An interview with Andrew Lancel
Andrew Lancel seems to be, as a rule, always up for a challenge. One of these being a play I saw him in a few years ago. Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles premiered at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre, before enjoying a run in London’s West End. Andrew starred in the title role.
“Playing anything Beatley in Liverpool is madness,” he admits. “I’d come out of Coronation Street and there were a few things I was asked to do. I kept looking at the Epstein script and I was like: ‘there’s something about this.’
"When I went to meet the director and the producer we were singing from the same hymn sheet. I thought I’d give it a go not knowing that it would then get this incredible life in London. People came to see it from all over the world, it was really endorsed by the Epstein family, it just went to a very special place.
Prior to interviewing Andrew, I just happened to have been re-watching Queer As Folk, just one of his big TV show credits, on the list with The Bill and Corrie. He’s the drug using Harvey Black who sees Phil Delaney die, before robbing him and fleeing the scene.
Andrew had already worked with QAF writer Russell T Davies on The Grand. In The Old Dutch Pancake House in Manchester (no longer there) Russell introduced Andrew to the idea of being in what would prove to be a ground-breaking depiction of Manchester’s gay scene.
“He said ‘it’s never going to happen but if it happens I want you to be in it.’ I said ‘of course, I’d love to work with you’. I got the script and thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever read, it touched into an energy I’d never experienced.”
He was later told he’d been offered the role of Harvey. “I said: ‘who’s Harvey?’ I thought I was going to be Stuart. I skipped through all these scripts, couldn’t find him anywhere, and then finally found a scene in episode three. I rang up Russell and I was like: ‘mate, I’d do anything for you but this is a bit little isn’t it?’ ”
Davies made use of one of Andrew’s TV parts, that of Dr Andrew Collin in Cardiac Arrest, telling him he had to do QAF because no-one would expect a “nice TV doctor” to be Harvey.
Andrew also learnt the reason for the character’s name. “A lot of people don’t know his name is Harvey Black,” he says. “Harvey is supposed to represent HIV,” he continues, showing that the former is similar sounding to the latter.
“I had to do it then, didn’t I?” He tells me. “It changed my career, it changed my image, since then I’ve played darker characters.
“But on stage I get to play some nice people,” he says, highlighting his latest endeavour – Captain von Trapp in the current UK tour of The Sound of Music.
“There’s never any fun in easy,” he claims, as once again he’s undertaken something tricky. “It’s a show I’ve grown up with. It’s a lot more singing than I remembered of the captain. It’s not an easy score to sing. We’ve got some of the most amazing singers you can imagine. Everybody is like a West End voice so that was a bit daunting.”
“Is it one of those things when you think you know it until you then have to go and do it?” I ask.
“Very good point actually,” comes the response. “When you’re inside it, it’s very different to looking in. I think I’d forgotten the humour in the show. I think I’d forgotten the hope in the show. We’re living in a very mad world; there’s a time and a place for this show and this is why people are coming to see it.
“It’s full of love and you leave feeling better.”
The Sound of Music comes to New Theatre Oxford 6th-10th September.
Top Image - Photography by Matt Martin
Below - Lucy O’Byrne and Andrew Lancel, Maria and Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music tour, visiting Oxford's Bate Collection
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