Jay Villiers (Accolade) has Tea with Wilma
Tell me about yourself and some of your career highlights so far.
I guess I’ve been lucky, in a career that has now lasted (I can’t believe it) over 30 years (seems like 5 minutes), I’ve had the privilege of working with the most wonderful people. I’ve been directed by and acted with Dame Judi Dench, (she directed me in Much Ado for Ken Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company and I played her son in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel); I’ve been directed by Sir Derek Jacobi and Geraldine McEwen (also for Renaissance); worked with the great French film Director Luc Besson (The Lady); I went to Australia with the RSC with Sir Anthony Sher’s celebrated Richard III; and have had the joy of playing many great roles all over the country and of filming all over the world.
As I say, lucky.
But the real highlight was the birth of my son, Ollie. We, that is myself, my wife Philippa, who is a TV Director, Ollie, and our dog, Algy, live in North London.
Tell me about the show you are doing and what attracted you to the role.
I am playing Thane Lampeter (they don’t make names like that any more, do they?) in Emlyn Williams 1950’s play ‘ACCOLADE’ which runs at the St James Theatre in Victoria until December 13th.
It’s a brilliant piece about a Nobel prize winning Writer whose private life catches up with him. Although written 65 years ago it is startling relevant, particularly since the Leverson Inquiry and Operation Yewtree. It raises so many questions – sexual morality and responsibility; a public figure’s right to privacy; corruption; and the end of innocence. It does so in such a way that it is almost a thriller.
Thane is the Writer’s publisher and a close friend of the family. He has to deal, firstly, with the personal impact of the revelations and, subsequently, with the dramatic fallout.
It’s a great part in a great play with a great cast and has been directed by the sublime Blanche McIntyre.
Have you ever had any funny/disastrous on-stage experiences?
I was at drama school at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and one of our final shows was Murder In The Cathedral by TS Eliot. I was playing one of the knights who murdered Thomas Becket. After the murder Eliot gives all four knights magnificent speeches to explain/defend their actions. We were costumed up in all the gear with those helmets that have the metal guard running down the nose. On the 1st night I took my helmet off to deliver my speech and couldn’t understand why the audience was laughing and continued to do so. What I didn’t know was that the stage management had decided that my silver helmet looked a bit tatty so had repainted it shortly before the performance. I had silver hair and a bloody great silver line running straight down my nose!
Are there any other theatre roles that you would like to have a go at playing?
Too many to list.
If you could be the opposite sex for a day, what theatre role would you like the play?
I direct a bit at Drama Schools. One of the first productions I did was The Merchant Of Venice and I thought – “Great. This is safe territory. There isn’t a part I want to play in it. I can be completely objective” – but by the end of rehearsals I longed to play Portia. What a great part. Katie Bonna, who played it and has since gone on to great success, was terrific.
However, there really aren’t enough roles for women in theatre or on TV and film so I don’t think us blokes should go around nicking them, even for a day.
What are your thoughts on theatre etiquette? What things annoy you when you are performing or when you are in the audience?
It’s an Actors job not to be late, to learn your lines, to try not to fall over (unless directed to), and make sure you can be heard.
It’s an Audiences job to turn off their mobile phones and to eat (if they have to) as sensitively as possible. Sweet wrappers and munching can really annoy.
Why do you think people should come and see your new show?
Because it’s brilliant, they’ll love it, and, above all, it’ll make them think.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
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Accolade is playing at the St James Theatre until 13 December 2014. Click here to book tickets.