MERLIN and One Foot in the Grave star Richard Wilson is back in Sheffield to direct a new play, Straight.
He said: “It’s a dark farce, based on a film called Humpday, but I said I’m not going to direct a play called Humpday, that’s not very nice!”
Straight was written for Sheffield Theatres by a local playwright, DC Moore, and tells the story of two old university friends. Lewis has settled down and married Morgan (Sheffield actress Jessica Ransom) and Waldorf turns up unexpectedly on his doorstep after travelling abroad for years.
Waldorf, played by new Game of Thrones actor Philip McGinley, creates mayhem when he picks up a young woman and brings her back to the house. She takes the pair off to an art porn festival and the two friends make a drunken bet that they will make a gay sex video together for the festival.
Trouble is, they’re both straight, aren’t they? When they wake up the next day and remember, they wonder if they can go through with it. But of course, neither wants to show weakness and back out...
Richard says: “Some of the Sheffield burghers might be a bit shocked by it.”
He adds with a twinkle in his eye: “Something very interesting comes through a letterbox as Waldorf’s way of announcing himself after seven years away.”
Not wishing to spoil the joke, it’s quite naughty...
However, Richard says, it’s not just played for laughs: “It’s quite serious. I don’t know yet how serious it will get. It becomes quite surprising.”
As associate director for Sheffield Theatres, he told artistic director Daniel Evans that he wanted to do new plays that hadn’t been seen in London whenever he could, something that Daniel was also keen to see.
Richard said: “It’s very unusual to buy the rights for a film, it usually works the other way round. I think it’s a better play than it is a film, a much better piece of work. It’s just simpler and has fewer people in it.”
He said he only agreed to do hit BBC TV series Merlin if he was allowed time off to direct and, thankfully for Sheffield theatre audiences, Shine Productions agreed.
The other TV role he is most famous for is, of course, One Foot in the Grave but he says, perhaps surprisingly, that most people refer instead to his appearance in an episode of Father Ted.
He plays a grumpy version of himself who is fed up with people coming up to him and yelling the famous Victor Meldrew catchphrase: “I don’t believe it!”.
He reacts violently when Ted thinks it will be funny to shout that at him.
Richard says he doesn’t really feel like that about the role but jumped at the chance to make believe for Father Ted because he is a big fan of the show.
Sadly, star Dermot Morgan, who played Ted, died shortly after filming finished.
Richard has already directed Lungs, The Pride and That Face, all in the Crucible Studio. He said: “I like working in the Studio more than in the main house. I like the intimacy of it, the audience being closer.
“This play will be very naturalistic unlike Lungs, which was experimental. It’s very realistic with proper sets and things. I’ll be interested to see what the public take from it.”
Straight runs at the Crucible Studio from November 1 to 24.