Preview: Daytona at the Park Theatre, N4

Harry Shearer with Maureen Lipman and John Bowe

Harry Shearer with Maureen Lipman and John Bowe - Credit: Archant

Actor John Bowe counts Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley and Derek Jacobi as chums.

The 63-year-old – who is starring as one of three leads in the world premiere of the play Daytona at Finsbury Park’s new Park Theatre – first catapulted to fame as a psychotic serial killer in the TV drama Prime Suspect.

Since then, he has starred as Duggie Ferguson in Coronation Street, Dr Morgan in BBC drama series Cranford and Dr Patrick Aspern in DCI Banks.

He has also appeared on stage as Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd and Bob in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Mr Bowe could be considered one of a dying breed of classically trained actors, who worked in theatre before branching out into television and film in the early 1990s.

He admits he would work in theatre all the time, but with a wife and six children, TV helps him to “keep the wolf from the door”.

A keen horse rider, his school geography teacher spotted his acting talent and “pushed” him onto the stage when he was 14 to 15.

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He says he’s never looked back.

“I think a lot of actors are very shy people,” he said. “I’m able to come out of myself when I perform. This is why I don’t like being on chat shows or in front of the camera as myself. I prefer being somebody else on camera.”

‘Greatest fun’

When asked about his career highlight, he immediately identifies Cyrano de Bergerac in which he played Le Bret alongside Sir Derek Jacobi’s Cyrano.

“Doing that on Broadway in one of the greatest theatres was the greatest fun,” he said. “Looking back, it is a beautiful memory.”

He said he “drooled” when he picked up the script for Daytona. He plays Billy, who comes back into the lives of married couple Joe and Elli, who are on track to win a big ballroom dancing competition. Having disappeared 30 years before, his reappearance threatens to throw everything off balance.

He says the story makes for difficult, albeit rewarding, viewing.

“The play is not for anybody who wants to watch dances and eat sweets – it’s a harrowing story”, he said. “Love is involved and so is family, which is why it’s a play about the human condition and the consequences of decisions people make.”

n Daytona will run at the Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4, until August 18. Tickets cost £12, call 020 7870 6876.

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