Actor Rupert Graves, perhaps best known to TV fans as DI Lestrade in the BBC TV series Sherlock, makes his directorial debut later this month with The Ungrateful Biped, a one-man play written by and starring Philip Goodhew. Find out more about what appealed to Graves about the project below – and also check out our gallery of Graves and Goodhew in rehearsals – and then get booking!
The Ungrateful Biped, which runs at London’s White Bear Theatre from 30 January to 17 February 2018, is adapted by Goodhew from Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s 19th-century Russian classic Notes from Underground and reset in modern London.
Question: “what does a civilised man drivel on about with most satisfaction?” Answer: “himself”.
Immured in a horrid basement flat in the hinterlands of London, an anonymous Man creates a video blog. Haunted by disturbing memories and nurturing an abiding malice towards all humanity, including himself, he embarks on a forensic analysis of his “underground soul”.
Sick, spiteful, and ugly, yet convinced of his own genius, he is tormented by the belief that his intelligence is a disease which, in an irrational world, renders him less valuable than an insect. Bitter, alienated and crippled with inertia, the Man shamelessly revels in the depths of degradation he has plumbed in order to validate his existence and demands the right to screw up his life as he sees fit. After all, is he really any different to the rest of us?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky created the underground Man in 1864. In doing so, he created one of the most paradoxical, self-lacerating and mesmerising characters in literature; the first existentialist anti-hero.
In addition to Sherlock, Rupert Graves is well known as an actor for his myriad roles including A Room with a View, Maurice, The Madness of King George and The Forsyte Saga onscreen. His theatre acting credits, in the West End, on Broadway, at the National and elsewhere, include Closer, The Iceman Cometh, The Elephant Man, Candida, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Caretaker, Design for Living, Dumb Show and Hurlyburly, for which he was Olivier nominated.
Graves explains what drew him to directing The Ungrateful Biped:
“Philip and I have known each other for a very long time. I enjoyed working on a film he directed me in and like his writing so I was intrigued when he told me he was writing a play and asked to read it. I loved it. When he asked if I was interested in directing, I was a little nervous as this would be my first time directing. It took me nearly 10 minutes to say yes. It’s a great piece of work.
“We have done a lot of work together over the last months, refining and honing the script. Philip is doing a great job getting under the skin of the character and revealing his human face. Knowing each other for so long is a definite bonus as it gives us a shortcut in our communication and we can really dig into the task without dancing around each other’s egos. I can’t wait to get it up and running.”
As an actor, Philip Goodhew was in the original award-winning West End production of Another Country, playing a major role opposite Daniel Day-Lewis. His 1996 debut film as a writer/director, Intimate Relations starred Julie Walters and Rupert Graves and saw Rupert winning Best Actor at the Montreal Film Festival. Goodhew said of reuniting with Graves on The Ungrateful Biped:
“I have had this play at the back of my mind for many, many years, and wrote an initial version when I was really too young to come to grips with the complexities of the book. I always wanted to play the character as I identified strongly with it (which is quite an admission) but shelved the idea when I started writing and directing films. The story would never fully go away and nagged at me on and off for a couple of decades. I finally wrote it last year.
“Rupert is an old friend: we have worked together a couple of times, firstly acting on a film called Good and Bad at Games and much later I directed him in my film Intimate Relations. He asked to read The Ungrateful Biped and did so immediately I gave him the script. His enthusiasm led me to ask him if he would like to direct and I am pleased to say he jumped at it. I am delighted he did as he is a fantastic director; a real stickler for detail with a great understanding of the work. His vast experience working with great directors has obviously paid off.”
The Ungrateful Biped is produced by Milburn Browning Associates in association with the White Bear Theatre.
The Ungrateful Biped runs at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 from Tuesday 30 January to Saturday 17 February 2018, with a press night on 2 February. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm, with tickets priced £16 (concessions £12). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.