Scandal rocks and traditions are lost

Julian Wadham (right) stars in Another Country at Chichester.
Julian Wadham (right) stars in Another Country at Chichester.
Katherine Ryan

REVIEW: Katherine Ryan at the Portsmouth Guildhall

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Another Country is a play Julian Wadham has been with man and boy, he says. Julian makes his Minerva Theatre debut in the production which runs from September 18 until October 19.

‘But I was actually in the original West End production playing Barclay, the head of house. That was in 1982, and I had a sense even then that this was an important play, and not simply from the point of view of being young actors fresh out of drama collect.

‘I could actually see that it was brilliantly written - and the thing is, the common link in all my work, whether it is theatre or TV, is that I have always been drawn to good writing. Almost my first job after doing Another Country was at the Royal Court which led to six years working there.’

Now, more than 30 years after that first taste of Another Country, he’s back for more. As he says, it is the only time in 35 years of acting he has ever revisited a play, ‘deliberately seeking out the chance to return to it’.

Julian is Vaughan Cunningham – only in it for 13 pages, but they are 13 pages of dense philosophical debate.

The piece is set in an English public school in the 1930s.

Bennett and Judd are both outsiders; one coming to terms with his homosexuality, the other already a committed Marxist. But the Establishment has traditional ways of dealing with rebels and when a scandal rocks the school, the young men must confront their beliefs and make choices which will have a momentous impact on their lives.

‘Into this mix of very carefully-delineated with very particular points of view comes Vaughan Cunningham, this ex-Cambridge apostle, this member of the Bloomsbury Group.’

He is disapproved of as a conscientious objector, but his role at the school is to speak up for doubt following a First World War commemoration: ‘He respects the value of doubt and sees it as having an important moral value. His argument is that people that overlook doubt are included to be dangerous.’

For Julian, the piece is his first time in Chichester since the days of the tent, precursor to the Minerva Theatre, way back in 1986.

He played Armand St Just in The Scarlet Pimpernel, John in The Philanthropist, Edward Marryot in Cavalcade (Festival Theatre) and Malvolio in Twelfth Night (The Tent) - a busy and enjoyable six months.

‘Cavalcade was something that involved the locals. It brought the local community into the theatre and used them as extras.’

Alongside his theatre work, Julian has also been active on TV and in film - though he insists it is all an illusion of busy-ness.

Among his recent credits was the role of the cancer specialist in the filmNow Is Good, the surprisingly-uplifting tale of a teenage girl’s last weeks as she battles cancer.

‘I loved it,’ Julian says. ‘I think Dakota Fanning is a brilliant actress. I think you can tell these things at the read-through. There is a certain sort of actress that has a very pale and translucent skin, and you read their intelligence and energy almost through their bone structure. Kristin Scott Thomas has got that same quality. You can almost see their energy through the way that their skin is stretched.’

Julian’s other films include Posh, Scapegoat, Now is Good, Outpost – Black Sun, Iron Lady, War Horse, Legacy, Fake Identity, Outpost, Goya’s Ghost, Wah Wah, Exorcist – The Beginning, A Different Loyalty, Gypsy Woman, High Heels and Low Lifes and The Commissioner.

Tickets: £24.50 to £35 from CFT on 01243 781312 or go to cft.org.uk.

PHIL HEWITT