An actor on a mission

CHRISTOPHER Timothy is perhaps best known as vet James Herriot in a staggering 91 episodes of All Creatures Great and Small on BBC television between 1978 and 1990.

But with coming up to half a century in the acting business he is much more than a former TV vet.

 He was, for example, in Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company in the 1960s and was last seen in the Midlands in the touring version of the harrowing Grapes of Wrath at Birmingham Rep where he played Pa Joad.

Timothy is of an age and certainly of a stature where he can afford to pick and choose the parts he takes on and the decision to tackle the role of Julia's father, Joe Lukin was certainly one made most definitely from choice. 

The result is an actor in his element; in a part he wants to play in a play he wants to be in. He freely admits that this is a role he is doing for himself which should be enough to alert audiences that they could be about to witness something special.

Timothy said: “The bottom line is that it is written by Alan Ayckbourn of whom I am a big admirer. I have only done one play of his before which was a collection of five, short one-act plays called Confusions which was written for his company.

“John Alderton and Pauline Collins went to see it and they decided to do it in the West End. I did it on tour and I loved it.

"I think Ayckbourn is an extraordinary writer. I have seen several of his plays and enjoyed them immensely.

“Second it is with an actor called Richard O'Callaghan with whom I did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead many years ago and who became and  is my best friend and the third reason is Andrew Hall.

“I worked with Andrew in a production of Hay Fever and he directed Matthew Kelly and Tracey Childs in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and I thought it was bloody marvellous, absolutely fantastic.

“I am also a friend of Matthews and he is an extraordinarily good actor. I didn't know Tracy Child's work but I thought she was great .

Christopher Timothy (right) wuth his best friend Richard O'Callaghan who plays the psychic during rehearsals

"Now she is  producing this with Andrew and with Lichfield.”

Timothy has also worked with Tom Roberts, the Lichfield Rep producer on the TV series Doctors, so a whole host of coincidences come together to make this an appealing project to Timothy – including the venue, Lichfield Garrick's Studio.

“We did the first read through in the space and I think it is fantastic and this  is an extraordinary play. It is terrible to learn. It is a very complex play and I think his writing is exceptional.

“You cannot paraphrase it. You do when you are learning it and don't yet know the lines backwards but that is where I go wrong. My paraphrasing is nowhere near as good as his writing even when it is complicated and odd because the character I play, and the other characters, don't talk as we talk.

“That is part of the challenge but I am doing this for me. I suspect all three of us will be out of pocket at the end of this but that has nothing to do with it. It is not as if I am looking at jobs and saying I can't afford it. I have turned down jobs I couldn't afford sometimes when I have been right up against it, but this is one where I must do it.

“Matthew did the same with Virgina Woolf. He is playing all these parts at the moment for the same reason I am, to make yourself a better actor.”

Matthew Kelly has no worked lined up when he finishes with Spamalot at the end of the year and Christopher Timothy is equally resting between engagements, as the prhase goes, when he is finished being haunted by Julia.

Timothy does admit though that he would walk barefoot over broken glass to work with Kelly “he is such a good actor”.

Timothy and Kelly on stage together. Now that is an idea for any producer looking for an interesting project.

Haunting Julia runs at the Lichfield Garrick Studio from October 14 to October 30

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