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From hit tv shows to the stage
CHRISTOPHER Timothy has been an actor since the 60s but his experience does not stop him getting nervous on opening nights. And although he said, as an actor, he rarely gets to make a choice he thoroughly enjoys his latest role in The Diary of Anne Frank, which is coming to the Wycombe Swan this month. He talks to Rebecca Cain about first nights, TV today and the impact the play has.
Many people will know Timothy for his role as James Herriott in All Creatures Great and Small and more lately Dr Brendan 'Mac' McGuire in Doctors. But the 71-year-old is never far from the stage these days.
His current role is playing Anne Frank's dad, Otto, in a new production directed by Nikolai Foster.
Anne Frank's diary charts two years of her life from 1942 to 1944. This Pulitzer Prize winning play dramatises Anne’s observations of herself, her family and their fellow occupants as they lived from day to day in the confinement of their shared attic home, hiding from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
Christopher said: "The audience are usually silent at the end. I close it with a speech with what happened to them. I go off in a black out and the lights come on an empty set. We come back on- then they usually clap. It is rare they clap on cue.
"A lot of people say- it must be very emotional- you must be drained. *It is quite hard work but it is pretending. It is very different. People think when you say that you are making light of it but absolutely not.
"If you did not have some technique I don't believe you could get through it.
"I am a parent and I have daughters and sons as well. It doesn't bear thinking about."
And although he said the play is very atmospheric there are a few laughs to lighten the mood slightly.
The actor was asked to be part of the play.
He said: "The bottom line is I am an actor. I am not wealthy and I need to work. You rarely get to make a choice."
But he said he is enjoying it very much and is a show worth doing.
Christopher said: "I have learnt a great deal. I knew all the basic facts about the family. With Anne- I had in my mind a picture of a child rather like Annie- everything she touched turned to gold and everyone she met turned to gold, which is rubbish of course.
"She is a 13-year-old teenage girl."
He said she goes through her own sexual awakening, at the same time as being trapped in a small space with her parents.
It is a small cast of ten including Amy Dawson, Robert Galas, Dominic Gately, Sarah Ingram, Philip Marriott, Sally Oliver, Kerry Peers, Steven Pinder, Victoria Ross and Andrew Westfield.
And most of the actors never leave the stage. When they are not talking in a scene and are in "another room" they are still on-stage.
He said: "It increases the feeling of claustrophobia and the fact we are trapped with no escape. We can't even look out the window."
And how does the experienced actor, who starred in Season's Greetings in High Wycombe at the end of last year, feel on first nights?
He said: "I find all first nights nerve-racking. Most actors I know, particularly the ones I know well, all say on the first night, 'Why do we even do this? Why do we do this job?' It doesn't matter how assured your director has made you or if fellow actors say 'It's great when you do this..' because then you think 'What's wrong when I do that?'
"All insecurities set in. It really doesn't get any easier."
He said however he hopes he is easier with the technique.
He tends to do more stage work these day. "It is almost like an excuse. I don't do as much TV as I used to. Judging by the amount of TV that I often see and thank God I am not in but of course I see other things and think why aren't I in that?
"I don't have a preference. I like working with good actors and good directors in something that has been very well written. You might get one of the three or all three."
The Diary of Anne Frank is at the Wycombe Swan from March 27-31. Tickets rang from £18.50-£28.50 from 01494512000 or go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk.