Rik Returns to Where He Was a Young One

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

This Is Worcestershire, 21st January 2003

Just getting to interview Rik Mayall was quite a feat in itself. Our phone calls criss-crossed in mid-air like tracer bullets until, at around 3:30pm on Christmas Eve afternoon, they finally collided.

“Hang on to that man,” Rik had urged his receptionist. “It’s the good old Evening News, the most important paper in the country!”

At the time, he was sitting in his agent’s office with another phone to his ear, winding up a conversation with another journalist. But a chat with us had apparently been top priority all day.

After a 30-second delay and a hasty goodbye to his other caller, he was there.

“Gotcha,” he cried. “Now we must talk. I’m relying on you to put bums on seats at Malvern.”

Relying on me is always a dodgy proposition, so it’s a good job Rik Mayall is a big enough name not to have to.

Anyway, Malvern Festival Theatre is a home game for him, so there should be a healthy turnout of fans when he opens in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter later this month.

Family from Droitwich, former Worcester King’s School pupil, appearances as a youngster at Worcester’s Swan Theatre… he’s got half the county in his back pocket before he starts.

Even more so here, because Rik Mayall fits this play as if to the manner born.

“It’s about a bloody good looking, charismatic, 40-something actor, who reckons he’s really something. Remind you of anyone?” he enquired.

“I loved the script as soon as I saw it. It’s so funny I almost broke a rib laughing.”

Set in the glamorous world of Jazz Age theatre, Present Laughter was written by Noel Coward as a vehicle for himself and the lead role was always regarded as autobiographical.

Does Rik see himself as the modern-day Coward?

“No, I’m better looking than him!” he laughed. “Seriously, I’ve always loved his better-known stuff and this is right up my street.

“In fact, I’ve been thinking for a while about doing something about middle age and the male menopause and it was there all the time.”

The play is all about a clash of egos between light comedy actor Garry Essendine and his entourage as he sets of for a tour of Africa.

The tour of Present Laughter is, for the moment, going all round Britain, with Rik particularly looking forward to his week in Malvern.

“A chance to catch up with old mates. See you there,” he said.

Mind you, if the phone calls are anything to go by, we’ll probably spend the evening wandering round the theatre bar missing each other by miles.