If you’re doing a play about cancel culture, is the only safe position you can take that you have absolutely no opinion about it?
Chris Marshall, star of the new Death in Paradise and Beyond Paradise, will be coming to the Cambridge Art Theater in the production of Charlotte and Theodore, and certainly doesn’t want to get hung up on his opinions.
The play raises questions of white male privilege and centers on a couple working in academia, covering 10 years of their relationship.
“It just seemed so timely. It’s so funny and wild,” says Chris.
Theodore is a university lecturer in philosophy. He’s a bit of a star, almost like a rock star, in the philosophy department. And there is a brilliant research assistant, who ends up having an affair with him and getting married. Its star really rises when it starts to fall and then you watch it start to capitalize on some sort of terminal decline. And he becomes completely righteous. It is very painful to see—and this is the time—the way certain men can become, I will choose my words carefully, when they feel marginalized or looked down upon.”
He adds, “It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy going down the spiral. I’ve been doing the show for three weeks now. It takes a lot out of you.”
“It’s really a comedy. But like all good comedy, it’s pretty close to the bones, too.”
In the play, Thordor says that straight white men are neglected. What does Chris think of that?
Personally, I have absolutely no opinion on that. The world is the world, he says.
“It’s up to the art to represent that and I think it’s up to the audience to make their judgment… The audience can take their side or not and they also often turn around a few times during the course of the play.”
He admits that if he personally feels discriminated against, he may have stronger opinions, explaining: “I might feel differently if I felt like I was being difficult. But I’m very happy with my place in the world. So I don’t really have a problem with anything.”
“Personally, this isn’t something I really care much about. I’m a very simple person. Unless it’s rubbish… It’s awful in this country, rubbish.”
During the play, Chris’ character Theodore posts rants on Twitter that get him into trouble. Other actors have found themselves in trouble by expressing their opinions on social media, but Chris doesn’t have any accounts.
“There are countless examples of people doing wrong on social media, often without really meaning to,” he says.
“I don’t do any social media. Once Facebook came up in the UK circa 2005, I looked at it because an ex-girlfriend had an account when she was in her infancy, and I was like, This isn’t me. Twitter specifically is a rock hole, so no, it’s not I have no social media. So it will never happen.”
He has a “dual career” for theater on the one hand and his “commercial” work on the other, which includes his highly successful TV comedy roles.
“I have a very commercial side to me, with my TV shows and things like that. But also, on the theatrical side, I always like to find work with that kind of push (the boundaries) because that’s what art should be,” says Chris.
“We found with audiences of the play in Bath that they really respond to it. It’s one of those plays where people go out and discuss it for hours afterwards.”
He said, “I love being on stage. I find it energizing and exhausting in equal measure. It’s where I started, in the theatre. If I wasn’t going to do it anymore, I think I’d get a little more flabby. I’m finding it very difficult to be on stage these days, in In some ways because of the adrenaline, but that’s also why I started doing this work in the first place.”
He is now on screen to return to his role as DI Humphrey Goodman in Beyond Heaven, a spin-off of the murder mystery drama Death in Paradise.
In the show, Humphrey replaces the tropical St. Mary with the sleepy Shepton Abbott, breaking up cases and hoping to live happily ever after with his fiancée, Martha. Although it is set in the fictional town of Devon, it is actually set in Looe in Cornwall. Chris explains that the show has a different feel to Death in Paradise.
“There was no point in doing a carbon copy of Death in Paradise in Cornwall,” he says. “I don’t think it would work and it would be lazy. So when Tony [Jordan] He sent me through the first text, and I could see how unique he was, and then he sent me through the second, and honestly, I thought that was better. Then I got really excited about it because it’s basically what happens, after a happily ever after.”
The last time we saw Humphrey, he was leaving St. Mary’s to be with Marta. Several years pass and after a period working in London, the couple decide to move to a quieter location. But things don’t work that way.
What Chris enjoys most as Humphrey is the physical comedy, especially being able to perform his own stunts.
“I think the thing about these kind of bumbling, more clumsy characters is that they’re great to play because physical comedy is a big part of what I do. And if that’s one of your strengths, it’d be silly not to play that strong. It’s served me very well.” For almost the past 30 years. And one of the most important things for me is doing my own stunts.”
These included “diving off 10-metre boards, twice cliff jumping and crashing into cars – things like that, nothing too serious”.
They seem pretty serious, but even more dangerous seems to be chasing a plane down a runway in a motorcycle sidecar during one of his final episodes of Death in Paradise.
“My head was literally inches from the wingtip of this plane. It was going about 40 miles an hour,” he says.
“I was a little worried that the plane would stall and I’d eventually keep going and would run through a propeller or the bike would flip over. There was a lot that could go wrong, but I actually consider it one of my favorite days of photography ever because I find that exhilarating and it’s part of The reason I do this work.”
But what he craves most at the moment is spending time with family.
“I need to be a father too because I have young children and I haven’t seen many of them in the last six months. I would like to take time off.
“The life of an actor is feast or famine. When you’re busy you’re really busy. And when you’re not, you sit around twiddling your thumb waiting for the phone to ring. It’s a very binary existence. I’ve been doing a lot of other work lately so I’m very much looking forward to finishing this play,” which comes after Cambridge.”
- Kris is at Charlotte and Theodore at Cambridge Art Theater from March 27th to April 1st. Tickets, with prices starting at £20, are available from the box office at cambridgeartstheater.com.
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