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Robert Bathurst

February 2010

Many years ago Robert Bathurst was walking across Trent Bridge when something rather odd happened.
“It was after dark and this guy took my arm,” he says.
“He had a Trent Buses tie and a Robin Hood hat on.
“When he took my arm I realised he was mine for the evening, if you know what I mean.”
Bathurst was in Nottingham with a production at Nottingham Playhouse.
“I had digs on the Trent and one evening I saw there was a match on at the City Ground.”
So there he was, casually strolling over Trent Bridge to watch Forest play Everton.
“The only ticket I could get for him was at the Everton end. And there we were, sat in the Everton, with this guy in a Robin Hood hat. I had to sort of sit on him and say ‘look we’re supporting Everton, do you understand?’ But he didn’t quite get on board. So when Collymore scored he was the only one at the Everton end stood up and screaming, with me trying to pull him down.
“Fortunately no-one around us seemed to mind, they were cool about it.
“Then after the game we were stood at a bus stop and he said he needed to get to Mansfield. Someone there said they were going that way so it was like passing the baton and off he went.”
Bathurst, who played the cheating husband David opposite Hermione Norris in Cold Feet, has also been to Meadow Lane and seen Test cricket at Trent Bridge during his stays in the city, each time with a production at the Playhouse: The Importance Of Being Earnest, The Nose and The Comedy Of Errors.
This time it’s Noel Coward’s Present Laughter at the Theatre Royal.
“It’s one of his classic comedies. The play is 70 years old but it still stands up brilliantly. It’s rather a good take on celebrity loneliness and isolation.
“It’s about a tirelessly egocentric actor in his flat. He has his close confidantes, his ex-wife, his secretary and the people who raise money for his shows. They’re the only people he really communicates with. He basks on the love of strangers but whenever they come anywhere near him and declare their love, he runs in the other direction.
“Which is very contemporary as a theme, because you see a lot people like that who find ordinary people frightening.”
Are you like that in any way?
“I fear not,” he laughs.
That said Bathurst, who also appeared in TV drama Hornblower, doesn’t enjoy the celebrity culture.
His peak of mainstream popularity came with the nineties ITV comedy drama Cold Feet.
“It was huge and oddly enough still remains so,” he says.
“I’m astounded how people still talk about it.”
He adds: “I don’t play the celebrity game. I’m not holding myself out to dry like that. I think if you let newspapers in to your home, that’s where madness lies.
“I have a perfectly normal private life that remains private.”
Here’s what we do know...
Bathurst was born in West Africa, lived in Ireland as a boy and attended a convent then a boarding school, then aged nine a monastery school in England.
While at Cambridge he became president of the Footlights and toured Australia.
Theatre roles followed, during which time he married painter Victoria Threlfall (they have three children), then made a leap to TV in Malcolm Bradbury’s Anything More Would Be Greedy.
Since then he’s juggled television and theatre, most significantly in Steven Moffat’s Joking Apart then in 1997, Cold Feet.
Other TV work has included the sitcom Get Well Soon, Goodbye Mr Steadman, White Teeth, My Dad’s The Prime Minister and the BBC’s Emma.
Does he prefer theatre to television?
“There’s a cold commercial reality that you have to be on television in order to get good parts on stage but I do enjoy both. I always try and mix it up.”
His first experience of Noel Coward was in his twenties watching Blythe Spirit, Hayfever and Privates Lives.
“But I’d never seen Present Laughter - luckily. There’s a perception that you should do it like Noel Coward spoke it, which I think is really wrong.”
He adds: “Performing him has made me appreciate him more. It is beautiful stuff. Every word is really thought through. And it’s brilliantly funny.”
Bathurst, 53, plays self-obsessed actor Gary Essendine, with director Belinda Lang as his long-suffering secretary Monica, Serena Evans as estranged wife Liz and Virginia Stride as housekeeper Miss Erikson.
“He’s man who likes to be in complete control of events and everyone around him but by the second half, events completely spiral out of his control. So what we see is a very pompous man brought low.”

Present Laughter is at the Theatre Royal, from Monday to Saturday, 7:30pm (Wed mat 2pm/Sat mat 2.30pm), £11-£25, 0115 989 5555.

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