He’s best known, these days for playing Dr Clarkson in the hugely popular Downton Abbey, but actor David Robb has had a varied career to date including theatre acting galore! David is currently appearing on stage in Alan Bennett’s Single Spies and I had a chat with him to find out what his memories of Downton Abbey are as well as his opinion on the play he’s currently starring in.
How are you enjoying your roles in Single Spies and have you performed any Alan Bennett material, before?
I’ve never done any Alan Bennett, before, this is my first time. I’ve found it enjoyable on a certain level, although he writes slightly waspishly. The duality of the piece has certainly been picked up on by the audience. I do feel that Bennett lets the Cambridge Spies off lightly.
It’s an intense evening when I kick off in the second act, during rehearsals I had been talking for such a length of time that I had to have a glug of water. I said, “I’ll have to have a drink of water at some point” and that was worked in.
Are there any roles in theatre that you have an ambition to play or any particular theatres that you’d like to tick off your list?
Not particularly, when one gets to my age you’re grateful to be in work.
I worked at The Old Vic years ago and that was special, on stage where Olivier performed. Otherwise the venue to me is just a space one performs in.
You were excellent as Dr. Clarkson in Downton Abbey, what are your favourite memories from the show and do you think it was the right time for the series to finish?
It was possibly the right time to finish the series, although there is a conflict between the UK and the USA, there as the USA feel bereft about the decision to end it. Of course, it couldn’t have carried on with Dame Maggie Smith, she would have been 112 years old and it was becoming hard to retain people. Nobody could have foreseen the massive success that the show has become, hopefully people will carry on buying the box sets!
It didn’t matter who one was doing a scene with, everyone got on, that is unusual in a large cast. Part of the show’s appeal is that Julian Fellowes has gone back to the Hill Street Blues days, where you have a massive cast and kill someone off unexpectedly every now and then.
What led you to become an actor and were you influenced by anybody?
I was at school in Edinburgh in the 60’s, it was an extraordinary time, in the course of a couple of years jet travel came in and there was pop music. Anything was possible and careers that seemed exotic were possible. I was roped into doing school plays, realised I was good at it and at the age of 16 I thought I could do it as a career.
What’s your preferred medium between screen and stage acting?
I’m classically trained so I find tat the discipline of theatre acting keeps one grounded, but I prefer to be in front of the camera. I like having done a scene and then being able to move on. For me, there comes a point in theatre when you feel you’re repeating yourself.
What’s next for you after Single Spies?
I don’t know yet, but there is a possibility of a bunch of the Downton Abbey cast (depending on who’s around) going over to America for a few weeks. It will be a show that goes on tour with Question and Answer sessions. It appeals to me to go back and see more of America and ‘bob around’.