“Brideshead” Star Anthony Andrews Chats About London’s My Fair Lady

News   “Brideshead” Star Anthony Andrews Chats About London’s My Fair Lady
Anthony Andrews, still best-remembered as Sebastian in “Brideshead Revisited,” is starring as Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He talked to us about the musical in his palatial dressing room suite.

Congratulations on the part. And the dressing room! "Yes, it's not bad, is it? A far cry from some of the scrubby holes I've been based in, in other theatres! But, of course, what I'm really pleased about is the part. It's something I've wanted to play ever since I came here, as a child, aged ten, and stood at the back of the stalls — which you could in those days, and saw My Fair Lady for the first time."

What's it like to perform on the stage of Drury Lane? It's a vast theatre, so does it feel at all intimidating? "Well, when we all got together for our publicity photograph, which was the first time we had all been together, and I looked across the stage out into the auditorium, then, yes, I did feel somewhat awed at the prospect. But that's often the case with something you've always wanted. When you've got it and it’s about to happen, there's still a sort of nervousness. The moment I actually got on the stage during the first performance, however, I was swept up in the story, and by the music, and far from feeling nervous I felt at home — and enjoyed every minute."

It must be quite a tiring role? "Not so much tiring, though it is hard work, as needing concentration. You can't relax for a moment. The songs I sing, especially where I appear to be singing against the melody, take enormous concentration to get right."

You've had very good reviews, so the critics have obviously taken to you, but was it difficult following two other major actors into the role? "I think it would have been, had I simply replaced Jonathan or Alex and the rest of the cast had stayed the same. But, apart from a few very experienced people in the ensemble, this is a completely new cast. Which was a great help, as it meant we were all taking this giant of a musical on together, exploring it for ourselves. So there wasn't a question of 'So and so didn't do it this way' or 'We always find it works if you do this...' We've found out for ourselves what works, which is the best way of approaching any piece of theatre."

Do you have any other projects in the works? "I have a production company, Double A, which is actually quite a small company, but I'm proud of our work. The current project is a television series based on Christopher Isherwood's ‘Goodbye to Berlin.’ It's a fascinating book, about an extraordinary time." Finally, and speaking of television series, no interview with you would be complete without a question about “Brideshead Revisited.” Do you see Sebastian Flyte as a role that has haunted you, or are you pleased that people still associate you with it, 20 years on? "It was such a fabulous role that I can't be at all surprised, let alone upset, that people still mention it. We were very lucky to have 13 episodes in which to dramatize Evelyn Waugh's novel, and one reason for the series' impact is a combination of time, money and producing talent that was unique. I think it's fair to say that you'll never again have that length of time (we shot it over nearly two years) or that sort of budget to shoot a television series about one book. Sebastian was the part I wanted to play, having read the book, and though I was initially seen for the part of Charles Ryder — which Jeremy Irons played in the end — it was Sebastian that I was after, and luckily I got him!"

Anthony Andrews is starring in My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

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