It’s great being busy, especially when you work in the world of theatre, and if there is one thing that Royal Court favourite Alan Stocks cannot claim to being right now, it is idle. Last month at The Royal Court Alan appeared in Lindzi Germain, Angela Simms and Lynn Francis’ hilarious hit debut play The Royal, which saw the RADA trained actor gain terrific reviews as Walter Bush.
Yet no sooner has the greasepaint dried on that particular production than along comes A Fistful of Collars, written by Royal Court Christmas show wordsmith Fred Lawless, directed by another Royal Court stalwart Bob Eaton and starring a host of Court jesters including Eithne Browne, Suzanne Collins and Lenny Wood.
“This is the second production of Fistful, with the first one being unbelievably six years ago, which is really quite scary when you get to think where the time’s gone,” Alan laughed during rehearsals. “The entire set up of three women running a dry cleaners trying to foil their evil landlord is just tailor made for laughs.
“I play the stupid copper who stumbles on what he thinks is, but in actuality isn’t, a highly organised crime ring and the mayhem sort of stems from there really. I really like the play. The cast are great and the dialogue is really very quick which always helps to keep things moving. We watched a recording of the show the other day and I’d forgotten how quickly it flies along. It is also a little bit silly, which always goes down a treat at The Royal Court.”
Lindzi and Angela are also in A Fistful of Collars, which always adds to the sense of fun the Royal Court encourages in its shows. “It doesn’t half make things easier working with people you know so well and get along with. We’re all mates and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and don’t have to try and break down any barriers that you sometimes find when you are working with someone new. It’s very like a Rep Company, which are pretty few and far between these days.”
Bob Eaton has directed the vast majority of Royal Court shows over the recent years and he is someone that Alan genuinely respects and admires. “Bob’s just brilliant and his biggest strength is that he really does know his audience. He’ll take a look at a production or a script and his mind instantly switches to a dozen things at once, trying to formulate ideas that’ll make it work for that audience. He’s great to work with.”
As we speak, The Royal is halfway through its current run and rehearsals for Fistful are well underway. One of the big questions we mere mortals in the stalls often ask is A) How do they remember all the lines and B) How come they don’t get their lines mixed up with other stuff?
“We don’t, you just think we know what we’re doing!” Alan laughed. “In all seriousness it’s the writing and the fact that it is so different that makes us stick to the script … well, more often than not.
“We’re all well used to performing and rehearsing at the same time, so working on two or three shows at once is nothing new. It just comes with practice and experience. It isn’t any big secret, really; your brain just sort of sections things off into compartments. Sometimes though, you can find that one character’s mannerisms or way of speaking comes out in the style of another character, but it doesn’t happen too often. I hope.”
Alan has been a regular Royal Court actor for six years, having moved back to Liverpool from London in 2010. As well as being on stage at The Royal Court and across Liverpool , audiences may also recognise him from a number of hit TV shows such as Wycliffe and, most notably, Wire in the Blood alongside Hermione Norris and Robson Green.
“I’d come back to Liverpool and auditioned for On The Ledge here at The Court, but didn’t get the role. Then I got a call asking if I’d like to play a part in Slappers & Slapheads as a pair of somewhat psychotic twins. It’s sort of paved the way for my future at the Court, really. The big thing is that I get to work with people I know and admire, don’t really have to travel anywhere and get to perform in front of audiences that are quite special. You can’t really beat all that for a job, can you?”
A Fistful of Collars is at The Liverpool Royal Court Theatre from 22 July TO 20 August. For tickets: http://www.royalcourtliverpool.co.uk/whats-on/a-fistful-of-collars or telephone 0151 709 4321