Rufus Hound started out his career as a comedian but over the last few years has been a frequent star of the stage and is currently making audiences laugh starring as Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows at the London Palladium. He was lovely enough to do an interview with me where he talks about his transition from comedy to theatre and much more…
For anyone that doesn’t know, could you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?
Sure. I started off as a stand-up comedian having grown up as a kid always wanting to be a stage actor and when the opportunity to do actual stage acting arose, I couldn’t quite believe it. Jumped at it with both hands and that’s really what I’ve concentrated on doing even since. It’s been how I’ve earns a living I think for the last sort or four years, five years. Starting with Utopia at the Soho theatre, then One Man, Two Guvnors, then Neville’s Island for Chichester and then Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy, then War of the Roses at the Kingston Rose and i for the RSC. And I’m currently in The Wind in the Willows. So there are my career and highlights so far.
I read that it was during a summer job with a PR agency that you decided to go into comedy. Had you always wanted to perform or did you have other career paths in mind when you were younger?
I guess I’ve sort of already answered this but from about the age of three I watched The Muppet Show and thought “that’s what I wanna do, I wanna do theatre”. And the lovely thing about theatre, well one of the lovely things about being a kid is that your opportunities to show off are largely limited to school plays and the like. So yeah, from about three to seventeen I was like “that’s all I wanna do”. Then as eighteen dawned on me and nineteen dawned on me I realised that that was something that was going to cost a lot of money to train to do and the likelihood was that I wouldn’t you know, succeed in trying to do it. So, I put that dream in a drawer.
I decided to go into comedy because I always liked standing up, I liked showing off, I like making people laugh. So I started going out with a woman who was a judge at a lot of new act competitions, saw what people were doing and thought: “I could do that”. But as I say, once the opportunity to do more acting came up, that was what I did!
Was the transition from comedy to presenting to tv and eventually theatre a difficult one or was it a natural transition?
It wasn’t really natural, it’s just that in life you get somebody saying “do you wanna give that a go?” and then if you’re smart you can kind of have a look round, work out what other people are doing and how you could best do it, and hopefully don’t muck it up so badly that that you never get another chance. Each job you learn on and you grow in each way. But yeah, I’ve never learnt how to do comedy or presenting or radio or theatre. No one’s ever taught me how to do those things, you just give them a go, keep your ears pinned back, keep your eyes open and try and work out how the best people people bring about their best.
What keeps you motivated to keep working even when you get knock backs?
I have a mortgage and I have two children!
Do you have any hidden passions that you’d like to pursue?
Yes. They’re not really so hidden but I really enjoy woodwork and currently where I live there’s no space to have a kind of workshop or anything like that in order to do woodwork. But yeah maybe in the next couple of years we’ll move somewhere with a bit more space and yeah, you’ll largely find me under a pile of wood shavings.
The Wind in the Willows is a wonderful family show. What attracted you to the show in the first place?
When I was working on One Man, Two Guvnors, Pete Caulfied out of the blue, said to me “If you ever get the chance to play Toad, take it you’d be brilliant.” A couple of years later, out of the blue, Matt Kingsley in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels says to me “you know, if you ever get the chance to play Toad, you should take it” and I went: “you’re the second person to say that to me”. And because both of these were really out of the blue, it just totally stuck in my mind that I was, in the esteem of people that I respected, a good person to take on this role. So when the opportunity to play it came up, I jumped at it with both hands!
What do you think people will be saying on the train on their way home from the show?
Poop poop probably! We now live in the age of social media where people tweet you what they’re talking about on the way home from the show. By and large it seems to be that anyone with kids is having to deal with and overexcited young person who is shouting to them about the flying, the sets, the mice, the weasels are very popular, the weasels and stoats! So yeah, people just come away from it knowing it was a big, warm hug of a show really.
Besides yourself, who else would you like to see play Mr Toad?
Crumbs. That’s literally the last thing in the world I’ve thought about! I’ve been so focussed on doing it myself that I would never really deign to think of how somebody else might do it. Who would I like to see play it? Er…… I really don’t know, I’m really struggling on that!
Can you sum up The Wind in he Willows in five words?
Yes! Big, warm, family, massive… hug!
What are some of your dream roles in theatre?
I’d really like to play Thenadier in Les Mis for a short run just because nothing would make my mum happier. I’d also really like to be in anything Tim Minchin has ever done.
What’s a fun fact people might not know about you?
Ahhhh, I dunno. I think in this day and age everyone knows everything about everyone pretty much! But…. I was a Klansman in the first production of Jerry Springer: The Opera. There were some photographs taken and the protagonist is there surrounded by Klansmen and I was one of those. I was also a hillbilly having the tar knocked out of him on the floor. So if anyone has got any connection to Jerry Springer: The Opera then I was in it at about the age of twenty, in a very minor way.
Whats your number one piece for can aspiring performer?
Don’t give up. The only thing that stops you from being a performer is stopping!
A huge thank you to Rufus for taking the time to do this interview. The Wind in the Willows is at the London Palladium until September 9th.