Leeds Forum

Interview Ian Redford

Tom Head speaks to the former Coronation Street man and star of A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson

Ian Redford has an illustrious career behind him, yet retains an apparently unquenchable thirst for performance. From Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to the famous cobbled streets of Weatherfield, he has graced the finest institutions that British theatre and television have to offer. And with Redford being the committed thespian he is, he shows no signs of reaching his final curtain call, as he brings an adaptation of this intriguing show to The Carriageworks at the end of March.

A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson focuses on the great lexicographer and man who wrote the most recognisable versions of our modern day dictionary. “He was an extraordinary human being and it was the humanity of the man that touched me,” the actor says of Dr Johnson. “He overcomes an enormous amount of personal problems to become the spirited man he was.

“Johnson had immense warmth to him and he was incredibly generous. He was a man of extremes – he was passionate and angry, but tormented because he wanted to improve himself. He was a very religious man, and consequently had all the passions going on inside him whilst at the same time there was this pressure of wanting to be a better human being.”

In this outing of the show, Russell Barr is opposite Redford, with Barr playing a series of characters. Redford is full of praise for his fellow cast member, commending his “versatile” skills.

“It’s his job to change and alter himself so he can incubate the different personalities. It’s been fine… Ask me in about four weeks when we get up to Leeds, we might be strangling each other near the end!” he laughs. “I’ve worked with him before and he’s a good actor and we have some fun. It isn’t just us two in this play though… We also have a dog dressed up as a cat!”

Taking a character he holds dear to his heart around the country will be a delight for Redford, who has performed everywhere in Britain and a few, shall we say, interesting European venues too. When touring with a play called Some Explicit Polaroids, the cast’s arrival in Vilnius,  Lithuania ran perfectly smooth… until they found their planned venue for the show had no stage. Luckily, their manager headed out into downtown Vilnius to fetch hardware equipment so they could fashion a makeshift stage.

It certainly hasn’t always been a case of ‘bring your own stage’ for Ian though, as he recalls his time gracing Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, acting in the Bard’s most famous stories. He compares the whole experience to rock ‘n’ roll, with the great vibe that performers receive from the audience and the sheer volume of the crowd. However, Redford’s sharp eyes have detected a little over-acting from some people, who take the occasion to be more important than the play itself.

Soap addicts will know Redford from his two-year spell as Keith Appleyard on Coronation   Street, where he had numerous run-ins with Tracy Barlow and her boyfriend (although that begs the question, who hasn’t fallen out with Corrie’s Tracy?). He admits that being a southerner portraying your typical northern citizen was indeed a challenge and he even moved to Sheffield briefly to try to pick up an acceptable accent. He says the show is like “the National Theatre of television” while paying tribute to the assembled cast. “I take my hat off to every one of those actors in Coronation Street because they hardly have any rehearsal time; they really produce some cracking performances and it is usually very truthful what they do.”

Reminiscing about a life in front of the audience, Ian appreciates the fine acting talent he has been able to work with. Betty Driver (Betty Williams) and Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts) are among his favourite Coronation Street collaborators, while his West End career has seen him work with Hollywood’s finest. “I loved working with Pete Postlewaite,” he says. “He generated so much enthusiasm and passion for the job and really cared about what we were doing. I shared six months working with Anthony Hopkins in a play on the West End and he turned out to be a very funny man too.”

30 March, The Carriageworks Theatre, Millennium Square, LS2 3AD, 0113 224 3801, £11.50-£13.50, 7pm, http://www.carriageworkstheatre.org.uk/default.aspx

Posted on Tuesday 22nd February 2011

The Carriageworks

The Electric Press, 3 Millenium Square, Leeds, LS2 3AD

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