Robert Daws enters the world of Ayckbourn

Robert Daws
Robert Daws

Aside from a production of Confusions many years ago at The Weald & Downland Living Museum at Singleton, Robert Daws is taking his first steps into the world of Sir Alan Ayckbourn.

And he is loving every minute of it.

He’s on the road with How the Other Half Loves which comes to Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday-Saturday, November 20-25, the tale of one secret love affair, two disaster-bound dinner parties and three couples headed for trouble.

“It’s true,” Robert says. “Apart from Confusions, this is my first time. It is not that I have been avoiding Ayckbourn.

“It is just that it has never come up for me, and that is absolutely my loss. I wish I had been playing these parts for years. There are enough parts for actors of my age in Ayckbourn to keep me employed for the rest of my days!”

In How the Other Half Loves, as Bob and Fiona clumsily try to cover up their affair, their spouses’ intervention only adds to the confusion.

William and Mary Featherstone become stuck in the middle, falsely accused of adultery and with no idea as to how they’ve become involved.

The plot culminates in two disastrous dinner parties on successive nights, shown at the same time, after which the futures of all three couples seem in jeopardy…

It’s just great to play, says Robert: “From an actor’s point of view, I think it is the depth of the characterisation that is so appealing. It is the sheer detail and the fact that he is absolutely the consummate craftsman.

“He crafts his plays so beautifully, and this one we are doing now… it is incredible to think that he was 28 when he wrote it.

“You just stand back and you think how did a 28-year-old have this extraordinary understanding of human nature and also at the same time have such a mastery of stagecraft.

“It is quite extraordinary when you think about it. You know the play and you know the characters and ostensibly it all seems so simple, but there is nothing in the play that isn’t very carefully thought out.

“We are still discovering that now, lines early on that set up things much later in the play. You know you are in the hands of a great craftsman who also writes the most detailed, true and extraordinary characters.

“There are farcical elements, but what Ayckbourn manages to do better than anyone is that he manages to show the natural farcical moments of life. There is no imposed structure. There is no artificiality.

“The plays are not set up in order to make people laugh. The laugh comes naturally out of the human dilemmas and human situations that the characters find themselves in. That’s the demarcation from other farces that are just set up to make the audience laugh. Ayckbourn just has a way of making you laugh – and also making you feel guilty for laughing!”

Back to the small screen, Robert is just about to step back into the fourth series of Poldark, his first since the very first.

“I did the first one but couldn’t do the other two because of various other commitments, but I am coming back for the fourth. They had a very handsome young doctor come in.

“They didn’t need the old git with his leeches and his blood-letting, but I am back now with my leeches and my blood-letting and my poultices.

“I am enjoying a very ancient kind of medicine!”