, which I can't. I love the not knowing and the surprise of the material that shows up. The choices I make are quite random really, after this I'm off to Mexico to shoot an independent American movie.

I heard great things about Cillian [Murphy] in Grief is the Thing with Feathers, but I didn't see it. I was away in Budapest shooting Robin Hood and then New Mexico shooting Hostiles. Fingers crossed it comes back.

A Peaky Blinders musical has been spoken about. They're talking about a ballet and a movie too, it's taken on a whole new life in terms of merchandise and all that stuff. It's become very big and very popular.

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