phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
‘I always look forward to returning to the theatre’: an interview with Stephen Tompkinson
Image Credit: Stephen Tompkinson and Dean Bone in The Red Lion

‘I always look forward to returning to the theatre’: an interview with Stephen Tompkinson

22 October 2017 Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Since getting his start in Brassed Off over 20 years ago, Stephen Tompkinson has been a regular face in both television and film, most recently for his long term role as DCI Alan Banks, the stubborn detective. Now, he comes to the London West End in Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion. He talks to London Calling about football and nostalgia.

London Calling: Thank you so much for talking to London Calling.  Could you tell us about the character you play in The Red Lion.
 
Stephen Tompkinson: The character I play in The Red Lion is called Jimmy Kidd, a football manager of a Northern League football team, the oldest football league in Great Britain. He’s been at this club for about two years and he’s very ambitious.  He styles himself as a bit of a maverick, he likes to preen and looks at the camera, even though at the club that he’s at, cameras are seldom seen, so it’s a thwarted ambition. The play is set in the dressing room of the football club and the other two characters are an older kit man who looks after the gear. He used to play for the club, he used to manage the club, his father used to play for the club. There’s also the young protégée, who’s super talented. The play is a kind of Faustian battle for this lad’s soul, about whether he wants to stay at the club he’s loved all his life or, following my character, if he wants to accelerate his career, in order to make a quick buck for himself. It is a metaphor for any business pre and post Thatcher so it’s not just about football. Many people have come to see the play who can’t stand football and really enjoyed the experience. Patrick Marber is that clever.


Stephen Tompkinson, Dean Bone and John Bowler in Patrick Marber's The Red Lion
 
LC: There sounds like there’s a lot going on there! What was it in particular that interested you in your role?
 
ST: Anything written by Patrick is going to be brilliant. The play is a three-hander with no interval so it’s very intense. It’s going to be at the Trafalgar Studios, so the audience will actually be in the dressing room. It’s wonderful to have the audience within touching distance. It’s a real experience.
 
LC: How did you find working with such a small cast?
 
ST: Brilliant! It’s a different set of acting muscles. But having had a successful run of the play earlier in the year [in Newcastle], to be reunited here in London is an absolute treat. When you get to revisit something after a few weeks’ absence you can still find new things. It will be a wonderfully fresh production.
 
LC: How did you find returning to live theatre?
 
ST: It’s something I like to do every two or three year just because it’s a chance to tell a story from beginning middle and end. When you are doing the film or TV it can be all out of order, and dependent on whatever location you are in. But here, it’s very dependant on the audience you get, particularly with a comedy, you get immediate reaction, you can see how the joke has landed. It’s different all the time. So it’s a different set of acting muscles and something I always look forward to. It’s as raw as it can be.


Stephen Tompkinson and John Bowler in The Red Lion
 
LC: Why do you think football has such a cultural importance?
 
ST: Even though football has changed so much and it’s no longer the case that people who represent teams are actually from that area, they are still based in that area, they represent a lot of people’s hopes and dreams. It used to be very different. When the Celtics were at the European cup, all of those players were born between a three or four mile radius of the grounds, so you could live vicariously through them and celebrate their successes and feel their pain.
 
LC: Has it made you nostalgic for watching football when you were  younger?
 
Very much. My family supported Middlesborough because we were from Stockton-on-Tees. And sometimes I still go up to the stand where Middlesborough play now. It doesn’t feel as special to me as it did when I was a kid. It’s changed very much. But still the escapism, for working people, you are watching these guys fulfilling your dreams, that represent you somehow.
 
LC: So the sense of the place is very important then?
 
ST: Yes. And, the Northern league is the oldest league in the country. Newcastle is deep in football history. But the passion will translate to the Trafalgar Studios.
 
LC: So the play has been in Newcastle and has now transferred to London. Is there anything happening in London you are particularly looking forward to seeing or doing?
 
ST: I’ll be busy November through December so I’m looking forward to the onset of Christmas. I’ve always liked winter, I find it magical. There’s always a different atmosphere around that time of year. You are much more aware of people building towards Christmas and thinking of other people rather than themselves, so it’s always been the capital that does that for me.
 
The Red Lion is at Trafalgar Studios from 1 November – 2 December.
 

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Freud The Musical

Freud The Musical

A One Woman Show about Sex, Madness and Medicine

An Interview with Sarah Roy

An Interview with Sarah Roy

After a successful Edinburgh Fringe run, the actor is starring in Derek Ahonen’s one-woman show Catherine and Anita at the King’s Head Theatre. She talks to…

An Interview with Ian Grant

An Interview with Ian Grant

The writer, actor and publisher talked to London Calling about his play After The Ball, votes for women and a mysterious find in his grandparents’ house…

Harry and Chris in Joyride

Harry and Chris in Joyride

The Rapp-Jazz-Comedy Duo bring their fun-filled monthly show to Leicester Square Theatre

Succubus comedy night

Succubus comedy night

Razor-sharp women’s satirical magazine, Succubus, launches a brand new comedy night championing female comedy writers and stand ups.

The Best Theatre in London this February

The Best Theatre in London this February

Ah February. It’s always nice to see you: short, chirpy and signalling the beginning of the end for winter. Theatre-wise, things are also starting to heat…

An Interview with Justin Edwards

An Interview with Justin Edwards

Lauded as the play of the year in 2017, Jez Butterworth's play about a family of farmers touched by the political troubles in 1980' Northern…

Win Tickets to Lab Late: Managing the Biosphere

The Imagination Lab - Win Tickets to Lab Late: Managing the Biosphere

Are you concerned about rapid changes facing the planet? Do you want to hear about a movement that advocates for action, driven by the people?

Amy Conway’s Super Awesome World

Amy Conway’s Super Awesome World

Depression, growing up, and video games - join Amy Conway on a dark and difficult quest

Classical Spectacular

Classical Spectacular

Music, lights, lasers and fireworks!

Most popular

Win Tickets to Best of Broadway!

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Win Tickets to Best of Broadway!

Experience an evening showcasing the finest shows on Broadway and in the West End live at the Royal Albert Hall.
Win 2 Tickets to a Cocktail Cinema Evening!

Courthouse Hotel - Win 2 Tickets to a Cocktail Cinema Evening!

Your chance to win a magical night out with this Cocktail Cinema Evening for Two at the 5* Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch!
Win 2 tickets to see Good Girl

Trafalgar Studios - Win 2 tickets to see Good Girl

Naomi Sheldon’s award-winning debut play
Win Tickets to The Enchanted Room

Estorick Collection - Win Tickets to The Enchanted Room

We've got two tickets to give away to a unique display of Italian art.
Win Tickets to Lab Late: Managing the Biosphere

The Imagination Lab - Win Tickets to Lab Late: Managing the Biosphere

Are you concerned about rapid changes facing the planet? Hear about a movement that advocates for action, driven by the people!
Top 5: Brutalist Buildings in London

Top 5: Brutalist Buildings in London

Concrete beasts in the city
Win a bottle of Prosecco and free entry to Womb 2

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen - Win a bottle of Prosecco and free entry to Womb 2

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen in Hackney is celebrating it’s 4th birthday with a massive 4 day party of individually themed events.
Top 5: Escape room games in London

Top 5: Escape room games in London

Exciting quest for adventurous explorers
Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, David Calder and David Morrissey take to London’s newest stage.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!