Daniel Fraser recently joined the UK tour of Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path as Teddy Graham.
Having toured last year to great acclaim, Justin Audibert’s production has extended into 2016 with upcoming engagements including Buxton, Windsor, Blackpool, Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Aberdeen, Mold, Wycombe, Dartford, Darlington, Derby, Birmingham and York.
Daniel recently starred in the RSC’s productions of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. He played Gregory Cromwell when the double bill premiered in Stratford before reprising his performance in the West End and on Broadway. Daniel has also appeared in Chariots of Fire (Hampstead/West End) whilst his screen credits include Frequencies, Lab Rats and Scar Tissue.
I recently spoke to Daniel about what drew him to Flare Path, the beauty of Rattigan’s writing and what it was like to make his Broadway debut…
Before this role popped up were you aware of the piece?
I didn’t know much about Flare Path, I was aware of the tour when it started but obviously I was busy with Wolf Hall so couldn’t go and see it. I’m a big fan of Rattigan’s work but this wasn’t one I was familiar with. When the audition came through I read it and thought it was great.
What were your first impressions?
I thought it really captured the spirit people had during World War II. It takes you back to that time, particularly with the characters in the air force and all the slang they use. It’s very evocative of that period. Terrible things were happening but the British carried on – it summons up that quality perfectly.
He’s great – Teddy has terrible trauma underneath but he comes across very light hearted and mustn’t let anyone see for many reasons, not least because he’ll get kicked out the air force. Personally he’s got to keep it all under wraps, he’s responsible for lots of other people. He’s very funny, casual and quick witted, but can’t let anyone see his inner turmoil. As an actor, it’s great to be able to play that!
Daniel & Hedydd Dylan in Flare Path
How did you find going into rehearsals and meeting all the people you’ll be sharing the next few months with?
You always have that first day of school feeling. Sometimes you go into something having worked with some of the cast previously, but I didn’t know anybody! I think everybody was in the same position, and it has been great. We only had two weeks of rehearsals before our tech and dress in Worthing so we just had to get on with it. Justin (Audibert, director) was really focussed and knew what he wanted, obviously it helped that he and the crew had already done the first leg of the tour last year. The behind-the-scenes support network was already in place which made it easier for us.
Rattigan’s work has truly stood the test of time; audiences can still relate to these characters and the play remains incredibly powerful. What is his secret?
I think… like I mentioned earlier, he nails the British understatement. These characters do feel real – there are lots of situations where people can’t say what they’re really feeling. He’s a master; in all his plays he writes characters who have terrible dilemmas underneath but are very chipper and quintessentially British on the outside. Flare Path evokes history – it’s very much part of our recent history and for those of us who weren’t around at that time we are able to realise what that world was like.
We have to discuss Wolf Hall/Bring Up The Bodies! When you were cast for the original Stratford run did you have any idea of the journey you were about to embark on?
[laughs] No! Absolutely no idea! Obviously we were aware it was based on the books which were incredibly popular, so with that comes a bit of buzz, but the RSC and Playful Productions – who produced us at the time – weren’t even sure. It was a bit of a risk. They were probably hoping it would transfer to the West End and possibly to Broadway, but that certainly wasn’t communicated to us at auditions [laughs] or during rehearsals. We were just focused on getting it to Stratford and seeing what happened. The Stratford run sold out before we even opened which was encouraging.
|Daniel Fraser in Wolf Hall on Broadway|
That was definitely a good sign!
Yes it was a good sign, but you still never know with these things! We were very lucky that it proved popular, and was very popular in London too and then had legs to take us all over to Broadway which was amazing. We never anticipated that back in rehearsals in September 2013!
What was it like to take the show to New York? What was the whole experience like?
For me personally it was incredible, a once in a lifetime experience. I had been in the West End before, but the idea of going to Broadway wasn’t something which had ever really even crossed my mind. Of course you maybe dream about it, but you never think it’s actually going to happen. It was my first time ever in America, everybody in the city was really supportive. The Americans working on the show seemed really excited to have us there; even though we had the English cast fly over, all the crew were American. There is a bigger sense of community on Broadway, everyone seemed genuinely excited which was lovely.
Did the show feel different to perform?
The show changed a little bit, there were a few re-writes and re-rehearsals because we had a new cast member join, but mostly once we settled back in to the run it just felt the same. The audiences did react a little bit differently – there was a notable difference between West End and Broadway audiences, they reacted to different parts. It was an incredible experience and I was very lucky and very glad to be there!
Finally, looking ahead is there anything you have your eye on at the moment? Anywhere you’re itching to work?
There are certainly people and places I would love to work with… obviously I would love to work at the Globe and at the National – I’ve been very lucky to work at the RSC already. There are always certain places you want to tick off the list in London and further afield. One of the things which is so exciting about touring with Flare Path is seeing theatres and venues I have never seen or been to before. I’ve learnt to take everything as it comes, you can do a big job and expect it to launch you into something else but then you maybe don’t work for a couple of months. I’m quite pragmatic about seeing what happens, for now I’m focussed on this tour… and then we’ll wait and see what happens next!
Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Flare Path tours the UK until 7th May 2016. Please visit www.flarepaththetour.com for further information, full tour dates and tickets.
Photo Credit 1-2: Jack Ladenburg
Photo Credit 3: Johan Persson