Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine
Actor Paul Hawkyard began his career backstage at the Leeds City Varieties. This festive season he is one of the Ugly Sisters in York Theatre Royal’s production of Cinderella. Paul lives with his family in Selby.
What’s your first Yorkshire memory? I was born and raised in Leeds and I can recall a lot of trips out to see all sorts of places. I remember one time my dad and my sister Joanne and I were on a bus out to visit Mother Shipton’s Cave, in Knaresborough. For some reason, the mood was lightened considerably by some spontaneous singing. I also remember that I had (why, I had no idea) a sort of little shrimping net with me, the type that you use in coastal rock pools, and my dad persuaded me to hang it up in the cave where it would slowly, over the years, turn into stone.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? It’s Whitby, or rather, the A169 road that takes you to Whitby, which always fills me with a glowing sense of anticipation. That wonderful area around the Hole of Horcum is a great joy to me, and whenever I’m driving up there I always pull over and park up for a while, just to drink in the glorious scenery.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? It’s a jaunt out to Whitby with my fiancée Nicola and her two youngsters, Adam, who is 14, and Lauren, who is 12. As soon as we took them there, they fell under its spell.
Do you have a favourite walk – or view? Anywhere around Goathland, particularly in places where you can stand and see all the wildlife by the waterfalls – the dippers are great to watch – and then look across and catch sight of one of the North York Moors Railway engines puffing past. It’s another world.
Which Yorkshire sportsperson, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? He’s not strictly a Yorkshireman, but he’s certainly an “adopted son”, and it is Billy Bremner, who used to play for Leeds United and who was so well respected both as a member of the team and as a very nice human being.
I actually remember meeting him as a starstruck boy and saying: “Hello Billy.” He ruffled my hair and replied: “Hello, lad. How’s it going?” I was speechless.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, or past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Scarborough’s Charles Laughton, who was a truly remarkable actor and director, and one of the very best character performers. When he’s on screen there’s no-one else you want to watch. When I played Bottom, in the Dream, I sought out his performance in that role, not to copy it, but to be inspired by it. And I was.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? Runswick Bay, the entire glorious sweep of it, the beach, that little cafe, and the fact that it is never over-run with other people.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The fact that, even if you are in one of our big and bustling cities and larger towns, you never have to travel very far before you are out into some spectacular countryside. It doesn’t matter if it’s Hull or Halifax, Bradford or Sheffield, it’s the same thing.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? I now live in Selby and we’ve taken a liking to the George, which is not only a nice local but there is the bonus of seeing the architecture of the abbey through the trees, when you are sitting in the beer garden.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? I was brought up as a lad who, with his mates, would take off for a day and we’d ride our bikes in fields all over the place. Sadly, so much greenery has gone, but the friendliness that you find in shops and bars lives on. We still have some of the best countryside in Britain, but my blood boils when I see the attitude that some
people have towards the environment, because there is litter everywhere you look.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? I was lucky enough to work and become friends with Bernard Cribbins, who has become a lifelong friend, and Bernard told me the story of his encounter with the actor James Mason. They were shooting a scene in which Mason was riding a donkey, and Bernard was the servant holding the halter – until the beast gave a tug and ran off and away on its own path. Mason was hanging on for grim death and the entire production team went into panic mode. Hollywood star disappearing into the distance on a wayward donkey! When they found him he was on the ground, quivering, and they all thought he was hurt until he rolled over and was laughing fit to bust. If you can be a leading man, a famous name, and still come up smiling after what could have been a nasty mishap, you get my vote every time.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Yes. I never went to acting school, but I knew that I wanted to be on the stage in some way and I was fortunate enough to land a backstage job at the City Varieties when I was in my late teens with a wonderful man called Kenny Cantor. He really encouraged me, put me in some of his productions and managed to get me my Equity Card.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/ performer.?Alan Bennett, not just because he is a wit, raconteur, actor and fine writer, but he has the gift of listening, and to put down the observations that he hears on the page.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? I have been mightily impressed at the way that Barnsley has picked itself up by its bootstraps and transformed itself with what seems to be extraordinary vision. But South Yorkshire is going to have to lose out to Whitby, a place you might think you know so well, but which will surprise you with something new every time you return. And the fish and chips, eaten while sitting on the harbourside, aren’t bad either.
■ Cinderella, Theatre Royal, York, until January 2. www. yorktheatreroyal.co.uk