Patrick turns on the charm for his Brandt new role as a leader

Patrick Drury as Willy Brandt in Democracy
Patrick Drury as Willy Brandt in Democracy
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NOT surprisingly the prospect of playing a charismatic and womanising German leader appealed to veteran British actor Patrick Drury.

“I only get to talk about it, though,” he says when asked how far he takes the womanising aspect in Democracy, currently in the Crucible.

The play with an all-male cast is the third in a month-long season of work written by Michael Frayn and centres on five years in the political life and adminstration of German leader Willy Brandt.

“Brandt was never a person I would have considered playing, but then I’m not – I’m playing Frayn’s idea of Brandt, within a very restricted context, between 1969 and ’74.

“But it’s up to me to try to convey what it is Frayn thinks are the important issues of that period and the context is important because there’s a lot at stake.

“What was one country is now living in two separate states, but how do they accommodate each other? How do you come to terms with the fact a certain section of your country is not part of you any more? Not only that, it’s part of the USSR who are the enemy in the cold war.

“It was the era of JFK and the men liked each other, although I think Brandt felt let down by JFK when he allowed the Berlin Wall to go up and didn’t confront the Russians.”

For Patrick it represents a huge contrast to some of his former roles, including a recent London run in Woman In Black, twice a victim in Midsomer Murders and John O’Leary, the shopkeeper who was always beating up his wife in the legendary Father Ted.

“It is a challenge,” he says of Democracy. “Yes it’s full of politics but underneath there’s also a human story which is to do with Brandt’s vulnerability; why did he drink and womanise so much? Why was he someone so uncertain of his own identity?

“Who was he, really?

“That’s one of the questions Frayn is asking and hopefully if we do it in a sympathetic way the audience will become engaged by it.

“The challenge for me is to show the private man, something of the attraction of the public man, but also this huge core of uncertainty there is about him which I think makes him a very human figure.

“There was something about him that was very attractive. Part of it was his personal integrity; he came back to a country where there was a painful denial about the past and he came back with clean hands, having been in exile.

“He wasn’t tainted by the Nazi stigma and he gave off something that was honest and direct and plausible.

“He was hugely attractive to his contemporaries but also hugely hated by his enemies.

“He was seen as a charismatic man and his political party, the Social Democrats, believe they relied on him for their popularity.

“If you’re a politician and you haven’t got some of the qualities we’ve described you’re a non starter... if people don’t believe what you’re saying or they’re not attracted to you in some way.

“The same would be true of an actor – if an audience doesn’t like you they’ll switch off, leave or boo you or something.”

Democracy runs until March 31.