Downton Abbey star Robert Bathurst is about to tread the boards in a gripping psychological thriller with the best script he’s read in ages.
The former Cold Feet actor is starring in Blue/Orange – a compelling and witty battle of freedom and ambition - at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.
Playing a senior consultant at a psychiatric hospital, also called Robert, Bathurst is joined in the cast by Hollyoaks’ Gerard McCarthy and up-and-coming actor Oliver Wilson.
He said: “It was the best script I had read for age.
“So much of what you get sent, especially in television, is all plot and no character.
“But Blue/Orange is character-driven.
“Often, when you’re working in television, the director will say to you “don’t worry about the script, just kick it around and make it your own.”
“Blue/Orange is completely the opposite.
“If you follow the clues about the characters, you’ll find that Joe (Penhall) has put them down on paper with clarity and precision.
“There’s absolutely no waffle.”
In the play, the case of a young Afro-Caribbean patient becomes the cause of considerable disagreement between Robert and his junior colleague, Bruce.
Both men are smart and highly articulate with a speed of thought designed to exhilarate the audience.
“To an extent, Joe Penhall toys with the audience.” Robert said.
“He makes the discussion so compelling that people won’t know what they think about the rights and wrongs of the case.
“Robert is an experienced operator - he’s very canny and although he is Bruce’s mentor, you do wonder how the younger man will survive the cut-and-thrust of the debate between them. “In any profession, you’ll find a similar level of competition.
“I don’t think that it’s peculiar to psychiatric medicine.”
In Cold Feet, Robert represented the corporate conformist, the unsympathetic straight man against whom the other characters could bounce off.
He continued: “I do play nice guys but I also get handed b******s.
“Often the biggest challenge is to play someone decent and make him dramatically interesting as well.
“I tend not to talk about my ambitions, the parts I want to play.
“It’s a bit of a hostage to fortune.
“If you don’t ever get to play them, you’ll seem like a failure.
“I can say, however, that I’m currently buying the stage rights to a couple of books of poetry which I feel have a dramatic spine.”
Robert has packed plenty of contrasting roles into his 30 year career.
He decided to become an actor during his schooldays, although it was for a law degree he won a place at Cambridge.
He lost no time in joining the university’s am-dram group Footlights, then going through one of its starry phases with Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie. He was eventually elected president of the Footlights, not a job for a shrinking violet.
“You do have to have a certain amount of steel.” He said.
“Not everybody went into show business.
“Some of them built the Channel Tunnel instead.”
Catch Blue/Orange at the Churchill between October 30 and November 3.
For bookings call 08448 717 620 or visit atgtickets.com/bromley