Backstage with... Rufus Sewell

Time Out London, 11 January 2013
By Andrzej Lukowski
Thanks, Nell

The actor discusses his return to the stage in Pinter's 'Old Times'

Since starring in Tom Stoppard's smash 2006 play 'Rock'n'Roll', actor Rufus Sewell has focused on his successful small screen career. He returns to the stage this month in Ian Rickson's revival of Harold Pinter's cryptic 'Old Times', the late playwright's 1971 play about three supposed 'old friends' with divergent memories of their shared history. Sewell will play the insecure Deeley, while co-stars Kristin Scott-Thomas and Lia Williams will alternate the roles of Kate and Anna.

You've done no stage work since 'Rock'n'Roll' closed in 2008. Is that because it took up two years of your life?
When I did 'Rock'n'Roll' I decided that I wanted to do plays much more often, but it's literally just a matter of the right things coming along. I don't give a fuck how long a play takes, to tell you the truth, because I spend more time than that unemployed, it's never been about fitting it into my busy schedule.

Have you been offered a lot of stage parts you're not interested in?
What one might regard as 'celebrity theatre' has always been something that did not appeal to me. I've always liked the idea of doing new plays and if they turned out to be great then let them get big. It's taken me a long time to be offered what sounds like a great role on the West End.

This is the first Pinter play you've been in - did you know him at all?
I'm at a slight disadvantage in this cast in that I'm the only one who didn't know him or work with him personally. But no one's really parading their knowledge, it feels like we're all coming to it from the same place, though that might just be generosity on their part. What I reacted to in this was not the “Pinterness” of it but the fact it was such an emotional, gripping, brilliant play. I've tried to respond to it that way - hoping there's not some sort of received style for how people are supposed to do it.

What about Pinter's famed pauses?
Well I'm a pause-y fucker anyway so I don't suppose it makes that much difference.

Kristin Scott-Thomas and Lia Williams will swap roles throughout the run; what will that add to it?
When I first heard about the project I was mostly attracted by the play and the cast and the director. The role-swapping obviously I took into account but it didn't register as deeply; maybe at first glance I thought 'is this a bit of a gimmick?'. But the more we do it and the more we get to know how these two lives - in fact three lives - were intertwined it seems more and more valid. It's psychologically very strange for us all - it's interesting to see what the rewards or otherwise will be.

Do you all have understudies? That must be a headfuck for them...
I think I saw a couple of very bewildered and nervous-looking young understudies, yes. Quietly hunted-looking figures. No, that's not fair, they looked quite up for it. But I do feel sorry for them.

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