Jonathan Maitland’s debut play, Dead Sheep, directed by Ian Talbot OBE, arrives at Cardiff’s New Theatre next week as part of its UK tour.
Following the real-life events surrounding British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Steve Nallon) ruthlessly sacking her Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe (Paul Bradley), once her closest professional confidante and political ally, the Iron Lady thinks she had nothing to worry about, especially since Howe’s speaking skills had famously been compared to ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’. However, inspired by his wife, Howe delivered one of the deadliest political speeches ever made, destroying the Prime Minister’s career in the process.
“I’d say it’s a political comedy drama, its about relationships,” Paul Bradley tells Andy Howells. “His wife Elspeth was very strong minded and really bounced off Thatcher and didn’t like her at all. His autobiography was called Conflict of Loyalty and one of those conflicts was between his wife and Thatcher, he spent an awful lot of time with Margaret Thatcher and there are moments in the play where both she and Elspeth clash. If you didn’t know anything about him it’s an interesting comedy drama about relationships.”
The play, although set in 1989, still has relevant issues as Paul points out, “ A lot of the laughs are about Europe and at that time, Mrs Thatcher was against the European Exchange Rate and the mechanism was very much that Great Britain should be independent and of course it’s all very relevant now.”
Famous for his roles as Nigel Bates in EastEnders and Dr Elliot Hope in Holby City, Paul is no stranger to the world of comedy. “You can never determine how your career goes,” he says, “The only power you can have as an actor is to say “No” to something and its quite tricky getting work. My early stage career I did lots of comedies and in my early television I was in Bottom and The Young Ones and I sort of thought that’s how it was going to go. Then I got offered a job in EastEnders and I thought that character was comedy anyway.”
Both EastEnders and Holby City culminated in over 16 years of regular work for Paul. Did he ever worry about becoming typecast been featured on such high profile TV shows? “I left EastEnders because I thought it was such a huge programme and if you stay there too long, its very difficult to leave,” he says, “I was young enough to try and do something else and when Holby came along (and) I enjoyed it so much. I always think it’s a privilege as an actor to work, so I just had a good time and ten years went really quickly.”
Now back on stage, Paul faced new challenges when researching playing a real–life figure in Geoffrey Howe “There’s a bit on YouTube and there’s the famous speech of course which we do at the end (of the show) and also I read his autobiography. He was actually Welsh born in Port Talbot and I think his Welshness was very important to him and he does say in his book that although he’s got a very plummy accent when he used to go to Wales he sounded more Welsh when he went there.”
The challenges don’t end with his own portrayal, Paul stars opposite actor Steve Nallon who famously voiced Margaret Thatcher’s puppet in the TV series Spitting Image. “Its quite amazing and frightening really,” laughs Paul of Steve Nallon’s portrayal, “when he’s got make up on, he looks frighteningly like her and of course there’s the voice!”
- Dead Sheep runs at The New Theatre from October 11 -15 visits www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889 for ticket details.