COMEDY legend John Challis – Boycie from Only Fools and Horses – remembers only too well the last time he performed in the town production.
The year was 2000 and the weather was one of those thankfully rare occasions when the Heavens opened on the annual Bard fest.
He was playing Malvolio and not to put too find a point on it he got soaked.
Only a couple of years ago he performed in Ludlow’s outdoor Shakespeare production and the same thing happened.
This year he will play in both towns as the inaugural year of an agreement that will see Stafford Festival Shakespeare play in Ludlow for two weeks before opening here.
“I played Stafford in 12th Night in 2000. The weather was shocking that’s all I can remember but the audience were undercover,” he said.
“I did Ludlow a couple of years ago and the weather was shocking then but the audience was out in the open there.”
For a seasoned actor like Challis – he has trodden the boards in London and New York – it’s all part of the job and thankfully didn’t put him off a return gig in the county town.
This summer he will take on the role of Jaques – one of Duke Senior’s attendants who has a reputation for being melancholy and he is looking forward to revisiting some of Stafford’s historic sites.
“Stafford is an interesting town with the history of the castle. I’m into old properties. I live in as 12 th century property and it’s full of holes after the weather we’ve had.”
Jacques is a part he has been told for years he should play and he admits to some mixed emotions.
“He’s got the all the world’s a stage speech which is completely terrifying because everybody knows it. I’m pretty terrified of doing it. It’s one of those parts that people have said over the years that I should play.
“There are a lot of Shakespeare aficionados out there and they can recite great chunks of it but I’m looking forward to it.”
With a wealth of television and theatre credits to his name he says it’s a tough choice which he prefers but his actor’s heart tips the balance.
“Most actors say they prefer to work on television so they can afford to work in theatre because theatre is notoriously badly paid but most actors would say that’s what they prefer.”
Producer Derrick Gask said: “Jaques is a comedy yet deadpan character, a very cynical character. Jaques is the direct link between the audience and play.
“We are hugely excited about working with John, he is an incredibly accomplished television and stage actor. I know he will be ideal for the role with his perfect comic timing and unrivalled deadpan delivery.
“It’s shaping up to be a very, very special year.”
As You Like It opens at Stafford Castle on Sunday, June 29 until Saturday, July 12. For times and tickets call 01785 254653 or see www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk.
Before that John Challis will
For more information on John Challis will be at Stafford Gatehouse with his tour of Only Fools and Boycie, a show which spills the beans about his time on the cult comedy show.
For more details on that and his other projects see www.wigmorebooks.com.