I fol­low in great

Ac­tor in stage re­cre­ation of TV po­lit­i­cal com­edy great

Evening Express (City Final) - The Guide - - ARTS AND STAGE - By Scott Beg­bie

WHEN your mother is one of the grand dames of Bri­tish theatre it’s only in­evitable you will fol­low in her acting foot­steps, right? Wrong, ac­cord­ing to Chris Larkin, who said his fa­mous mum Dame Maggie Smith – star of Harry Pot­ter and Down­ton Abbey – al­most went out of her way to dis­cour­age him. “She made sure we didn’t do any acting as chil­dren. We went to schools that didn’t do theatre, so she ac­tu­ally made sure we weren’t go­ing to,” said Chris. “So it was very much my own choice. I think she wanted to make sure if we didn’t want to do it, there was no pres­sure from that side ei­ther.” And pur­su­ing his pas­sion for acting – “it just sounded like it would be fun” – has helped Chris carve a ca­reer on stage, one that is bring­ing him to His Majesty’s next week with the stage ver­sion of Yes, Prime Min­is­ter This up­dated ver­sion of one of the best-loved sit­coms in Bri­tish TV his­tory is penned by orig­i­nal writers An­thony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. It sees Prime Min­is­ter Jim Hacker, his cabi­net sec­re­tary Sir Humphrey Ap­pleby and pri­vate sec­re­tary Bernard Wool­ley back in the fray. And Chris, who plays the hang-dog and be­lea­guered Bernard said fans will love it. “The char­ac­ters are so en­dear­ing, that’s why peo­ple come,” said Chris, adding it

“Au­di­ences loved them”

has been play­ing to packed houses around the UK. “It’s a plea­sure do­ing some­thing which the au­di­ence find funny, which of course this show is. “I don’t think I’ve ever done a show which the au­di­ence finds so funny and em­brace so whole­heart­edly ... it’s a real priv­i­lege.” Chris said that au­di­ences can ex­pect to find the same char­ac­ters as in the orig­i­nal TV se­ries, but they have been brought up to date. “Sir Humphrey and Jim and Bernard are still there, but it’s a much more mod­ern Yes, Prime Min­is­ter,” he said. “It is set right now and Jim Hacker is the Prime Min­is­ter of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment af­ter a re­cent elec­tion and hav­ing to deal with the prob­lems of a cabi­net of peo­ple who all seem to want his job. “Also, I think it’s mod­ern in terms of the char­ac­ters are all a bit older and ever so slightly, not nec­es­sar­ily darker, but a bit harder.” Of course, the orig­i­nal 1980s se­ries helped turn the char­ac­ters and the ac­tors who played them – Paul Ed­ding­ton, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds – into icons of Bri­tish TV. Chris said: “I think au­di­ences gen­uinely loved Paul, Nigel and Derek. “In terms of the his­tory of tele­vi­sion, they are three re­ally en­dur­ing char­ac­ters that hit a spot with the pub­lic. “They love that re­la­tion­ship be­tween Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey. It’s kind of up there with Rod­ney and Del Boy.” So how does Chris feel about step­ping into such an il­lus­tri­ous and wellestab­lished part? “What was nice was that from day one Jonathan (Lynn), who di­rected it as well as wrote it, said you are not those orig­i­nal peo­ple, you are en­tirely your own per­son. “I cast you in these parts and I want you to play them. So there was ab­so­lutely no pres­sure to do what the orig­i­nal ac­tors did. “I don’t think you would ever get any­where near that. “They did it on telly, we are do­ing it in the stage ver­sion and it’s our own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of those char­ac­ters.” It is clear that Chris has a tremen­dous fond­ness for Bernard and is rel­ish­ing the role. He said: “Bernard’s func­tion is the ser­vant with two mas­ters, try­ing to find the mid­dle way to make progress.” Chris said Bernard is best summed up in a quote from the TV se­ries where Jim asks whose side he would be on if the chips were down. “Bernard replied ‘My job is to make sure that the chips stay up’. “That’s Bernard down to a T and I love play­ing him.” This stage ver­sion of Yes, Prime Min­is­ter is win­ning new fans around the coun­try – and Aberdeen is the fur­thest north the show will go, said Chris. “I’m look­ing for­ward to that. It is so beau­ti­ful up there and I’m look­ing for­ward to tak­ing time out and en­joy­ing the scenery.” And Chris should make the most of our fresh air and coun­try­side – be­cause Yes Prime Min­is­ter is head­ing back for Lon­don’s bustling West End af­ter the UK tour. No doubt his mum’s proud of him.

“Ser­vant with two mas­ters”

ORIG­I­NALS: Derek Fowlds, Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Ed­ding­ton in Yes, Prime Min­is­ter.

FAM­ILY: Chris’ mother is Dame Maggie Smith.

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