In April in Paris, a couple whose relationship is on the rocks when a weekend break on the continent reignites their zest for life and each other.

The romantic comedy, which comes to the Churchill Theatre from August 19 to 23, stars Joe McGann as redundant plasterer and little Englander Al, and Coronation Street’s Shobna Gulati as shoe shop worker Bet.

Joe, 55, said: “We have all sat next to those couples or we all know a couple who clearly love each other but it seems like they’re bickering with each other all the time.

“This is what Al and Bette are. This is where the humour comes from and also the pathos and the poignancy.”

The play was written by John Godber in the early 1990s, and the writer has also played the lead role. He is directing the current run.

Joe, whose daughter studied at Ravensbourne College, said: “It’s not always easy to work with a writer/director. I’ve worked with people in the past who would have benefitted from being a bit more distant from it.

“It takes a great amount of skill to be able to work on the piece and let the actors do their jobs. John loves actors and he’s very, very clever so it has been a great rehearsal process.

“We have got a nice production on our hands.”

As professionals, actors sometimes have to work with people they don’t like and make the most of it but Joe said he has found it easy to work with Shobna, who he described as ‘delightful’.

He said: “It is rare to meet actresses with so little ego involved.

“We first met years and years ago when we did a Comic Relief sketch with Victoria Wood.

“We were in the same semi final in Celebrity Masterchef and we have come across each other here and there.

“We have known each other for a little while and always got on well.”

Joe grew up in Liverpool and his three younger brothers – Paul, Mark and Stephen – also went into acting.

His best-known role is as housekeeper Charlie Burrows in the nineties sitcom The Upper Hand though he has been busy on the stage in recent years.

His brother Paul played the I of Withnail and I and was also the eighth doctor in Dr Who.

Joe said it is not unusual for people to approach one brothers in the belief they are a different sibling.

“We have a kind of unwritten pact. If someone comes up to me and says, ‘Paul, can I have your autograph?’ then I’ll sign ‘Paul’ and they go away happy.”

For the most part, having brothers in the industry has been a good thing, Joe said, although it has got competitive in the past.

He said: “It’s like if we had been four plasterers, there are rivalries.

“We’re all getting on a bit now and that’s all behind us. We’re very nearly all in our fifties now and that stuff gets left behind.”

Joe McGann stars in April in Paris at The Churchill Theatre in Bromley from August 19 to 23.  Tickets cost from £10 to £25. Go to or call 0844 8717620.

  • WIN! Book band A or premium seats before August 1 and you could win a trip to Paris with Eurostar.