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Benidorm's Sir Henry talks about his new role as PM
FROM playing the Prime Minister to a divorced self employed builder in The Archers, Michael Fenton Stevens has got his hands full at the moment. The 56-year-old is currently starring in the stage show of Yes, Prime Minister and as a self confessed political animal he is thoroughly enjoying the role. He talked about politics, The Archers and how an actor is never happy with his performance.
Michael Fenton Stevens is no stranger to playing political characters. As well as starring as the Prime Minister in the new touring show of Yes, Prime Minister he also played the Home Secretary in Ian Hislop's sitcom My Dad's the Prime Minister.
But this is just a small slice of his varied career as he has starred in TV series from ITV drama, Benidorm as Sir Henry to Not Going Out and Mrs Biggs. I spoke to him just as he had completed his final run in rehearsals for Yes, Prime Minister which he said was going very well.
He said: "You never know the performance until you do it in front of people.
"They might like it or they might think what is that twit doing?"
He takes the role of beleaguered PM Jim Hacker, while opposite him Crispin Redman (known as Judge Richards in Law & Order: UK) will play Sir Humphrey Appleby and West End star Michael Matus (Taboo, Lend Me A Tenor) will perform the role of Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley. The story follows the PM as the coalition beds in with little hope of harmony.
Michael said it is great to perform live as you can feed off the audience's reaction and adapt your performance accordingly.
He said: "It is the fun of performing live. Anywhere else I can work at what I want to do. If I don't like it I can have another go on the radio or recording for TV. "On stage I have to go for it that night. If it doesn't go as well as you hoped you can perfect it. You constantly aim to give the performance you want to.
"It is same for all actors. You never really hit absolutely everything the way you want to. "Most actors, almost without doubt, on the last performance when they are just finishing a play think, 'Actually I should have done it like that.'"
Yes, Prime Minister is a farce, he said, where the characters find themselves in the most absurd situations.
He said: "The actor gives the impression they absolutely believe what is going on. "It is a dilemma that they can see no way out."
And Michael said he was a big fan of the TV show, which gained hoards of fans during its run between 1986 to 1988.
He said: "I grew up on it. It seems a long time ago now.
"It is a beautifully written comedy. It is wonderfully done the way the jokes come on you- you don't expect it."
He said it is about a Prime Minister desperate to stay in power but interestingly the play is not as political as you might think.
He said: "I am a political animal. I do enjoy it. I like it. The great thing about this play is it isn't really political.
"It doesn't have a political view point.
"I did a different part in the show before. If you met people after the show- if they were a Tory voter they would assume it was a Labour PM but if they were a Labour voter they would assume it was a Tory."
He said like most politicians the PM in the show is amoral, where they come into power saying one thing but change to suit.
Michael said Michael Foot, is one politician who did seem to stay with the same stand point all his life.
He said: "From my own personal point of view I feel rather disenfranchised. I grew up in a time when the Labour party were quite a left wing group."
And while starring in the show he is also playing a character in Radio 4's The Archers.
He is Matt's half brother, Paul- a self-employed builder who is having an affair with Matt's wife, Lilian. He goes to Birmingham to record it over five days.
Michael said: "It is really interesting- The Archers. It is an iconic radio programme I have heard it all my life.
"It is very strange hearing myself on it. It is fun.
"They are completely different characters.
"I like people trust me to create different roles."
Yes, Prime Minister is at the Wycombe Swan from March 12 to 16 at 7.30pm. Tickets range from £18.50 to £30.50 from 01494 512000 or go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk
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