Jeff Rawle, famous for his sinister role as Silias Blissett from Channel 4’s ‘Hollyoaks’ and Amos Diggory from blockbuster movie ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, talked to me from a small room with a bowl of soup in front of him. It was his lunch break and the soup was kindly offered by the stage management team of the West End theatre where the play, ‘Handbagged’, will be shown this April since its move from the original Tri-cycle stage
Rawle explained how excited he was to be back with the cast members from last year’s production directed by the Tri-cycle theatre’s own Indhu Rubasingham. ‘It’s the fourth day from a four-month break. It’s lovely! It’s a chance to have another go and revisit the proof reads. We have Moira Boffini, the writer, with us at rehearsals and tweaking things.’
Last year, the play sold out immediately due to its interesting nature, which looks atThatcher’s historical and political reign. Rawle has the challenging task of playing 10 characters for ‘Handbagged’ which he described as ‘a funny, engaging and witty 80s play about Thatcher’s remarkable right into power and her relationship with the Queen and others like Ronald Reagan.’
Having had a fair share of playing multiple characters at the National Theatre’s ‘Cocktail Sticks’ and ‘The Power of Yes’, Rawle thrives on playing characters of different ranges and in this case that includes Jerry Adams, Geoffrey Howe, Ronald Regan, Dennis Thatcher, Prince Philip, Michael Heseltine, Neil Kinnock and Peter Carrington. “It is almost impossible especially when you’re coming off and on stage in a fast speed. Sometimes you literally have three lines to change from one character onto the next. It’s fraught with disaster, especially coming on with the wrong hat or forgetting your glasses. Apart from Neil Kinnock, that is.’ Nonetheless, the hassle of grabbing his characters’ props on time hasn’t stopped him from loving them. He acknowledges Reagan’s talents with the camera and microphone as a former actor himself, but saw that Howe was closely aligned to his range physically and vocally. ‘I never voted Conservative but I thought he was sensible, erudite and a bit of a dark horse. He was the one who brought Thatcher down and spoke sense when he made that remarkable speech.’ Rawle even had the pleasure of working with Kinnock whilst filming Channel 4’s comedy show, ‘Drop the Dead Donkey.’
Rawle told me how he loves cooking and reading in his spare time. ‘Doing nothing is quite an art for me as I am always doing something.’ He described the trials and tribulations he experienced in his 40-year acting career where he learnt to follow good plays and writers, guessed where his next role was coming from and ‘live life on the edge,’ but not in the cool and wild sense. Yet, he is looking out for his next role, ideally something classic like Shakespeare.
As we ended our conversation, he gave me a personal account on how ‘Handbagged’ compared to Britain during the 80s. He said: “It makes you feel empowered after watching ‘Handbagged’ especially when you are old like me and had lived through it and on a day-to-day basis. I didn’t realise what was happening around me in a dangerous way and to sit back and watch it played out -10 years – in front of you is amazing. The Tri-cycle play is all razzle-dazzle and we deserve to be at the West End because we sold out quick last year.’ Be sure to get your ticket now.
‘Handbagged’ will showcase at the Vaudeville Theatre from the 3rd April to the 2nd August 2014.