One of the stars of hit Australian film Muriel’s Wedding is enjoying taking the plunge into Shakespeare in Sheffield.
Daniel Lapaine, who played a South African Olympic swimming hopeful who marries Muriel (Toni Colette) to get an Australian visa in the 1994 comedy, plays Leontes in The Winter’s Tale.
Leontes, the king of Sicilia, becomes irrationally jealous of his queen, Hermione (Claire Price), accusing her of having an affair. He claims that the child she is carrying has been fathered by the ruler of Bohemia, Polixenes.
His wild actions cause the death of his son, the loss of the baby for years and the apparent death of Hermione as well. Extraordinary events bring the family back together in the end.
Daniel said: “It’s so raw and emotions are on the surface. You don’t want a barrier between you and the audience. You want to be able to talk to the audience without hiding behind a character. Leontes is as close as possible to me within the confines of the character.”
He has a lot of sympathy for Leontes: “He’s not mad, he becomes unhinged. When people get obsessed about things, they believe they’re true. He’s been wronged and really believes it.”
He adds: “If you start judging your character, the audience will as well. Leontes’ journey is ‘look what my wife and best friend have done’. I’m like a lawyer in a court pleading for a murderer, believing he’s innocent. That’s where I am at with him.
“When people have phobias or or obsessions, fear has absolute rule in their mind.
“I have every sympathy for those people, even though their actions have been really destructive.
“It’s not because he’s evil, mad or a tyrant. This world was a really happy world. Up until that point everything has been fantastic.
“Historically people have played him as a mad tyrant from the beginning. We need to see it’s a sunny world but suddenly the clouds roll in.”
He added: “I’m so excited to be doing this play. I did a lot of Shakespeare in Australia and it feels really nice to be doing this.”
Initially Daniel came over for work and then he met his future wife, Fay Ripley, one of the stars of Cold Feet, and settled here. He said: “I’ve never been to Sheffield. I’m loving it here, it’s such a lovely atmosphere.
“The Crucible has such a reputation outside Sheffield.
“I don’t think people here quite realise the reputation the theatre has. It’s one of the places that actors all over the country aspire to work in.
“It’s a big honour to be here in that regard. Daniel Evans is doing an incredible job.”
Daniel said that he has never played an Australian, even back home. He added: “If I’m asked to do an Australian accent I get a bit self-conscious.”
Of Muriel’s Wedding he says: “It was a long time ago. I wish I could still swim as well as I could then! I’m very proud of it.”
The Winter’s Tale is at the Crucible from this week until November 2. Box office: call 0114 249 6000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk