Genial TV star Stephen Tompkinson, known for Sunday evening TV dramas such as Wild at Heart and Ballykissangel, is looking at modern art and friendship on stage in Sheffield.
He appears alongside Nigel Havers and Denis Lawson in Yasmina Reza’s smash-hit comedy, which is about three French friends and an all-white abstract painting that one has bought, which is raising controversy between them.
Stephen said: “It is lovely, it is a great show, a show I did 18 years ago. I’m very happy to come back to it.”
He added: “It’s extremely polarising, depending on your view of modern art. Nigel’s character buys the painting for a small fortune and Denis’s thinks he’s gone off his chump.
“My character Yvan is in between, he quite likes it but could never afford to buy something like that. He wants the two of them not to fight any more.
“Yvan represents the view of the majority of the audience. He represents more voices in a way and he gets the most sympathy, he’s the most nice of all of them.
“His professional life, as opposed to his two friends’, has always been a failure.
“He’s getting married for the first time in two weeks and there’s the stresses of the wedding, then his two best friends are falling apart.
“It’s incredibly funny, yet stressful for him.”
So what does Stephen think of the painting himself?
“I quite like it. I wouldn’t buy it but I’m very happy if someone else likes it. Being a Libran, I’m very well balanced!”
He continued: “It’s a very well observed play. Yasmin Reza wrote it about three Parisian men and never wanted it to be set anywhere else or she would have written it differently.
“We would have been talking about football for some of the time if it was set here!
“She never wanted it performed by women, either, or she would have written it very differently again.”
The play is very intense but quite short, said Stephen. “It’s one hour, 20 minutes straight through. You’ll be in the pub by 9pm!”
He is looking forward to returning to Sheffield, where he filmed Brassed Off, the 1996 film based on the story of Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the effect of the pit closures on its members.
Stephen said: “I’ve never played on stage there.
“According to Nigel Havers, the Sheffield audiences are the best in the country.
“I’m really looking forward to getting in that theatre. I’ve only ever seen it on TV. It looks absolutely beautiful.
“I’m also very much looking forward to being reunited with Rita May from Trollied, she’s a Sheffield girl through and through.”
He’s also been working in Yorkshire recently, filming new BBC TV drama The Split, about a family of divorce lawyers.
Stephen found himself getting a warm welcome when ART visited Dublin and Belfast recently.
“A lot of people still remembered Ballykissangel. That was about 21 years ago. It’s still very popular there, it still gets reruns on (Irish TV channel) RTE.
The actor, who played a priest in the comedy drama set in rural Ireland, said: “They were very pleased to see me back. I caught up with a few cast members and crew.”
ART is at the Lyceum in Sheffield from April 16 to 21. Box office: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk