The fourth episode in a string of (musical) Dick Barton stage adventures, now in previews at the Croydon Warehouse, opens on Dec. 10 and runs to Feb. 2, 2003.
Adam Morris stars as Dick Barton, the tall and manly secret agent who is battling against dastardly foreigners. Theatrenow donned a raincoat and hat to track him down in Covent Garden.
Judging by the content, Dick Barton sounds a bit politically incorrect? "You could say that, but then its a period setting — the original radio series ran in the 1940's and very early 50's. Given that, we're surprisingly un-xenophobic!
"Anyway, you have to realize that this is a light-hearted adventure, with songs, and though, like any such show, it has to be played seriously in order to get the comedy across, it's all great fun." Is this the first time you've played Dick Barton? "Yes. This is the fourth episode, and each one has had a different Dick Barton".
So, it's a bit like Dr. Who in that respect? "In the sense that the series is bigger than the individual actor, yes. And it's a very popular series. We start previews on 6th December, and we've already sold out most of December and dates into next year — so people had better book soon!
"It's a very popular show, and this new episode is, I gather from people who've worked on the previous ones, very tightly written, so we should be even better than before."
Do you wear Dick's traditional outfit? Is there a happy ending? "I get to wear a trilby and a mac, and there is — as you'd expect from Dick Barton, or from any Christmas show for that matter, and we're very much an alternative Christmas entertainment — a happy ending. I get the girl in the end, though things are complicated by the fact that I think she's a boy for most of the show!"
You've played other stiff-upper-lip characters in your career, I see — like a prefect in Another Country. "I was in Another Country, which is set in a 1930's public school. I played a baddie — a senior boy called Fowler.
"It was in the early 1980's, when the play was a big hit thanks to the London production, and there was that big public-school Sloane Ranger thing going on — partly thanks to 'Brideshead Revisited,' which was a major television series the year or so before Julian Mitchell's Another Country at the Queen's Theatre.
"I was in a production at the Theatre Royal, Northampton, and we were directed by Richard Olivier, Laurence Olivier's son. The old boy came round backstage after a performance, though he was very slow on his feet by then. I'd taken the curtain call, taken off the make-up, showered and changed before Lord Olivier had finished climbing the stairs to see us!"
What was he like? "Very nice, and had a word for everyone. We were lined up, and he went along the line shaking hands and having a chat with us in turn — it was like a Royal visit."
You've performed in a huge range of theatres. What's it like being in the Croydon Warehouse? "Small! Intimate! Actually it's slightly unnerving in that the punters sit at tables munching away while you perform, and the stage area is very small and very close to them.
"That all adds to the sense of the audience being involved in the action and obviously works well with this sort of show, which is why it's come back for a fourth year. But as an actor, singing and acting with members of the audience virtually pressed against your thigh is going to be something of a challenge!"