From Hollyoaks to Norwich via Emmerdale - actor James Sutton talks about his new stage role

Jasmyn Banks and James Sutton in Caroline's Kitchen rehearsals Credit: Sam Taylor

Jasmyn Banks and James Sutton in Caroline's Kitchen rehearsals Credit: Sam Taylor - Credit: Archant

James Sutton has been part of two of this country's biggest soaps as teacher John-Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks and mechanic Ryan Lamb in Emmerdale. Ever keen to take up a challenge, he is now heading out around the country on stage in a spiky new comedy about a TV cook and tells us how he's loving every minute.

The acting world is always unpredictable and nowhere is that more the case than with James Sutton.

Fresh from a very traditional way of learning his craft at the Royal Welsh College in Cardiff where Brecht and Shakespeare were front and centre of the curriculum, one of his first jobs was playing John Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks.

It saw him at the centre of some major storylines including the shows first gay relationship, a taboo-breaking fling with a priest and a gritty storyline which saw him raped by one of the pupils he taught. In true Hollyoaks style, the show put 100 per cent into the research and authenticity of the stories and it gave James the chance to stretch as an actor.

In between two stints on the Chester-set show, he also appeared in Emmerdale as mechanic Ryan Lamb and says he has very happy memories of his time working on the TV shows. He said: 'I am super lucky to have had the opportunities I had and have worked with some amazing directors and some great actors.'

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Hollyoaks, as his first major job, also gave him the chance to learn so much. 'I wouldn't say it is a training ground because that does it a disservice but it is a great place to try things out and make mistakes as an actor. You don't often get the chance to try things out.

'The pace is also unreal. Shooting three or sometimes four weeks of episodes at the same time with no rehearsal and scripts being rewritten and amended at the last minute means you have got to rely on your instincts. You have just got to be very concentrated and focused. No one is going to hold your hand. That is why I have massive respect for anyone who works in soap as it is the hardest-working genre apart from theatre of course.'

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And even though his character has now left Chester, he has stayed living in Merseyside where Lime Pictures, which makes the series, is based. He said: 'I have been in Liverpool for 12 years now and I love it. I have always been a Liverpool FC fan through and through. I am involved in podcasts for the club, my wife lives with me now there and it is a beautiful city with so much history and culture.'

It is theatre which is his main focus at the moment, touring around the country in Caroline's Kitchen. The spiky comedy tells the story of successful TV cook Caroline Mortimer, who is played by accomplished stage actress and Judge John Deed and Lovejoy favourite Caroline Langrishe. On the surface she has it all with a lovely house, successful career and loving husband, but when the spotlight is off (literally) and there are no cameras, things are very different.

Enter James who puts a bit of a spanner in the works. He laughs: 'I play Graham, the Northern handyman. It is fantastic. A lot of my scenes are with Caroline herself who is great fun and my character is having a bit of an affair with her. I am having lots of sneaky looks and it is great fun.

'Caroline is fantastic. She is super and a tour de force. She is not off the stage at all. It is incredible to watch an actor at the top of her game. Aden Gillett, who plays her husband, is also incredible tearing up the stage and really owning it. Being around these guys and soaking up their knowledge is incredible.'

It has also given him the chance to have a crack at starring in a comedy for the first time. 'I really enjoy doing comedy. I have not done much in my short career. I have spent a lot of time in soaps which by their nature you can be doing comedy one week and something serious the next. This is proper black comedy, and this is very different,' he said.

And James is also getting used to the touring life appearing in a different theatre each week in the play, which also stars Jasmyn Banks who played Alice Branning in EastEnders. He said: 'It is great. The audiences have been really responsive. If you are touring a good show that you are proud of and people are enjoying it, that makes it easier.'

So, from Chester to Emmerdale to the whole UK, James is certainly finding touring life is the recipe for a successful and happy career.

Caroline's Kitchen is at Norwich Theatre Royal on Wednesday 6 to Saturday 9 March at 7.30pm, and Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets £10-£28. Discounts for Friends. To book, log onto or call the box office on 01603 630000.

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