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Adrew Lancel in Swan Song

Interview: Andrew Lancel on his (not literal) Swan Song

Actor Andrew Lancel talks about his latest role in Swan Song at Turbine Theatre.

One of the shows that’s really piqued our interest this November is a new revival of Swan Song at the Turbine Theatre, Battersea Power Station. The star of this one-man play, Andrew Lancel, has appeared in so many TV and stage shows it would be hard to have missed him! Famously he played DI Neil Manson in The Bill and the creepy Frank Foster in Coronation Street, but he’s also highly regarded for his phenomenal portrayal of the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in Epstein – the Man who Made the Beatles and in Cilla; as Brian Clough in The Damned United; and more recently as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

We caught up with Andrew to ask him about bringing the show from sold out performances in Liverpool to one of London’s newest, most passionate theatre spaces.

Swan Song feels like a great show to get people back going back to live theatre right now. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s ideal – it’s intimate  and I think people really feel a part of it.

Whilst it’s set in the 90’s it feels topical. We all know a Dave and will be able to relate  to him in life and our school memories. He is always left behind because he can be a bit of an idiot but he’s also very funny.

It’s billed as a bittersweet comedy – is there more bitter or sweet, or maybe a balance of both?

Bang in the middle. (playwright) Jonathan Harvey is the master at this. 

Are you and your character Dave Titswell alike in any ways? Do you wear a lot of beige? Is Dave a character that you recognise in real life?

I’ve just got some beige boot socks but that’s about it! We look alike but that’s about it too – I think ..though I admit to liking the same music and soaps as him! It’s a cliche but we all know a Dave. Whilst he winds people up and can be a total dick, we do care for him. 

You have an incredible, award-winning creative team on this show. How has it been working with Jonathan Harvey and Noreen Kershaw, and are you an honorary Scouser now?  You know she supports Bury, right?

Yup – and I’ve watched bury a few times. Also we shot Hillsborough there. I’ve known them both for years and Jonathan and I only had one name written down for who we wanted to direct it. Noreen. Working with them both is a joy – their talent is endless.

What is it about the Lake District and Liverpool dramas?? From Willy Russell to Jimmy McGovern, things always happen out of town, so you seem to be in good company!

Hadn’t thought of that. In the original it was Swanage! It’s firmly rooted in Liverpool and takes us to the lakes – but this could be anywhere and anytime. 

You have a fabulous background in musicals, starring in productions like The Sound of Music and Cilla. Will we get to hear you sing in this show? What have you enjoyed about the part of Dave?

He’s hard work to play but great fun. I’m on my own up there but JH surrounds us with images and characters. A lot happens in the hour.. no singing but seriously bad dance moves!

The original 1997 play was scripted for a woman. What do you think it brings to the narrative in changing it to a gay man?

Well it was so I could do it for one! The original was wonderful – I wish I’d  seen it but I was far too young! It’s changed massively – obviously – but the heart is still the same. Need. Oh the need. 

Do you think the story reflects on the teaching profession differently after what they’ve been through during the Covid pandemic?

I remember when I did cardiac arrest a doctor telling me ‘we are hard done by’ and it feels very much like that now. They are and have been scapegoated and put under enormous pressure. So not much has changed .. which makes this play topical and accessible. It’s taken off with a life of its own – teachers love it- I’m thrilled about that. 

The Turbine seems a lovely new addition to London’s theatre scene.  Have you been to check it out yet and if so, what do you feel the venue and its audiences will be like for the show?

I love it. It’s perfect do this and I’ve seen wonderful things there. The area is beginning to bounce and now with the Tube.. wow, what a buzz. I think and hope they will be eclectic fun and up for a laugh.. and maybe a tear.. aren’t we all!?

Our thanks to Andrew for giving up his time to chat to us. Swan Song comes to Turbine Theatre between 29 November and 4 December. Further information and tickets via the below link.

The show also performs pre-London dates at The Coro in Ulverston on 19 and 20 November.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 13 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre; in Marketing, as a tour guide, archivist and volunteer, but is currently having fun volunteering at the Polka Theatre, which makes sense as she is ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry! Mary insists on now being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an MA in London's Theatre and Performance.