Following our 2009 interview with Penelope Keith on the stage of the Theatre Royal in Bath for the PBS special, More Funny Ladies of British Comedy, we spent a bit of down time getting the full understanding of the importance of regional theatre in the UK from one of the grand dames of British comedy. Take the Theatre Royal in Bath, for example. At the time, Ms. Keith was appearing in the Richard Everett comedy, Entertaining Angels. Following her the next month was her former Good Life co-star, Felicity Kendal. 2012-2013 will be no different with the upcoming season just announced in Bath. If you want to catch your favorite British actor live up close and personal, check this out.
In September, Scottish actor Tom Conti will star in the Terence Frisby courtroom drama, Rough Justice where he plays James Highwood, the producer of a series of documentaries challenging the British justice system. Following Conti in September will be Good Life and Rosemary & Thyme star, Felicity Kendall, who will star alongside Jonathan Coy of Downton Abbey fame in the Alan Ayckbourn comedy, Relatively Speaking.
Penelope Keith returns once again to the Theatre Royal to star in the Keith Waterhouse adaptation of his novel of the same name, Good Grief. Gavin and Stacey star Mathew Horne (Gavin) will visit the theatre for the first time in November starring in Brandon Thomas’s Charley’s Aunt. Horne will play Lord Fancourt Babberley, who is persuaded by two fellow Oxford students to impersonate Charley’s Aunt when his real aunt is delayed.
If that’s not enough to convince you of the importance the British acting community places on regional theatre, Blackadder and Mr. Bean star, Rowan Atkinson, will make his first appearance in a play in nearly 25 years as St. John Quartermaine in Quartermaine’s Terms before heading to the Wyndham Theatre in London’s West End beginning 29 January 2013 through 13 April 2013.
As I wrote following that 2009 interview, personally, to me, this has always been what has elevated British comedy well-above their American counterparts. There isn’t a night somewhere in England that you won’t find a very familiar face from your favorite British comedy performing in either one of the many strong regional theatre’s or on London’s West End stage. It’s not uncommon to see the likes of Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Patricia Routledge, Judi Dench or any of a number of other Britcom stars on stage. Though many will argue it’s the writing that sets British comedy apart, of which I will whole-heartedly agree, it’s also the incredible talents of the actors and actresses involved that have had years and years of formal training at places such as The Old Vic or the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Next time you find yourself looking for something to do most anywhere in England, take a moment, look up at the marquee of the nearest theatre and I’ll bet you’ll recognize the name in lights.