Karl Davies returns to Norfolk

Karl Davies is an actor who likes a challenge. Whether he was at the centre of major storylines in Emmerdale or playing the hapless legal clerk in Kingdom, his CV is certainly packed with a wide variety of roles.

Now he is preparing for a major test of his acting skills taking on a range of parts – including a woman – as part of the Propeller company who are heading back to Norwich Theatre Royal in 2012.

John Bultitude caught up with him in a break from rehearsals to talk about playing a woman in one of the Bard’s plays, memories of Norfolk….and why he’s been doing army drills on Clapham Common.

From the minute you start chatting to Karl Davies, you can sense his excitement at becoming part of the Propeller company.

There is no such thing as an ordinary acting job – and joining the all-male Shakespeare company is as far from an ordinary acting job as you can get.

He is playing multiple parts in two different productions – Henry V and The Winter’s Tale – and even taking on the role of a woman who speaks some French, so it is going to be no walk in the park.

Despite the demands, Karl is enjoying the challenge and soaking up lots of knowledge from his colleagues. He explained: “Rehearsals are going very well and I’m learning a lot. There is a lot to take in for me as I have never done Shakespeare before.

“I have not come from a theatre school and I have had no theatrical training. When the opportunity presented itself through the director Ed Hall, who I had worked with before, I thought that this would be my shot to do some Shakespeare. I just love his writing.”

He will be taking on four different parts during the Propeller tour, which comes to Norwich Theatre Royal on May 8-12. Karl will play Katherine, Scroop, Boy and a Messenger in Henry V, and then the Young Clown in The Winter’s Tale.

In traditional Shakespearean style, the men take on the female roles as well so it means getting into the mindset of the opposite sex but Karl believes that is a small price to pay if it means taking on a part like this. “It is an honour to work with Ed. After all, where else would I get the chance to give my Catherine? There are not that many opportunities to do that and you approach it in the same way you approach any character.”

So it does seem as though playing a woman who speaks French is just another opportunity to be embraced – but what about the all-male rehearsing environment? Is Karl coping with all the creative testosterone? Laughing, he said: “Well, maybe you don’t have to be quite so polite. It is a little bit more bawdy than some other rehearsals but we are all bonding together well and bringing the play to life. There is a great energy here and I am really enjoying myself.”

Being directed by Edward Hall is not a new experience for Karl. They worked together on ITV’s popular Norfolk-set Saturday night small-screen hit Kingdom where he played the hapless trainee solicitor Lyle Anderson opposite British acting’s national treasure Stephen Fry, comic actor and former Norwich Theatre Royal panto star Tony Slattery, and top actresses Celia Imrie and Hermione Norris.

Karl has happy memories of starring in the show and particularly remembers the stunning Norfolk vistas. He said: “There were just the most stunning horizons. They have I remember doing a scene in one of the very first episodes where there was some dyke-leaping going on. I just looked up and there was just this stunning panorama. Of course, Norfolk has amazing beaches too. I loved Holkham.”

His week with the Propeller company is likely to be the first time he has returned to Norfolk since starring in Kingdom with a host of varied projects keeping him busy. Since landing the role of Robert Sugden in Emmerdale, he has been in demand to appear on stage, TV and radio.

His most recent work includes the role of Alton Lannister in the American medieval fantasy series Game Of Thrones, appearing in BBC legal drama The Case, and Karl also recently finished a tour with Tricycle Theatre which took him across America in contemporary wartime stage-play The Great Game.

With a hectic working life combining filming some final scenes for Game Of Thrones as well as the rigours of preparing for the Propeller tour, you would think Karl would want to put his feet up after a demanding day of rehearsals but there’s no chance of that.

Three nights a week, the Propeller cast are put through their paces to boost their physical fitness. Karl explained: “We are getting in shape for the tour. We have been doing Army drills on Clapham Common so we go up there three times a week. It is helping us to get ready for the tour. Henry V is very physical and you need to be in pretty good shape.”

So expect to see Karl at the peak of physical and mental fitness when he makes his welcome return to Norwich in yet another challenging role to add to his fast-growing CV.

John Bultitude

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