Friday, 3 October 2014

Interview: Andrew Lancel

Andrew Lancel is currently playing Adam Snow in a new touring production of The Small Hand which is described as a “spine-tingling thriller”. The play has been adapted from Susan Hill’s 2010 novel. The author is best known for writing The Woman in Black. 

Andrew most recently starred in Epstein at the Leicester Square Theatre. On screen he famously played Frank Foster in ITV’s Coronation Street. He also starred as DI Neil Manson in The Bill and Barry Pearce in Bad Girls.

I recently spoke to Andrew about his new stage role, always wanting to star in a thriller and why he’s happy to be back on stage…

What drew you to The Small Hand? It’s very different to everything else you’ve done recently!
I had just had a very nice run in Epstein and whatever followed that was going to be different. I’ve not made any secret of the fact that I was quite keen on doing the Ghosty play [laughs], I’d always wanted to do something with a horror feel and I’ve always had an interest in all that… so when you see the name Susan Hill you kind of go, ‘ooohh’! It’s another great part, a huge part. It was also the idea of creating something new, being the first person to do it and it’s very, very scary and hard. So, it was the challenge and the story.

Have you enjoyed having the opportunity to create something new? I’m sure things must be changing all the time...
Yes, it changes all the time. We are doing a dramatic play against a backdrop of a very spooky story. It honours the book but is different to the book in the same way Woman in Black is different to the book and the film is different – it’s by no means Woman in Black because it’s modern. Woman in Black is horse and carriages and this is cars – that’s a good way of looking it at. Woman in Black is candles and this is torches, it’s very now and very modern. It is a psychological thriller as much as a ghost story.

What can people who aren’t familiar with the book expect?
It’s a story about the demons we have from our past and the real ghosts which are dragging us into things that happened a long time ago. It’s also very spectacular with a lot of visual effects as you would expect these days. It’s a very good haunting story and I think everybody will be able to put themselves into the position of Adam. What would they do if this was happening to them? This is one of the things we are exploring all the time… and it’s a good entertaining night. I don’t recommend people trying to eat Maltesers because they’ll probably end up over their heads [laughs]! It’s a ‘hold onto your seats’ kind of evening.

I love seeing The Woman in Black because the response from the audiences is so extreme. People jump, scream and come out crying – you have all that to look forward to!
Of course! There are moments during rehearsals where you say, “ABCDEFG” and then something happens and you’re supposed to say “HIJ”, but I have to remember I’m not going to be able to say HIJ for a good five minutes because everyone is going to be s******g themselves! There are some very spooky and haunting moments, but it’s also quite beautiful. I’ve just been hearing some of the music, it’s a unique piece. I feel it is a lot more than an adaptation of a ghost story.

What is the secret to Susan’s writing?
She has a way of making normal circumstances exceptional and usually exceptionally scary in a very gentle way. For example, she can do something with a letter which is very clever. Clive Francis has adapted it, we have to remember this is an adaptation of a book. I’m looking forward to meeting Susan and I hope she approves… I feel she will.

It’s quite a small cast. What has the atmosphere been like in the rehearsal room?
It’s a bigger cast than my last play [laughs] but it’s great, we are all working very hard. Diane Keen and Robert Duncan are both exceptionally experienced actors and are playing a whole range of characters in this whereas I play just one. We all get on exceptionally well and we have the fabulous Roy Marsden at the helm – it doesn’t get much better than that. Plus of course there’s Bill Kenwright. People always assume Bill and I have worked together because of our connection with Everton and Liverpool, but although we know each other we haven’t worked together before so it’s about time really! 

Have you re-caught the theatre bug after the success of Epstein?
Theatre is where I started from, it’s just because I’ve been wrapped up in telly for ten years that I haven’t had the chance to do it. I was doing theatre before; I was going from one play to another play but then landed The Bill. I was also producing theatre as well as being in it, but then I got involved in long running television shows. As soon as I became available after TV the first thing I did was theatre which was exciting. It’s a book that has never left me, it’s just been sitting in a cupboard and I’m very glad I’ve taken it out.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Small Hand begins its UK Tour at the Theatre Royal Windsor on Tuesday 7th October. Please visit for further information, full tour dates and tickets.

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