Tuesday, 16 July 2013

RISING DAMP (UK Tour) Interviews with Steven Chapman and Paul Morse

In an unnamed northern university town, Rupert Rigsby, the landlord of the seediest, run-down boarding house and his tenants Ruth Jones, Alan and Philip make the transition from screen to stage in the UK touring production of Rising Damp. Directed by the TV series' own Philip - Don Warrington, Stephen Chapman leads as Rigsby, and Paul Morse plays student Alan.


"I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It's something I've always dreamt about doing - family and friends have always said that I look like Rigsby and by default I do Rigsby in life... I don't impersonate him though and I don't try to but as we've toured round we've come to realise what our audience are looking for and hopefully I can give it back to them in bucketloads. The lovely thing about live theatre is that your story progresses and the characters develop and you begin to understand what the audience enjoy. That's the one thing about doing comedy especially with shows like this, the tendency to expect laughter  is dangerous territory for actors. To say the line and think you're going to get a laugh and then it doesn't come you can think there's something wrong with show! There isn't of course. You just need one person in the audience to laugh, to break the ice and then everybody goes. I do it a lot, I'll go and see a show, love it, but I'll just titter to myself. So I don't judge the show's success on the laughter we get, for me I listen to audience feedback and they say it's a great show!"

"It was really interesting working with Don Warrington, who of course was in the television series. Don directed us and I imagine it was quite a challenge for Cornelius who plays Don's part of Philip, so to play the part of the guy who's now directing is always going to put a bit of pressure on you. For me though what Don did bring to it is that great comedy comes through truth. There's no point just walking out there and doing cheap mimics of the original characters - yes, to some degree I impersonate Rigsby but if I just went out there and pulled a funny face you'd say 'ooh this is getting boring!' whereas because this play comes at it through truth it keeps the relationship between everything that's happening on stage alive and that's what Don based it on."

"Rising Damp actually began its life as a stage play called Banana Box, then it became a TV series and Don Warrington was in both and Phillips character was who it was based around. Rigsby then was played by Wilfred Brambell who was in Steptoe and Son, then Leonard Rossiter came on board for the TV series and thats when it changed and his character became who it was about with the racist jokes and everything. We have to remember that this is very much of it's time, accept that it's from the 70's and the bigoted generation and completely of its period. I accept that then it was also iconic comedy, and Eric Chappell wrote three other exceptional comedies so even if you question what's it's relevance now it remains great comedy - lots of the spoken gags as well as the visual should appeal to anybody. It's a big challenge now for theatres to attract people to plays when there's all these exciting musicals out there, which are great, but I'd still say to anybody this is great value for money for all ages - my daughters who are 18, 15 and 10 all came and they thoroughly enjoyed it!" 


"Firstly, I'm really enjoying being in Rising Damp! It's been received quite well...! It's definitely a generational piece, most of the audiences remember it the first time round, not me, I've only seen YouTube clips, but it's quite old now but it definitely works. It was a play before it was a TV series, just under a different name so we know it works for the stage. I kept away from the TV series to be honest, I didn't want to copy Richard Beckinsale. If you come to the show you'll notice that we all have a nod at the originals and the accents and the wigs all help but what I think what's great about this is that it simply captures the essence of Rising Damp. There's enough there for the audience that do remember it because they've really come to see what they saw on the television and loved so much."

"I play Alan, the student who was played by Richard Beckinsale. I move into the flat and find out I'm sharing with Philip, who's a black man... Alan's never seen a black person before. We're thrown together and it's about our relationship, just trying to get on and having constant interruptions from Rigsby who's always popping in and out. There's a love triangle and everyone's going at each other... it's great!"

"The set is an absolute replica, it's brilliant! It's very grotty and it does stink! It's spot on. It's quite loyal to the original and not just visually - some audiences have said if they shut their eyes it's like listening to the original. If we did anything new with it we'd lose followers for sure - you can't reinvent the wheel."

"The great thing about it was working with Don Warrington. The first thing he said to us was don't copy the originals. You've got to have the mannerisms because that's what the audience want to see, but as a piece of writing it's all there anyway for us to make leap from the page. That took the pressure for me off. Don's got the authority to do that... and he knows the characters well enough to shape the piece whereas other directors might just say - copy! Being a stage actor too Don understands what changes have to be made so that we can reach the people sat at the back, it's not close-up camera work anymore!" 

"I think Rising Damp is just easy watching. Everyone can enjoy it... you don't have to really sit and think about it, it's not Chekhov. The producers know what they're doing now, they did Dinnerladies, the Hyacinth Bouquet thing... Keeping Up Appearances! They keep putting great sitcoms on stage and it's great nostalgia, giving new life to these shows - so come and see it!" 

Listen to audio clips here!

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