Sheffield stage appearance for actor Peter Hamilton Dyer in Idi Amin drama The Last King of Scotland
Peter plays British ambassador Perkins in the first stage adaptation of the Giles Foden novel The Last King of Scotland that also inspired the Oscar-winning movie, starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy.
The play has its world premiere at the Crucible in Sheffield, running from September 27 to October 19.
Game of Thrones star Daniel Portman plays Scotsman Dr Nicholas Garrigan, personal physician to brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Tobi Bamtefa).
Peter said: “There’s been a crisis with Idi Amin expelling all the Asians from Uganda. He gives them 90 days to get out. That’s the start of the play.
“The British were tolerant of Idi Amin. He was their guy when he removed president Milton Obote in a coup. The British didn’t want Obote in power.
“Then Amin exerts greater autonomy with his own rule. When he expels the Asians, the British have a panic at home.
“At this point the British are less tolerant of Amin’s excesses and violence. We put pressure on the doctor to apply medical treatment to Idi Amin, to sedate him and see whether we can control his erratic behaviour by doing that.”
Peter said that Perkins is feeling he has failed because Amin expels him as ambassador, forcing him to leave the country as well.
He is a big fan of the adaptation by Steve Waters and the cast. “I think the play is really well written and provides a strong narrative arc for all of the characters. It’s a really rich company piece.
“That’s the energy that’s been here from day one. As much as it focuses on the president and the Scottish doctor, it compels really strong characters across the whole breadth of the play. There’s a really strong company feeling. It’s very exciting.”
Peter said that the writer has left it up to viewers to decide who is right and wrong. “The script is trying to resist being judgemental to the characters.
“It’s for the audience to decide whether Perkins is being honourable or dishonourable in what he’s doing. I don’t think, in a really good way, that the play provides easy answers in regard to any of the characters’ actions.”
For Peter, who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Globe theatre in London, that decision to let the viewer decide on morality is very much like Shakespeare's writing.
He said it could appeal to a younger audience who don’t know much about Amin as a study of power put in the hands of charismatic individuals.
Peter has also appeared in Shakespeare on Broadway, in an all-male version of Twelfth Night that starred Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry.
Peter learned something fascinating from one of the big names who visited the production. She’d never done theatre.
“Cameron Diaz was hanging out backstage with Stephen and Mark. She said, ‘What you did, I’ve never, ever done that. I’ve never started an evening and ended an evening and taken the audience through a narrative.
“ I don’t have the immediate interaction with the audience that you get on the night and that’s different.”
Of course that’s one of the great things about theatre, both on stage and in the audience.
Box office: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk