Oliviers: Lee Evans – ‘I really wanted to get back into theatre’

comedian and award-winning actor Lee Evans raised laughs at the Olivier Awards this year when he
ate a fake award on stage.

“It tasted quite brassy
I must say”, he told afterwards, “but I need a bit of iron”.

He’s now preparing to sink his teeth into his first stage acting project for six years, the posthumous premiere of Clive Exton’s 2005 comedy Barking in Essex, in which he’ll star alongside Sheila Hancock.

Evans, who was last seen in the West End revival of Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter
in 2007 (for which he won a Award), will play “the
village idiot of the criminal underworld”, while Hancock plays his “rottweiler”
mother Emmie.

“It’s taken me two years to get this off the
ground,” he said. “I read loads and loads of plays as I really wanted to get back into
theatre, and nothing was as funny as this.”

He described Barking in Essex as being “a bit like Ab Fab meets The Sopranos – it’s mental, it’s mad.”

The story centres on Algie Packer, a notorious Essex
gangster who’s done seven years inside and has come home to
collect his booty – £3,672,000 in untraceable notes. But there’s
something Algie’s family have forgotten to mention…  The Packers are
Essex’s lovable, but most dysfunctional family.

Evans with Nathan Lane in The Producers

Evans’ other West End credits include his popular turn as Leo Bloom in The Producers (pictured) at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, for which he was nominated for a Award, as well as Samuel Beckett’s Endgame opposite Michael Gambon at the Albery Theatre in 2004. 

“I’ve done a lot of serious stuff like Pinter and Beckett,” Evans said, “so with this I just want to have some fun.”

Reflecting on the current landscape of the West End, he added: “I love the West End at the moment, it’s brilliant, and there’s something for everyone. When I was a kid it all seemed a bit posh but now it’s really opening up.”

Barking in Essex opens at Wyndham’s Theatre on 16 September 2013 (previews from 6 September).