Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company, And Then There Were None returns to Cardiff's New Theatre stage next week.
Adapted for the stage by Agatha Christie herself, the play is based on the best-selling mystery novel of all time and follows the story of ten strangers who arrive on a remote island off the coast of Devon only to find that their host, an eccentric millionaire, is missing. A torrential storm forces them to remain on the island and, with an ancient nursery rhyme haunting them, the guests start to die one by one.
And Then There Were None features an all-star cast of familiar faces from the world of television including Paul Nicholas (Just Good Friends), Colin Buchanan (Dalziel and Pascoe), Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet of Barbed Wire), Verity Rushworth (Emmerdale), Mark Curry (Blue Peter), Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier) and Frazer Hines, known for his regular roles in Doctor Who and Emmerdale Farm.
Andy Howells recently caught up with Frazer and chatted with him about the show and his career which began as a young boy back in the 1950s.
How has the tour of And Then There Were None been received so far?
We’re packing them out, they love Agatha Christie! Bill Kenwright has got together a fantastic cast of people that if you don’t like Paul Nicholas, you might like me, if you don’t like me you might like Mark Curry or Susan Penhaligon, there’s always someone to like in the cast!
It’s like a who’s who of great British actors.
You’re correct, well-known and even if I say it myself, well-loved faces!
When was your earliest theatrical performance?
I started off in television, because in those days you had to be 12 to actually do theatre. I played Napoleon in Huntingtower and then Shaun Sutton who was head of children’s television at the BBC then gave me the part that got me known which was Jan in The Silver Sword. My first theatre was at the Royal Court Theatre with Dame Peggy Ashcroft and George Devine in The Good Woman of Setzuan, I found a programme, Peter Wyngarde, John Osborne and Colin Jeavons were all in it and the programme was sixpence! It was an amazing cast!
|Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines in |
Doctor Who from 1968
I’d worked with Shaun Sutton so many times as a little boy and then this part of Jamie came up. I got this phone call from my agent who asked me to go and see the producer Innes Lloyd. He said “Frazer, Shaun (Sutton) tells me you can do a Scottish accent.” I said “Yes I can”. He said “This is a part in Doctor Who, Do you fancy playing Jamie?” and I said “Yes”, that was it, no reading, no audition, I just met Innes Lloyd and that was it. The second episode went out and the BBC switchboard was jammed with people saying “wouldn’t it be a good idea if Jamie was to become a companion?” and that lead to three of the happiest years of my life, starring with dear Patrick Troughton.
It’s still a big part of your life, what was it like for you when the recent missing episodes The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World were recovered?
Fantastic! The fans were more excited about the recovery of those two missing stories than the 50th anniversary episode! They were clamoring for more so hopefully they will find more! The BBC paid me for an interview for a release for The Underwater Menace, which they also did with Anneke Wills and Catherine Howe. I don’t know why but they’ve shelved that at the moment, the BBC doesn’t usually pay you and not use you!
It must be strange for you because all this happened over forty years ago!
When the episodes are found I go to America once or twice a year and the lovely thing is it’s renewed again in people’s interests, you sign peoples DVD covers and stuff like that.
Of course, you were also well known for your role as Joe Sugden in Emmerdale Farm
I was there for eleven years, then got married and left for four, then I got divorced and my mother died and then Sheila Mercier my screen mother (Annie Sugden) called and said “My dear, you’re not having a lot of luck why don’t you come back to your screen family”.
It got me a different sort of fan base because Doctor Who fandom had dropped off by then so Joe resurrected it. When I left Emmerdale I went into The Two Doctors (with Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton). I’d done The Five Doctors (for Doctor Who’s 20th anniversary) and Doctor Who Producer John Nathan Turner asked “It was so good to see you in The Five Doctors, would you do any more?” I said “I’d jump at it!” I then did The Two Doctors which got me to the new audience who had been watching since Jon Pertwee onwards who had never seen the classic stuff so I was put on the ladder of fandom again.
You’re going to be in Cardiff with And Then There Were None, will there be an opportunity for you to pop in on the Doctor Who set?
I’d like to. I got an email today saying “We’ll keep you posted Frazer, we’d love to have you on the set,” I’d love to, because Janet Fielding (Tegan) met David Tennant, Anneke Wills met Matt Smith and I’d like to meet Peter Capaldi!
|Frazer Hines today|
Of course! I’d do it for nothing!
So tell us about your role in And Then There Were None?
I’m playing Rogers The Butler. I won’t say the butler did it, it’s a bit of a cockney part, maybe how Bill Hartnell (the original Doctor Who) might have played it with light trousers, black jacket, it’s a nice character part for me.
I played a lovely character part recently in Outlander. It’s written by Diana Gabaldon who saw me in the Doctor Who story The War Games and wrote a story about a woman who in 1946 falls into a fairy ring and goes back to 1746 and meets somebody called Jamie Fraser. I play a character called Sir Fletcher Gordon the governor of Wentworth prison and that went out on Amazon Prime a few Saturdays ago. Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are fantastic in it, great actors. Tobias Menzies who plays the villain in it Frank Randall, I feel would make a great Master in Doctor Who.
And of course you’re still involved with Doctor Who by appearing in new audio dramas?
I do them for Big Finish and yes I do Patrick’s voice as well as Jamie, I go from one voice to another in a scene, I love it, its great fun to do and I get to keep Patrick’s memory alive for all the fans.
What other projects have you got lined up?
I’ve got a TV production company called Snowball Productions and we’ve got a comedy series written by a lovely actress called Rachel Warren called Totty. When I finish this play I’ve got a six part black comedy series called It’s Behind You. I’ve then got to have a shoulder operation, so while my arm is in a sling I’ll be putting my producer’s hat on and trying to get that put together as well.
There’s also a couple of movies which I should have done last year, written by Tony Lee, they are called The Mild Bunch and Scrum Like It Hot, they’ve been put on the back-burner, but hopefully I’ll be doing those next year.
You still enjoy your work?
I still enjoy working, I think you have to m very fortunate in that I’ve never had to work for the money, I’ve always enjoyed stuff that I’ve done I don’t think id like to retire.
What would you say has been your career highlight?
Getting the part of Jamie which gave me three happy years with Patrick and its taken me all over the world to New Zealand, Canada and Australia, I guess that would have to be number one. I played a psychopathic killer in a Granada TV series called The Villains that would come second!
How would you describe this production of And Then There Were None to anyone who was thinking of coming to see it?
I would say come and see a great cast of your favourite TV faces gelling together and making a great show.
- And Then There Were None is at The New Theatre, Cardiff from Tuesday June 30 – Saturday July 4. Tickets are on sale now from £9.50 to £30.50. For further details about the show or to book tickets* visit newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889.
- A shorter version of this interview by Andy Howells appear in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 26, 2015. Read the e-edition here.
- Visit Frazer Hines official blog