Twelfth Night actors Jamie and Sasha
EMMA LEE A star-studded cast is lined up for a charity production of Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy Twelfth Night, which is at Houghton Hall, near King’s Lynn from July 25 to 28. Emma Lee spoke to two of the actors treading the boards – real-life couple Jamie Glover and Sasha Behar.
They may be some of the country's finest actors, but the cast of Twelfth Night, which is being staged at the beautiful Palladian Houghton Hall in aid of Norwich Theatre Royal's 250 Appeal have a real challenge in store.
While a production of this scale would usually have around a month's rehearsal time, the actors, who include Stephen Fry, Harriet Walter, Matthew Kelly, Desmond Barrit and Liza Goddard have just a week.
But according to Jamie Glover, who is playing the love-struck Duke of Ilyria, Orsino, being put to the test in that way is exactly the sort of challenge that he relishes.
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“The play's director, Peter Wilson, I have known forever, since I was a boy, through my father. My father is the actor Julian Glover and years ago they worked together.
“I got an e-mail from him explaining exactly what it was and asked whether we would be lunatic enough to sign up for a week's rehearsal. It's no time at all. Normally you would hope to have at least four weeks and we have got just the one. But why not?” he laughs.
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“I've never been to Houghton Hall, but I've seen pictures of how beautiful it is.”
As well as being an accomplished stage actor, Jamie is familiar to TV audiences thanks to his role as deputy headteacher Andrew Treneman in the BBC's hit drama series Waterloo Road.
He is joined in the cast by his partner Sasha Behar, who is also a household name after playing 'mad' Maya Sharma in Coronation Street.
She adds that she finds the prospect of having just a week to rehearse “terrifying”.
“It's such a great piece and I'm looking forward to it very much. You have to think: what's the worst that could happen? I look a complete fool and forget my lines,” she deadpans.
“I don't know the play very well at all. I've seen it a few times, and I'm finding it really interesting,” she adds.
Jamie describes Twelfth Night as “Shakespeare at the top of his powers”, in which a merry-go-round of misplaced passions, mistaken identities and misunderstanding lead to a tangled web of emotions.
“It's one of my favourite plays - it's really beautiful,” says Jamie. “It's funny and it's romantic and is moving.”
Viola believes her brother has died in a shipwreck and disguises herself as a boy to become page to the lovesick Orsino.
Viola is entrusted with carrying his unrequited messages of love to Olivia. But, believing Viola is a boy, Olivia falls passionately in love with her.
Explaining his character, Jamie says: “He's very much in love with Olivia from a distance. In love with love. In the course of the play he discovers what real love is rather than a romantic version of love.”
But despite Sasha's Olivia being the object of Orsino's affection, they spend hardly any time together on stage.
“Strangely enough, although Orsino is deeply in love with Olivia, they don't meet on stage until the end of the play. So we won't be doing a great deal of acting together,” laughs Jamie.
It will be the second time that Jamie has appeared in Twelfth Night - he played Viola's twin, Sebastian, when he was at drama school.
Both Jamie's parents are actors - his mother is Isla Blair. But he says that it wasn't a foregone conclusion that he should follow in their thespian footsteps.
“I think it was always a possibility, but they never pushed towards it - it's something I found for myself. There was either an inevitability about it or I would have done something completely different - like rally driving,” he says.
The last series of Waterloo Road ended on a cliffhanger, with Jamie's character being offered a job in Rwanda and forced to choose between his career and his blossoming romance with pastoral care teacher Kim.
But as it's been announced that Men Behaving Badly actor Neil Morrissey will be playing the school's deputy head when the series returns later this year so the clues are there.
“Waterloo Road finished for me at Christmas - I should probably check with the BBC press office, before I say anything,” Jamie laughs.
“I get a bit of recognition, which is great. It's a series which people really seem to have taken to their hearts and I'm very proud of the show. Before Waterloo Road there had been Teachers, but the teachers wanted to be at school even less than the pupils.
“At Waterloo Road they really cared about teaching and showed it for the hard profession is.
“I can assure you I'm not cut out to be a teacher. That's proper stress,” he adds.
He says that he's looking forward to getting back on stage. He's starred in many theatre productions - including Hamlet at Norwich Playhouse.
“It's only when you're Tom Cruise or Jude Law that you can actually plan a career as an actor in advance as such. Most of it comes down to luck.
“Most actors hope for a healthy mix in all the genres really. But, in all honesty, theatre is the part of the profession I enjoy the most. The live experience really is unbeatable. It's an actor's dream,” he says.
The sentiment is echoed by Sasha, who as Maya has been beamed into millions of homes. She was one-third of a love-triangle and as the drama spiralled out of control, she put her love interest Dev and her rival Sunita's life in danger, which led to plenty of interest from the red-top tabloids. She's also starred in the Inspector Morse spin-off Lewis and has appeared in Royal Shakespeare Company productions.
“I really enjoy going from one to the other. Classical theatre is very exciting, and it's good to get back to some. Funnily enough, though, I haven't done any Shakespeare with the RSC. I end up doing modern or Jacobian.
“Being in a soap is really more than an acting job, because at the time it really does affect your life because of the publicity and the reaction and the fact that it's such a well-loved thing. People hold it dear to their hearts. You become part of something that's important to a lot of people. Thankfully, it's calmed down a bit now. But as an actor you never say never to going back,” she says.
t Twelfth Night is being staged at Houghton Hall from July 25 to 28, Wednesday until Saturday, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £65. Gold packages, costing £100, are still available. It includes a ticket, and pre-show champagne and canapés in the Portrait Gallery. Houghton Hall is off the A148 near King's Lynn. For more information, including the latest cast information, visit the website at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or telephone the box office on 01603 630000.