I first remember seeing Dave Willetts playing The Phantom in The Phantom of The Opera; it was my first real experience of live theatre. So it was nice to catch up and have a chat with this highly respected actor who is currently touring with Wonderland. Wonderland is going to be at The Mayflower over Easter and whilst it’s not an Easter show it’s got a rabbit in it surely that’s got to be worth a visit?
What’s been your favourite role?
(smiling) That is a difficult question. Obviously the flippant answer would always be the role that you are doing at the time. But you can’t knock the Phantom, Jean Valjean, Superstar or Sweeney Todd. You can’t beat all those because they are brilliant. Equally I did a show at a pub theatre in Islington called the Kings Head. The show Let Us Fly is the true story of Vladimir Vysotsky who was kind of the Russian Bob Dylan. We performed it in the back room of the pub. A tiny venue with just a piano, no microphones and the audience were so close to you and it was fantastic.
Last year I was at the Union theatre in a play called Out There by James Bourne and Elliot Davis and again at a little theatre it was great. I love being that close to the audience, there’s no hiding place. And you stand and fall on your own two feet, I really do enjoy that.
Of course it takes years to put on a new play. Funnily enough I spoke to the Union theatre yesterday about the possibility of putting something on. I suppose I could say I helped write this new play? It’s called The Man Inside and it’s based on the Jekyll and Hyde story. People say, oh you know not another story about Jekyll and Hyde, but there’ll always be new interpretations of good stories like this. And places like the smaller theatre’s are a good place to get them aired.
A career spanning how long (31 years says Dave) tell me about when you knew this is what you wanted to do?
A lot of people say oh I wanted to do it from the age of three. Well for me that was rubbish I didn’t know. So when I left school it was suggested that I get a trade so I got an apprenticeship in engineering at sixteen and I worked my way up. I travelled the world solving engineering problems, had a company car, BUPA membership, you know the usual.
Then I became involved with amateur dramatics. I got involved because two friends of mine called Ray and John, who I’d only ever see up to their elbows in grease were doing a show called No, No, Nanette. They said we can’t give the tickets away please come, so I and my wife Lyn went along, I’d never been in a theatre before. I thought this is fun and we really enjoyed it. Ray and John said it’s great we go for a pint after rehearsals and I thought that’ll do, I’ll have some of that. My wife Lyn who wouldn’t even draw a raffle on stage, got involved backstage and enjoyed that.
I started to get some lead parts and it became a hobby we could do together. How old were you then Dave? In my twenties. You learn a lot from doing that and you can’t be taught some things, so doing the amateur dramatics was good and I really enjoyed it.
If you could be a super hero or have a super power what would you have and why?
Of course you could say deep and meaningful answers like world peace or saving the world. Or you could go for fun let’s go for fun Mr Invisible.
If you could go back in time when would you go back to and why?
I’d go back to the 1940’s (take the war out of it) because I love the music. The big band era, I love all different types of music but I like structure and for me that era really had some great music to enjoy.
Who do you think is the most influential person in the world today and why?
Influential – There’s many ways to influence for the good or the bad. So whatever makes you think I want to do something, to change something then that is influential. Probably for the wrong reasons id say Donald Trump because there’s no denying he makes people question or calls people to action.
It was a delight to interview the charming Dave Willetts. I’d encourage you to book tickets to see him when he arrives in a town near you in the fun show Wonderland.
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