MURDER IN THE WEST END: Cast in The Mousetrap, Yorkshire actor William Ilkley tells Nick Ahad why he decided to keep a photographic record of his year on the London stage.
HE Year of the King by Antony Sher is perhaps the greatest example of an actor keeping a diary of the challenge of taking on a role in the theatre.
Sher, cast as King Richard III, recorded the efforts of playing the part at the RSC in 1984 in a diary, later publishing it.
While Major Metcalf in The Mousetrap might not pose the same mountain to climb as far as roles go, in terms of British theatrical history, it is an important part of the canon. When he was offered the part in the West End production, Yorkshire-born actor William Ilkley, known round these parts as “Bill Ilkley”, decided he would keep his own record.
“I was talking to my wife about it and said ‘should I keep a diary as a permanent record?’. She thought it was a good idea, but then the reality of sitting and writing something every day for a year hit me’,” says Ilkley. “One of us came up with the idea of a photographic journal. The contract was for 328 days, so I thought it was perfect – I could take a photograph every day and call it My Year in The Mousetrap.”
This being 2015, the obvious place for Ilkley to share his record was social media. For him, that meant Facebook.
“I started to post the photos every day and people loved seeing them – they seemed to particularly enjoy anything to do with backstage, what we do with our down time, pictures offstage and in the wings..”
Yorkshire audiences will recognise Ilkley from his many roles on stages here, from one of the eponymous Bouncers in Godber’s masterpiece to roles in Coronation Street and even Doctor Who. He’s been an actor for a while and has, during his career, ventured south to take roles in the West End, but the role of Major Metcalf is his first long stint in one of the world’s most famous theatrical neighbourhoods.
IN FROM THE COLD: Bill Ilkley as Major Metcalf gets a dusting of snow backstage before stepping out from the wings. The actor posted a picture every day during his run in the production.