A Room With A View – which plays Chichester Festival Theatre from Nov 29–Dec 3 – is actually Jeff Rawle’s first theatre tour in a little matter of 32 years.
“I just don’t like being away from home really,” he explains simply. Inevitably, to tempt him out again it had to be exactly the right play – and also exactly the right tour: “We are calling this our Home Counties tour, our Waitrose Tour!”
But seriously, it has been tailored carefully to the venues likely to like it, venues, it so happens, nicely located for Jeff: “It’s the soft under-belly of the Home Counties. I have had a good year. I could see September coming up, and we have got some nice places on tour. One of them has been Richmond where I live, and I have been lucky enough to be able to stay with friends in all the others. I have been totally spoilt and very beautifully looked after. Touring is just not really me. I have not done a tour since 1984. I just like being at home. But this has been great. You never say never, and the play has been very good. It has been something we have been able to get our teeth into, and when you can really get your teeth into something, that makes up for a lot. Some actors love touring. They see themselves as gypsies. I don’t !”
A Room With A View has been adapted from the E M Forster novel.When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, their fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. An illicit kiss with the unsuitable George could change Lucy’s life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Italy affect her marriage plans?
Jeff is playing Mr Emerson: “He is actually quite a ground-breaking character. He was speaking in 1902 or whenever it was, and he was speaking about religion. Religion features very heavily in the play. We have got two vicars. One is a curate who is based in Italy, and the other wears a dog collar and is in Surrey. He is a very genial soul. He is a kind of stock-figure vicar dispensing goodness and platitudes. But the curate in Italy is actually slightly poisonous and certainly not a force for good. But we have also got Mr Emerson who is not a vicar, but whose life’s work is a mission. He is a teacher, and he talks about how he has managed to bring up his family free from all the superstition and ignorance that lead men to hate each other in the name of God. That’s quite something to say! You think about what is happening today, and that’s makes his character really interesting. He loves young people and really wants to work with them. He is not anti-theist. He is just someone that thinks people should love each other and have their own ability to decide right and wrong.”
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