Q&A: We catch up with actor and comedian Robert Webb
The 42-year-old, best known for his role alongside David Mitchell in TV's Peep Show, plays Bertie Wooster in Perfect Nonsense at Belfast's Grand Opera House in March.
Q: Having appeared in Perfect Nonsense for a stint earlier this year, what excites you most about re-joining the cast?
A: The show has lots of high-energy, fast-paced action, so I'm looking forward to that physical aspect of it. Jason Thorpe and Christopher Ryan are in it alongside me. I haven't worked with either of them before and I'm hugely looking forward to it.
Q: Did you have to read a lot of PG Wodehouse to prepare for the role, or were you already quite familiar with his work?
A: I read a couple of the books when I was a teenager, and I saw the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie series when I was growing up. My character Bertie pretty much talks non-stop for two hours so it's quite a big learn. It's different to TV. Bertie's enormous theatrical presence works in the theatre but it would look mad on TV.
Q: It's a cliche that TV actors experience a great thrill when treading the boards in a theatre, but is this true in your experience?
A: It is a real thrill to have the audience right there in front of you, because you get that immediate response. A TV filming day is very long, and the actual acting is only a tiny part of that. But then at the end of it, you've made something that is immortalised in time, whereas in theatre there's no record.
Q: The show won the Olivier award for Best New Comedy in April. Have critics and audiences reacted well to it because Wodehouse's satirisation of the Edwardian upper-classes is relevant to the privileged backgrounds of today's government?
A: I get that theory but once you see the show you'll understand that it is just not that satirical. That combination of upper-class idiots and a brilliant, omnipresent butler who solves all the problems as if by magic is just a very well established stage show. It's a joy to witness that template in whatever incarnation. It's won awards because … it's just funny!
Q: Your character, Bertie, displays the same self-delusion as Jeremy in Peep Show. Is it fun to play these figures?
A: It is enjoyable. Jeremy definitely has those moments of complete self-delusion, where he is entirely unaware of his own flaws. However, particularly in the last series of Peep Show, there is a lot of doubt creeping in. Bertie certainly doesn't bother to question anything about his own life. Most of the time all he worries about is what he's going to do between meals.
Q: A new season of Peep Show is being filmed in the summer. As you and co-star David Mitchell get older, do you have to work harder to maintain the relatability of the programme?
A: Well, the new season will be no different in tone to the other seasons. I think David was right when he said that it was starting to look a bit odd with two middle-aged men living together in a flat still. So this is going to be the last season, but I'm delighted to do it. There will be some surprises, but Mark and Jeremy aren't going to win the lottery and they're not going to fall off a cliff or under a bus.
- Perfect Nonsense runs at Belfast's Grand Opera House from March 24-28. Visit www.goh.co.uk