Ahead of the opening night, theatre editor Daniel Perks catches up with Ian Hallard, currently playing Shakespeare in Robin Hooper’s world premiere, Foul Pages:

It’s not 1603 and thankfully there is no physical plague currently ravaging London (the symbolic plague that is the Conservative government is another debate entirely). But if you pop over to The Hope Theatre, you will transported 415 years back in time to watch Foul Pages, a scandalous farce that pits Shakespeare against King James I. The Bard’s latest show, As You Like It, is the only way to seduce the new king into releasing a condemned Sir Walter Raleigh.

Foul Pages is a world premiere by ex-Literary Manager at the Royal Court, Robin Hooper. Is it more or less daunting as an actor, trying on a character that has never been seen before? I caught up with Ian Hallard to gauge his thoughts:

Foul Pages Ian Hallard

Ian Hallard

“It’s always exciting working on a new play and being the first actor to create a particular role. I really enjoy the creative experience of rehearsing new writing and the additional opportunity it gives you to experiment, to throw things against the wall and see if they stick. Robin hasn’t been in the rehearsal room while we worked on the play, but he has seen it now and he seemed very happy – and a little bit emotional!”

Not having the writer in the rehearsal room in many ways takes the pressure off, I imagine. An added bonus for Ian is that Foul Pages is directed by The Hope Theatre’s Artistic Director, Matthew Parker – someone he last worked with on the Off West End-winning show, Lovesong of the Electric Bear:

“I can’t believe it’s been three years already. I really love working with Matthew: he brings a great energy into the rehearsal room, he doesn’t faff about and he is so totally at home in the Hope, he knows exactly what does or doesn’t work there. In Lovesong of the Electric Bear I played Alan Turing and in this William Shakespeare, so Matthew clearly has a thing about casting me as British geniuses!”

Artistic Director of The Hope Theatre, Matthew Parker

The Hope Theatre is on a quickly ascending trajectory – Matthew himself won the Off West End award for Best Artistic Director in 2017, and the theatre had eight further nominations for this latest awards season. As far as inspirations go, he must pretty high on the list of a number of theatre makers:

“I’ve worked with some amazing directors,  who manage to inspire you as an actor as well as managing to get a piece of theatre up and running. I’m inspired by actors who are generous and able to put their egos to one side for the benefit of the piece as a whole: good company members in other words. Anyone who has the resilience to stick it out in this business, in spite of the disappointments and the knock-backs, is pretty special.”

So, as Foul Pages approaches its press night, what was the one thing that drew Ian to this particularly farcical production?

“Principally, of course, it was the costume. Who doesn’t love striding about in doublet and hose?! All that aside, Matthew is drawn to non-naturalistic, slightly off-kilter pieces, and this is a look at an under-explored period of history. I love the Tudors and Elizabeth I: but James I is a fascinating character in his own right. He was a mass of contradictions and it’s interesting to view England at a turbulent, troubled time in its history. One might even observe some contemporary parallels…”



Foul Pages runs at The Hope Theatre until 17 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.