Q&A with Adam Woodyatt
One of TV’s favourite faces is starring in top crime author Peter James’ spine-tingling new world premiere play Looking Good Dead to Newcastle Theatre Royal (Mon 19 – Sat 24 Jul 2021).
The no.1 best-selling author’s all new ‘page-to-stage’ thriller will be brought vividly to life by award-winning EastEnders star Adam Woodyatt who will be playing the role of Tom Bryce alongside and TV and stage star Gaynor Faye (The Syndicate, Coronation Street, Emmerdale).
You’re a national treasure as Ian Beale, what is it that you love about being part of a television icon such as EastEnders?
That is a very nice thing to say, but I have never seen myself as a legendary character or anything like that. I have always seen myself as just someone doing a job. It is how everyone else has perceived the character that has given Ian that kind of status. I’ve just been a guy going to work for 36 years and I have been lucky that my work is at a TV studio!
On the flipside of that, what appeals to you about theatre, and specifically playing the lead in the world premiere of Peter James’ Looking Good Dead?
What has really appealed to me about being part of Looking Good Dead is getting that live reaction. EastEnders has had massive responses when we have done live episodes. Especially in 2015 for me. I loved it. I loved that feeling of immediacy and knowing that what happens in this moment is what the audience will see there and then. I love that buzz.
I’ve done pantomimes over the years which are always a favourite thing for me to do, so the prospect of being able to go out and do a theatre tour is really exciting. I spoke to the producers a couple of years ago about being part of something and I’m so glad that Looking Good Dead has worked out timing wise. I just can’t wait to have a live audience and I am really looking forward to it.
The previous Peter James plays have had some great star names from television and you now join that list – what do you think attracts actors to his plays?
There have been some great names, and I actually know some of them they’re colleagues of mine! I’m really looking forward to being part of this show. I know Shane Ritchie and of course I spoke to him and asked what it was like! He had nothing but brilliant things to say about the Peter James productions he has been part of.
Have you read the novel on which the play is based?
I have read Looking Good Dead and really enjoyed it Like the previous plays have done, I’m hoping that the show will appeal to both fans of Peter James’ novels and many more people, who perhaps, like me, are not massive readers. When I read the book, I was kept guessing the entire time, and I hope we can bring that excitement to audiences in the theatre.”
Peter has sold millions of books, which have been Number One on the Bestseller List 17 times, but why do you think the adaptation of his books to stage has been so successful?
The adaptations are always faithful to the book, but with a twist or two a subtle change so that even someone who knows the book incredibly well isn’t one hundred percent certain what is going to happen on stage, which adds a brilliant element of surprise and anticipation. I think there’s a lot to look forward to in Looking Good Dead.
Why do you think audiences love to see a good thriller on stage?
I really enjoy a good thriller. I’m not one for horrors, but something that makes you jump a bit, keeps you guessing and gets your adrenaline going is great entertainment. If we can draw people in and make them believe everything and end with a sharp intake of breath, then I think we have done our job. It’s one of those chances to get a thrill in a safe space.
It’s been a while since you performed a drama on stage, but you started your career in theatre – tell us a little about that.
It’s definitely more than just a few years since I’ve done a drama on stage. I started my career in Oliver! in the West End in the 1980s. So, the first thing I did was a musical where I played one of the kids and I also got to play a posh boy – just because I fitted the costume! I was eleven or twelve at the time. The first straight play I did was On The Razzle at the National Theatre with a brief tour in 1981 I think. So it’s been a while!
At the moment it’s just excitement but maybe ask me again right before I go on stage, and I will probably be feeling some fear!
Are there any elements of the character of Tom Bryce that you’re particularly looking forward to getting your teeth into?
Oh yes, there are lots but I’m nervous of spoiling anything if I say too much. You’ll have to come and see the show.
What are you most looking forward to about touring the UK? Do you have any personal connections with any of the venues you’re visiting? Anywhere that you’ve performed before?
I’m so looking forward to getting to see some parts of the country that I have never visited before. I’m also looking forward to spending my daytimes with my bike and having a wander around the local areas. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the different theatres. I know that around the country there are some stunning and historic buildings everywhere. I’ve done the same job for 36 years so to have a chance to go and enjoy myself touring the country is so exciting for me.
People have really missed going to their local theatre. How important do you think it will it be for audiences to be able to see a live show again in 2021.
I’ve missed going to the theatre as well. I think theatre is important on so many levels. Not only is it a place to entertain and share stories with audiences, it’s also people’s jobs and livelihoods. The entertainment industry is one of the biggest industries in the country, in all its various guises, theatre being one element of it. It is not just the people on the stage it is everyone working behind the scenes, building the sets and costumes, the people designing and printing the programmes, the food and drinks businesses around the theatre. One theatre can spark so many other industries around it. It is vital that theatre comes back.
For individuals coming to see productions it is such a great form of entertainment and storytelling. It goes back to the days of Scheherazade. Theatre in some form or another is as old as time. I think you can see by the response to the first productions that were able to open briefly at the end of last year, that people are so thrilled to be able to be back in a theatre, experiencing something live, collectively again. It was hard to see it taken away so quickly.
Theatre is a place that people can hopefully escape to. I remember the first time I went to the theatre; I saw Frankie Howerd in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Palladium and that was what sparked my love of pantomime and my love of acting and theatre came from that.
What can audiences look forward to if they come and see Looking Good Dead?
It’s going to be a really brilliant production. Peter James’ story is excellent, and the script has been adapted beautifully. It’s got thrills, fun, twists and turns and I am confident that people can have a great evening or afternoon out. Plus, you can get an ice cream in the interval!
Aside from work, what did you find yourself doing to keep busy during the past year?
I went back to cooking; cooking is one of my loves. I found myself doing a lot more of it and I even started baking. I haven’t baked since I was a kid! My showstopper bake is the same as everyone else’s I think, a good banana bread!
I also got back into cycling again which I have really enjoyed, and I have a renewed passion for cycling which I hope to continue with throughout this tour.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as an actor?
Speak clearly and mind the furniture!