From the cult 90s series Lipstick On Your Collar to sci-fi favourite Primeval, the critically acclaimed Scottish actor Douglas Henshall is rarely off our screens. Luckily for us, he’s also a stage favourite and following his last outing opposite Kristin Scott Thomas in 2011’s West End production of Betrayal, he’s back at the Hampstead theatre in a very different role, this time portraying infamous politician and soldier Oliver Cromwell in Howard Brenton’s 55 Days, a drama set during one of the most turbulent periods of English history.
As the cast prepares for a hopefully less turbulent period, the show’s official opening tonight, we challenged Henshall to our quick-fire quiz and discovered a secret kitchen habit, how his mother is responsible for the proudest moment in his career and why a pink palace always wins him over.
What first sparked your interest in performing?
Watching my friends who were in a youth theatre in my home town of Barrhead [in Scotland] and it looked like fun so I went along to audition.
In 55 Days you play Oliver Cromwell who famously supported the trial of King Charles I. If you could put anyone dead or alive on trial now, who would it be?
Margaret Thatcher for all the obvious reasons, closely followed by Tony Blair.
If you were in politics, which law would you pass straight away and why?
That all big corporations should pay their fair share of tax.
Have you done a lot of research for 55 Days and the period it is set in?
The play is incredibly well researched and I took almost everything I needed from the play. Most biographies of Cromwell are very dry and fact-based and aren’t based on him as a man.
Are you taking inspiration from anyone in particular to play the role?
Cromwell is inspiring enough.
Stage or screen?
They are both equally attractive in their own way.
What is your favourite city in the world?
Buenos Aires. Anywhere where the presidential palace is pink has to have something going for it.
What has been your proudest moment of your career so far?
Being at the RSC was a very big deal for my mother. She was delighted that I was in Stratford-upon-Avon and thought I had finally made it. So for the amount of pleasure that it gave my mum, I would say that would be one of the best moments.
What advice would you like to impart on the world?
What could you not be without?
Do you have any passions people might be surprised to hear about?
Cooking. I make the best chicken soup this side of Golders Green.
Where do you head after a performance?
How would you like to be remembered?
Over a drink.
What would you choose as a last meal?
My mother in law’s sea bass.
If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?
A tennis player.
What ambitions do you have left to achieve?
Too many to mention…
- 55 Days - Hampstead Theatre
- Age Suitability: General
- Genre: Play
- opening night:
- box Office: 020 7722 9301
The Arts Desk
Rev Stan's Theatre Blog
London Evening Standard
What's On Stage
The Times (full article here)
55 Days - Press Night photos and reviews
Wednesday (24 Oct) was Press Night at Hampstead Theatre for 55 Days. Guests included Penny Smith, Zoe Wanamaker and Stephen Fry.
★★★★ The Guardian
‘The real pleasure lies in seeing a pivotal moment in English history presented with such fervent dramatic power’
★★★★ The Times
‘Douglas Henshall, gives us a still, burning, troubled Cromwell, part politician, part zealot, jabbing at Bible verses. Mark Gatiss, beaky and disdainful with a camp Morningside diction, beautifully delivers Brenton’s 17th-century rhythms, especially in Charles’s authentic lines’
★★★★ The Telegraph
‘At its considerable best, the play depicts the political process with clarity and vigour’
‘The only figure in seventeenth century costume is Charles I, rivetingly played by Mark Gatiss with a Scots burr, an ironically edged sense of total entitlement, and a gasping stammer of revulsion and fear whenever he has to pronounce the words “people” and “parliament”’
★★★★ Financial Times
‘Absorbing and rich, 55 Days is a rewarding warning against revolutions that turn 360 degrees’
★★★★ Daily Mail
‘Douglas Henshall’s Cromwell is an unexpected creation. Mr Henshall makes him almost a male model at times, fussing about his own blond hairdo and turning up his jacket collar to look just so’
Source (including photo above, and more): Hampstead Theatre