Ian Bartholomew stars in the London première of Frank McGuinness’s new play, Dinner With Groucho, from b*spoke theatre company.
The play will make its world première at The Civic, Tallaght, as part of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, before touring to Belfast International Arts Festival and Oxford Playhouse and then playing at Arcola Theatre from 21 November to 10 December, with previews from 17 November.
Loveday Ingram directs Ian Bartholomew as Groucho Marx, Ingrid Craigie as The Proprietor and Greg Hicks as T.S. Eliot.
You’re starring in Dinner With Groucho, what can you tell us about the play?
How long have you got? It is everything you want in a piece of theatre. Great writing, interesting characters, it is funny, sad, poignant, surreal, there’s singing, there’s dancing; what else would you need?
What was it about Frank McGuinness’s script that made you want to be a part of this production?
The fact that it is written by Frank McGuinness is a great start and to have the opportunity to play Groucho Marx who is, in the truest sense of the word, an icon of the 20th century and a comedy genius.
You’re playing Groucho Marx, how have you approached playing such an influential real-life figure?
I watched a lot of the Marx bothers movies, which after all this time are still hilarious and anarchic. I read as much as I could as well as watching his interviews on tv and his talk show ‘You Bet Your Life’. The great thing about what Frank has written is it’s not just about the Groucho we all know, but he has explored the character of the man behind the mask; so that was my way into how I built up the character that the audience now sees.
You’re well-known for your TV roles, what are you excited about returning to the stage?
I am an actor because of theatre and stage work so this was a great opportunity to experience live theatre again with audience and actors all in the same room having a shared experience. Made even more special by the hiatus that we’ve had because of the coronavirus.
It’s touring to Dublin, Belfast and Oxford before London, what are you looking forward to most about taking it to different parts of the country?
Touring is always interesting fun because you’re revisiting places you know, discovering new places you don’t know and gaging audiences’ reactions, which can be very different depending on where you are. Each performance has a different feel and that’s exciting.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking tickets for Dinner With Groucho?
Do it today, you won’t be disappointed.