Nigel Havers play starts its UK tour in Cambridge next week
One of Britain's best loved actors returns to a city for which he has great and long-standing affection.
Enviably debonair, cooly refined and effortlessly charming are all terms that could be used to describe the inimitable Nigel Havers.
A still-very-much-in-demand actor, he has been a household name for nigh-on 40 years, thanks to such iconic roles as Ralph Ernest Gorse in ITV’s The Charmer (1987), Dr Tom Latimer in BBC sitcom Don’t Wait Up (1983-1990) and Lord Andrew Lindsay in the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire – number 19 on the BFI’s list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century.
Having starred as Serge in ART in the West End back in 1997, Havers is now coming to Cambridge to play the part once again as part of a UK tour.
This follows previous sell-out appearances in the city in Basket Case (2011), Single Spies (2008) and Rebecca (2005).
Written by Yasmina Reza, ART is one of the most successful plays ever written. Opening in 1996, it took both the West End and Broadway by storm, winning Olivier, Tony, Moliere and every other major theatre award along the way.
When Serge spends an extortionate amount of money on an all-white modernist painting, his close friends Marc and Yvan are baffled. But does their violent reactions to this provocative canvas mirror more dangerous antagonisms towards each other?
Starring alongside Havers will be Denis Lawson as Marc and Stephen Tompkinson as Yvan. The four-month tour kicks off at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on February 14.
Havers, 66, told the Cambridge Independent: “I did ART at the Wyndham Theatre in the West End 20 years ago, and I loved doing it – it’s probably my favourite modern play, and so to get the chance to do it again is just too good to miss.”
The affable star, whose more recent TV work includes Downton Abbey and Benidorm, continued: “I was brought up just outside Newmarket, so Cambridge is my local theatre, really.
“In 1968 I first appeared there [at the Arts Theatre], can you believe it?!”
The actor revealed that both his grandfather and his brother were students at Corpus Christi College.
“I know the city really well and just love being there,” he said. “It’s a great place to be and a great place to open our show.”
Havers is equally enthusiastic about the show.
“It’s so well-structured and brilliantly written, and it’s a wonderful comedy – which I love doing,” he said. “The character and the play are very appealing to me.
“It’s great to perform, it’s great for the audience because they love it, and it gives you something to sit and talk about at dinner afterwards.”
As the play deals with the often contentious issue of modern art, what is Nigel Havers’ opinion on the subject?
“Since doing this play, I’ve had a much more liberal-minded view of it,” he confessed, “and I’m interested in a lot of contemporary art – not all of it.
“It’s all whether it gets your attention or not, and some of it really does for me.”
This writer has very fond memories of watching Don’t Wait Up as a child and it’s interesting to note that this delightful series has rarely been repeated since coming to the end of its seven-year run in 1990.
“I think the BBC found it too posh to repeat,” suggested Havers, known for playing quintessentially English gentlemen, “which is extraordinary, isn’t it?”
On other highlights of his long career, Havers said: “I loved doing a show called The Charmer, which was a big hit for me... I don’t really look back very much, I look forward.”
It seems that some viewers find it hard to dissociate the real Nigel Havers from the rather caddish characters he has often portrayed so convincingly on screen.
“People do that sometimes,” he agreed. “Acting is one of those things... People say, ‘I hate that person, I hate that actor’ and you go, ‘What do you mean you hate them? Have you ever met them? No.
“How can you possibly hate someone you’ve never met?’ It’s just bizarre.”
ART runs from Wednesday, February 14, to Saturday, February 24, with no performance on Sunday, February 18.
Show starts at 7.45pm, with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.
Tickets £25-£45 (all ticket prices include a £3 per ticket booking fee).