Canal Street Online Manchester

The day Drew Tosh met Roy Cropper

The day Drew Tosh met Roy Cropper

Endgame by Samuel Beckett

It used to be the case that soap stars were pretty well pigeon holed. You could be a big name in Walford or Weatherfield but step outside the Square or the Street and work could be hard to come by as the public and casting directors struggled to accept a TV favourite in a different guise.

Not anymore though. Sarah Lancashire, Suranne Jones and Tasmin Outhwaite are among TV drama's top actresses. Even Peter Beale (Ben Hardy) has gone from selling fruit & veg to cracking Hollywood with an upcoming role in the next X Men movie!

For others, it's the lure of treading the boards and returning to the stage that draws them away from churning out four episodes a week.

Corrie's Hayley Cropper (RIP) was recently back in theatreland with Julie Hesmondhalgh starring in 'Wit' and now her beloved Roy returns to the live stage for the first time in eight years as David Neilson alongside fellow Corrie actor Chris Gascoyne (Peter Barlow) stars in Samel Beckett's 'Endgame'.

I caught up with David to talk about leaving Roy's Rolls behind for a totally different world and how Corrie fans have responded. 

'It is world's apart from the Street but the reactions have been really gratifying. There's something about this piece that lodges in the mind on a very human level. It's a difficult text and you don't have to understand it all – it would be impossible. You just have to come in with an open mind. If you're frightened of things you dont understand, you're frightened of the world. No one understands the world though we all go around pretending that we do.'

'Endgame' began in Glasgow before coming down to Manchester. This absurd and macabre play depicts an apocalyptic, often bleak but also funny world where four people are trapped in a filthy room - master, servant and the master's parents (who are reduced to living in rubbish bins). In a role reversal to their TV personas, David plays the Hamm, the blind tyrant while Chris is Clov the servant. 

'It's alI been very exciting. I am a huge admirer of Chris as an actor and Peter Kelly and Barbara Rafferty are brilliant as the parents. I get to listen to them every night. I worry I'll get so engrossed I miss a cue but so far so good! We have to take the trip together every night and don't enjoy it until we come off. We never know how its gone but you just experience it together. We don't actually contact each other on stage - my character is blind so it's all done through the ears and you're on your own. It's a really interesting, unique experience and the most difficult thing I've ever done.'

Mixing the macabre with humour isn't an easy thing to pull off but David gives all the credit to Beckett and Director Dominic Hill.

'It's all there in the text, we just channel it and it seems to work. Dominic is very precise and doesn't waste words so it doesn't confuse you. He knows when (and when not) to give you the notes because this is big stuff and you cant take on everything. It's 90 minutes and you dont leave the stage the whole time. It is so concentrated and it repeats on itself so you have to be right on it – you can't just invent a bit of Beckett!'

We all we love a moan and one line in the play, 'Nothing is funnier than unhappiness' could sum up the mood of a nation these days. Perhaps Beckett tapped into this element of British mentality way before his time.

'There is nothing like other people's misfortunes to reassure you. At least it wasn't me and that there's always somebody worse off than yourself. You're on earth, theres no cure for that, this is what it is. The play has got every element and the audience is essential – everyone gets a different play. It depends on your life experience and the way you are. Bits of it you'll get and bit you wont.'

After 8 years away from the stage, I wondered how David has felt being back in front of a live audience.

'Oddly, I haven't been nervous. There's no room for that. It's like building a house and worrying it'll fall down - you just have to lay one brick at a time on top of another, otherwise you'd get overwhelmed. There are rhythms to Beckett. It's like perfectly crafted poetry and you have to get it right. It's a lot of work and I did wonder 'have I still got the brain cells at my age to hold it and play it?' but there was only one way to find out. The Street is written in 3 weeks and delivered but you can re-take if you screw it up. You have to learn then mentally discard scripts so it's a different discipline. One isn't easier, they're just different.' 

Once the play is over (March 12th) I wondered if David would be returning to the cobbles of Weatherfield and whether he'll be taking on another theatre challenge in the future?

'I'm back on the street towards the end of March. As regards other work, who knows? This opportunity just presented itself. I think why it's been a success is that it had an organic feel to it - just thought, 'I'm going to HAVE to do this.' 

'Endgame' is a Home and Citizens Theatre co-production. 

It runs @ Home until 12 March.

Box Office 0161 200 1500

By Drew Tosh for Canal St Online.

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Published: 2-Mar-2016

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