2012 : APPEARANCES
Toby was popping up all over the place during the summer of 2012.
On 23rd May 2012 he was seen at the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of the Arts at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Four days later on 27th May 2012, he was seen on the red carpet for the BAFTA Television Awards where he presented a comedy award.
And two days after the BAFTA’s, on 27 May, Toby was seen with the beautiful Anna-Louise at the British Heart Foundation Tunnel of Love event.
On 22nd June Toby was to be found with Anna-Louise at the Paddock School in London, together with Dervla Kirwan and Rupert Parry-Jones, all of whom were meeting the school of which they had recently become Patrons.
On July 4th, Toby was spotted at Wimbledon watching the Centre Court action, sat just behind Andre Agassi.
And in September was ‘In Conversation’ with Kate Mosse at Chichester.
2012 : TOBY TRIVIA
‘Vexed 1’ released on DVD
With Season 2 showing on BBC2 this summer, 2012 also saw the release of ‘Vexed Season 1’ on DVD.
Production begins on ‘The Machine’
Principal photography on this sci-fi action film commenced in Cardiff on July 23rd. This Content Media Corp. production of ‘The Machine’ would star Toby alongside Caity Lotz of ‘Mad Men’ and be directed by Caradog James.
Toby would take the role of lead scientist Vincent McCarthy.
Filming begins on ’All Things to All Men’
Shooting also commenced in London for George Isaac’s thriller ‘All things to all men’ which starred Toby alongside Gabriel Byrne and Rufus Sewell.
Starz announces ‘Black Sails’
Starz has found its Captain Flint - Toby was confirmed as the star of the upcoming 8 part series for Starz which is set 20 years prior to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘Treasure Island’. Pre production would commence at the end of 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa. Toby would play Flint, the most feared captain of all the Golden Age pirates and commander of the pirate ship Walrus. ‘Black Sails’ would air in 2014.
Production begins on Theatre of Dreams
Toby will star as Dr. Farquar in this British football film.
2012 : RADIO BROADCASTS & AUDIOBOOKS
2012: RADIO BROADCASTS
‘Tennyson And Edison’
During June 2012, BBC Radio 3 broadcast ‘Tennyson and Edison’, a David Pownall play set in 1889 about Tennyson reading his ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ on Edison’s new fangled phonograph.
Toby plays the part of Thomas Edison with Richard Johnson as Alfred Lord Tennyson. representative of the New World; dedicated to the future while claiming to preserve the past through his recordings.
Radiodramareviews referred to Toby’s “go-getting Edison - using an accent strongly reminiscent of his Philip Marlowe in last year’s Chandler cycle for Radio 4”. And the Stage described Toby’s Edison as “a finger-snapping kinda guy with a short fuse.”
‘From Russia with Love’
Reprising his role as James Bond, Toby returned with Eileen Atkins, Nathaniel Parker, Tim Piggot-Smith and Mark Gatiss in the third adaptation by Jarvis and Ayres Productions.
It aired on July 21st on BBC Radio 4, once again directed by Martin Jarvis. “Toby Stephens brings his calm assurance and charm to Bond, who after all is actually a bit thick and is dependent on his quick reactions, the strength of his fist and a lack of scruples with a gun. “
‘A Doll’s House’
In a slight departure from ‘A Doll’s House’ at the Donmar, this dramatisation transports the story from Norway to the Indian subcontinent, adapted by Tanika Gupta. Nora becomes Niru and Torvald Tom, with Toby taking the part of Tom.
Broadcast on 7 October on BBC Radio 3 for their Drama on 3 series, “Toby exuded a kind of supercilious (and superficial) authority who treated his wife as an exotic plaything. Many of his utterances were accompanied either by a short laugh or a snort of derision; as the family breadwinner, he believed that he could behave as he chose.”
2012 : AUDIO BOOKS
‘Gods and Warriors’
Toby narrates Michelle Paver’s book, ‘Gods and Warriors’ - almost 8 hours of listening - an adventure story set in the Greek Bronze Age.
Toby also continued the Francis Durbridge series of ‘Paul Temple’ audiobooks, with recordings of ‘Paul Temple and the Kelby Affair’, ‘Paul Temple Intervenes’, ‘Paul Temple and the Harkdale Robberty’, and ‘Paul Temple and the Tyler Mystery’.
2012 : OTHERS ON TOBY
“Toby is the most phenomenal leading actor in his own right. I have seen him at the Old Vic and the National heading up terrific companies, but obviously contained within him is the fact that in his DNA is so much of the history of this theatre.”
Jonathan Church, Artistic Director, Chichester Festival Theatre
“Toby is a wonderful actor, I have worked with him twice, and this is the sort of part where he can inhabit the language beautifully. It’s not his first time in Chichester–- he used to be a stage hand when he was 18 as his family lived near Petworth”
- Jonathan Kent, Director
“I don’t know if you’ve spoken to other people who’ve worked with him, but he’s reputably nice. In the same way that people talk about David Tennant, everyone says Toby’s lovely. He’s also the most horrendous laugher. At everything. He laughs a lot at himself but also anything can put him off, and he’s got this really contagious laugh and that’s quite a lethal thing. I thought I was bad! He laughs for about a second and he’s got tears down his face, it takes nothing and then he’s straight back into serious. He’s brilliant in that way, and there were definitely a lot of days when you thought ‘wow I really have had to have my make-up touched up today about ten times!’, which isn’t the case on every job at all. So he’s great; very uncomplicated. He’s very intelligent but he’s not got a big ego on set. He’s not somebody that makes lots of demands, he just wants to have a nice day, and that’s very nice to work with.”
“We didn’t really know each other. He came and saw me in a play I did last year because he is a friend of the playwright. But I hadn’t really met him prior to my audition. And for that they had to match us up for chemistry and perform a chemistry test. He was already Jack, of course, but I had to audition for Georgina, so they narrowed it down to a few people who they thought might have good chemistry. And I felt quite confident in casting because I’d heard they’d seen quite a lot of people and thought we might work together. But Toby is so easy and so silly… he’s not at all intimidating, so it was quite easy to do all that stuff. If you play chemistry, it can feel forced but we got on and by the time it came to doing the drunk stuff we were really comfortable with each other because they didn’t film episode one first – they did two and three first.”
“I’m rubbish and Toby’s worse! He’s really bad. I’m one of those people who can be OK if I can hold it for a few seconds. But Toby lasts for less than a second before he’s off. And he sounds like Mutley! And when he goes, he sets everybody in the crew off, so if I do keep it together, I’ll then see the camera shaking and think: ‘Great! Why did I bother?’ So, yes there were certain things we were asked to do that we did find quite hard, although I think the worst moment was when he was doing his song on the guitar. I wasn’t there but from what I’ve heard it was a really difficult scene for Toby to get through without cracking up because he was making up all those terrible lyrics, like ‘let me look inside your purse’. They’re such awful lines!”
“I think David Tennant, who I only worked with for seven weeks, and Toby are two of the best actors I’ve worked with because of the way they are on set. They’re lead actors know their lines, who know what they’re doing, who are confident in everything, so they don’t throw their weight around.”
“The idea of him is quite intimidating. You look at him, and he’s handsome, and because of his background, he looks like he could have an ego but he doesn’t have one at all. He’s a very silly person really and doesn’t take anything too seriously.”
"He’s so handsome with those cheekbones to cut yourself on, and he’s done so much, and he’s one of those public school-sounding actors, so you expect him to be commanding the set. He’s a clown. He rocks up, and within five minutes, everyone wants to be his best friend.”
“I was thrilled to get the part because I’ve been a big fan of Toby’s for ages. When I first met him, I told him, ‘When I was at school, we all got a coach to Stratford to see you in ‘Coriolanus’. We were bowled over!’ I thought it would be a compliment, but he replied, ‘Stop making me feel old’ If they knew I was working with Toby now all the girls from that trip would be very jealous!”
- Miranda Raison, Actor, ‘Vexed’
“It is great to work with contemporaries like Toby. He is a great actor and was very genial and funny”.
Dominic Rowan, Actor, ‘Law and Order’
“It’s great. It’s really nice. One spends so much time apart that it is great to be together - and to be able to hang out without the children!”
“You are playing a character obviously, and everything you are saying is filtered through that person. It is not you that is saying it. It is filtered through a character that doesn’t have your own set of values - so it is not really odd. Inevitably we help each other with a lot of line-learning. Plus there is a familiarity which is quite nice. We have done TV together before.”
- Anna-Louise Plowman, Actor & wife!
2012 : TOBY ON TOBY
TOBY ON GROWING UP
“Growing up I went to many schools and I had to fit in to many different types of environments with totally different social groups. It helps me out as I move from job to job.”
Source: Daily Mail
TOBY ON CHICHESTER
“It was my first ever job in the theatre, so I have worked here before, but technically not as an actor before. I was in my late teens and it was really in my hiatus year before going to drama school. I had done very little theatre at my school. At school, if anybody had an interest in drama, they were a poof and got beaten over, so I kept my light under a bushel - and then assumed I really needed to get some experience in the theatre if that was what I was going to do.”
Source: Chichester Observer
“It taught me the importance of being nice to everyone And I came to appreciate that everybody, not just the actors, has a part to play in putting on the show. Some of the actors, often the younger ones, could be a bit off-hand with us and stuck-up. But I remember it as an idyllic time and it left a mark on me. I also remember several stage-hands coming up to me and saying that they’d worked with my father and that he’d been really kind to them.”
Source: Chichester Festival Theatre
“I worked as crew for a season. I remember it was a real learning experience because a lot of the actors didn’t talk to me, I was just the crew guy! I thought then that I always want to be friendly and approachable to anybody who works with me.”
Source: ‘A Double Life’, Angel Magazine
“After I left school in 1987, I worked at Chichester Festival Theatre for a year, ‘crewing’, and rented a flat on New Park Road. It was one of the last seasons of the Tent, a marquee they put up every year for more experimental work. Sam Mendes was the artistic director. It was his first job after university.”
“The flat was in a characterless development, but it was the first place I was on my own, so it was exciting. It had one bedroom and a kitchen/living room. The decor was twee — I remember a little picture of a mallard. I microwaved everything, especially stale bread: there we go, it’s fresh again! I became obsessed with Indian food, and would get really ill. The place became a tip, with clothes strewn around, ashtrays, takeaways, washing-up, CDs. I had impromptu parties and pissed off the whole block.”
“My home life had been great, but we lived in the countryside, so I longed to go to any town. Brighton, Chichester, London, they were the bright lights. Free of school, I did illicit things like smoking and getting drunk. Chichester had a military-police barracks — every weekend, you’d be in a pub and a horrendous fight would break out. I found that startling. I couldn’t be seen for dust!”
“I was happy with my own company, but I met the first big love of my life doing the Tent. I’d been at a public school, cloistered with boys, and I didn’t have sisters, so I was naive. I remember pining, then suddenly realising that my attentions were being reciprocated.
“I wanted to go to drama school, but had no experience in the theatre. I’d gone to a school where drama was considered effete and not a serious profession. But I won the school poetry competition by imbuing ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ with emotion. It was the first time I felt I’d done something I was good at.”
“I didn’t go into acting because my parents did it. I’m creative, and there were areas of my emotional life I could articulate only through other people’s language. People can have a misconception of my childhood, because I had famous parents. I didn’t live a peripatetic showbiz life, tap-dancing, singing and quoting plays. To me, actors were normal people who came and went from our house.”
“My job involved putting up the sets. Sam directed Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’, and we put bags of peat all over the floor. I’d blow my nose and all this black stuff would come out. But it was a real introduction to the nuts and bolts of how theatre works, and a fly-on-the-wall experience of how actors behave. Some were aloof, but there were big names who weren’t. Keith Michell was very sweet to me; Donald Sinden always had time to talk. It made me realise how important that is. You’re not at some remove from people.”
“One of many embarrassing moments was at a big first-night party in the foyer. Everyone was having a great time, and I went to the top of the stairs, then slid down the banisters. I fell off and really whacked my hip. I leapt to my feet, pretending I was fine, danced to the toilet, shut a cubicle — and wept with pain.”
“One of my first acting experiences was when the crew did Tom Stoppard’s ‘The Real Inspector Hound’. It was a fairly, er, broad performance, but I made an impression. I left Chichester when I went to Lamda. Now I’m working there as an actor for the first time. It’s strange, because the city hasn’t changed. It’s in aspic.”
Source: The Times
TOBY ON HIS FAMILY
“I look like her pet dwarf when she’s got heels on.”
“After a day looking after all three of them I’m in pieces. You go through the entire range of emotions — they drive you crazy, then you think they are the most gorgeous things in the world, then you are laughing, then you are on your knees crying.”
“She loves, really loves, being around them. She was stern with me but around them she is a real softie. That’s the privilege of being a grandparent — they can indulge the children while parents have to be the bad guy. Grandparents can also be subversive and naughty with them. And she certainly is.”
“I have a policy with my mum — we both kind of think that the family acting thing is a bit naff. I cringe when I see that someone obviously thought, ‘Hey, we’re both actors, why don’t we do something together?’”
Source: Daily Mail
“Perhaps I am just very very lucky to have found someone who is sane. What can happen when you marry someone in the profession is that it can get competitive. It can be very uncomfortable. I speak from experience having had relationships with actresses previously. One person is working and the other one isn’t and gets angry with the person that is working. It becomes cyclical. But luckily we don’t have that at all in my present situation. I am very luckily. I am older than my wife. I already had my reputation. Perhaps that is why we are fine.“
Source: Chichester Observer
“I do find it a struggle. A massive change takes place in your life when you realise that you are no longer the most important person in the world. Flying with them all to New Zealand one Christmas was just hell for twenty-four hours but now that they are growing into people, with their own characters, it is getting better. Eli knows that I pretend to be other people but they don’t quite understand that it’s work and we’d like them to appreciate the value of work as soon as possible!”
“It’s a real problem. You can’t be too picky anymore and at times you have to swallow your sensibilities and go for the money. On the other hand, it’s quite good for you; it stops you indulging yourself. There’s something quite healthy about the need to be pragmatic.”
“There’s a bit of me that wants them to do what they want to do. But acting has never been a secure profession and I’d worry for them if they wanted to go into it.”
Source: Chichester Festival Theatre
“Eventually we found one off Brick Lane. We walked up four flights to the top of this old furniture factory and I was going, ‘I hate this, it’s awful’ then walked into the space and thought, ‘This is amazing!’ And I love the area. It’s like New York, it’s alive.”
“I don’t really do pubs any more.”
St John’s Bread and Wine on Commercial Street, “the food is just fantastic, and it’s child-friendly”.
“We do wonderful parks in this city. I judge every park now by their playgrounds.”
“I’ve got three kids, I’ve got a mortgage, I need to pay the bills.”
“I’d rather not. I always find it slightly naff when it happens. ‘Hey, we’re an acting family, let’s do a show.’ I don’t want to feel like I’m part of some club.”
Source: London magazine
TOBY ON DRINKING
“There is all this romantic nonsense about Burton and O’Toole and hell raisers like that. Nowadays the industry doesn’t have the money to employ people who are going to mess around and turn up not knowing their lines, all over the place.”
“People think they are amazing because they did all this work while they were drunk — but just imagine how good they could have been if they weren’t.”
“Giving up alcohol is the best choice I have ever made. If I had carried on drinking, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have my kids. I feel incredibly lucky.”
Source: Daily Mail
TOBY ON TOBY
“I am a Londoner and I love my home. There are many things about this country which drive me crazy, but when I am in America I feel wrong there. Bright sunshine all day is fine for a week or two, but I’m a redhead and its not great for me.”
“What I’ve got here is all good stuff. I used to be so worried about not getting this job or not taking that job, but having the kids has put everything into perspective. I’ve got to keep the wagon going.”
Source: Daily Mail
“We are still hampered by class in this country, and I think it is really sad, especially in terms of theatre, because there isn’t class in acting – we are totally classless.”
“… regular working-class people. I ended up speaking in a certain way and one gets sidelined into doing certain parts. I think that is really quite narrow-minded. I wasnt born into land or titles, or new money, or an oil rig.”
TOBY ON HIS FAVOURITE ACTOR
“Gene Hackman, I love him, I just think he’s the most brilliant filmmaker. I’m not normally that intimidated by other actors, I’m normally intimidated by musicians, but I remember being in Las Vegas when I was staying at the Four Seasons for the weekend and I was walking around downstairs and Gene Hackman walked past me with his wife! I really wanted to say something but I just couldn’t, and that’s how much I admire him, and also partly because I was scared he wouldn’t be the way I’d want him to be.”
TOBY ON ACTING
“I spent a whole year doing a lot but I had nothing coming out, and now suddenly everything at the same time.”
“I like doing the work and then when it comes out it’s always bit anxiety inducing, with TV it’s often something that you filmed ages ago and when it comes out you’re thinking “Oh god! What are people going to think? What if it gets slated?!” With a play it’s much more immediate, you can feel it from the audience, you know how it’s being received, and generally in rehearsals you have a feeling, it’s very instinctive, whereas if you put something in a can you just don’t know what it’s going to end up like.”
“No, it kind of evens out, I now do less and less theatre, because it’s impossible…it’s incredibly gratifying as an experience, and it’s incredible in terms of honing your skills, but I’ve got three kids now and I just can’t afford to take four months out to do a play for nothing, so pragmatically you go much more into stuff like film and TV. With film in this country it’s not like in the 90’s where you would be earning big bucks, there’s no money but you want to do film because it’s more permanent, there’s something disposable about TV, and you love doing films but then you have to do more of them… so it becomes much more about the choices that you make, and just gratifying my own desires of what I want to do.”
“I honestly don’t know, it depends, sometimes you can do a project whether it’s a film or TV and it’s so satisfying, and then you can do a piece of theatre where you have a bad experience or do TV show that you know is rubbish and you’re just doing it for the bank balance and that’s quite dispiriting. It’s always worth carrying on for those bits of work that you really enjoy doing.
“Exactly and what kind of depresses me is that some people think acting is one of those things that anybody can do, like, “If only I had the balls I would have done that” – “If only I didn’t mind getting up in front of a hundred people and making an idiot of myself then I would have done that!” and it isn’t like that, you could do it but you might be really shit! You have to work hard, it’s not just a natural, given thing - I mean you’ve got to have the kernel of instinct and innate talent, but you’ve got to work hard and now it’s a much more populated industry, there are such few parts, you’ve got to work even harder. A lot of the criteria for why you don’t get a job that it’s so ephemeral – you just don’t understand – is it about my ability or the way I look or whatever…”
“Yeah, I think when I was starting out I was very idealistic and thought that I was only going to do what I really wanted to do and I was very picky and very choosy and now I do have lines that I will not cross, very definite parameters but they seem to be getting wider and wider because I’ve got mouths to feed, I’ve got to keep a roof over my head…if I was on my own and 25 then I could be more picky.”
“I think I’m very lucky in that I have been able to keep up a standard. and what I do love about being an actor in Britain means that you can do all sorts of different things, whereas I think, for example, if I had moved to the States and done that whole Hollywood thing then it’s film or TV and that’s it. Here I know that I can do a film and then do a bit of TV or radio or a play, there’s so many things I can do, and that’s not just to make money, that’s to make you feel good about what you’re doing, that you’re doing things that you want to – more creative and rewarding.”
“I did and I really did try it for a while and I’ve got friends that love it out there – they love the climate, the set-up, they love the way it’s all geared towards the industry out there, but for me I just find the weather depresses me – I like a bit of rain. I like it out there for a while but then it just gives me the creeps, the whole fact that it’s all about the industry out there – there is no escaping it and I do have other interests in life. It’s just so geared towards success and money and I find that remorseless and uncreative. It’s a choice that I do sometimes regret, like if I had tried harder there maybe it would be easier now, but for the most part I’m happy with what I’ve got and living in London.”
‘Well…for a start he knows absolutely nothing about the industry, so it’s ridiculous that he’s even commenting…I don’t even think the arts minister has any idea either to be honest. I think we’ve actually got a pretty good industry at the moment, we’ve been making some great films and better films than we have made for quite some time.”
“I sometimes get shocked at the standard of the scripts that I get sent sometimes and you know that they’ve got finance and you think, ‘How the hell can they be making this?’ You know the difference between reading a script that should be made and a good script is like night and day – it’s that obvious – and if I can see that without really knowing a great deal about writing scripts, I just know what chimes with me and I think it’s a good script…and most of the scripts that I read – 9 out of 10 – are just garbage – generic, boring, not telling me anything I don’t know, it will go straight to DVD and it’s the sort of thing that will get the ‘Nuts’ readers. But then you’ve got other filmmakers like Steve McQueen and people like that who are making these beautiful, visual, interesting films and that makes me hopeful.”
“I do, only because it’s very good to see what you’ve got, there’s this moment of truth where you have to watch and that’s quite frightening because you don’t know if you’re going to like it or not, and it is hard…”
“Yeah, I’m very self critical, I think everyone is and most of it’s about vanity, it’s about – ‘Ooh! I look terrible in that shot!’ – it’s not about your performance. But watching the first three episodes of this was the most fun I’ve had watching something I’ve done because it’s comedy and I can kind of stand back from it and enjoy it, and if it wasn’t funny I’d be appalled, but it amuses me…”
“It’s changed in that…and a lot of actors say this and don’t mean it but I’ve actually experienced it… I really don’t anymore, because there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s a bit harmful to read it, and people react to you in a very subjective way, some people will just not like me and there are actors that I watch and I just don’t like them - it’s a chemical thing and you’re not going to change their opinion of you, there’s just no point. It’s like a sickness and I know some actors that just won’t stop, they’ll go on blogs and that is the worst! I just don’t want to know!”
“I think there is an element of that in any guy but it’s a bit less intense now, one of the things about having a family is that they become the most important thing in your life, and in the end it’s a job, I want to put bread on the table. It’s also just so negative to feel like that or thinking, ‘He’s doing that? Why aren’t I doing it?!’ I’ve seen a lot of friends suffer from that and it’s quite unhealthy to see that and realise that you don’t want to be like that. It’s also a lifestyle choice, I don’t want to spend my life solely in this industry, I want to step outside of it, but there are some people that are immersed and can’t escape.”
“I think I would still do something creative. I’m very much interested in starting to write more, I would like to create something and I’ve just written a short film that I’d like to get made. Writing is a process that I really enjoy and it was really out of frustration of the scripts I was getting and thinking, ‘I could do better than this drunk so how would it be if I did it sober?’ It might not be the best thing in the world but it would certainly be better than this shit that’s getting financed!”
“There’s something so creative about it - creating something that wasn’t there before, making something tangible, something you’re responsible for.”
“I can’t just do this for the rest of my life, it’s great when you love what you’re doing but…”
“Exactly. I love it when it’s really great material but when it’s not it sucks, and when you’re hanging around waiting for someone to make their minds up about whether you’re in the last episode of ‘Sherlock’…I don’t want that to be the criteria, I’d much rather create something for myself.”
“I always thought that something would be totally defined by your ability but that was a big misconception and that’s something that you suddenly realise when it’s too late to back out. You’ve just got to hope that there will be times when it is about ability and that someone has made that choice for the right reasons.”
“I always wince when I read about actors saying that ‘doing King Lear’ is like climbing up Everest with a fridge strapped to your back. I don’t want to hear that, and I don’t think the punters want to hear it either.”
“Everybody imagines as you are from a family that acts, you spend your life as a child tap dancing and singing songs and doing speeches from Shakespeare. But my parents led quite a hermetic life, and we were kept quite distinct from their work. My mum didn’t want us around interrupting her, and it was very difficult for her to concentrate with us kids around. And so she did her work. And then she came home and she was a mother. She went out to work and we were kept separate from that - except every once in a while we would be taken off to the theatre. Now, in retrospect, I am glad we had that kind of upbringing. It game me a very pragmatic view of the theatre. It was not something that was highly romanticised. It was a job. You went out; you did it; and you came home. I love doing it and I love the skill. It is great fun but it is a job and I love that down to earth attitude.”
“My parents were worried for me. Speaking as a parent now, I would be appalled if my kids decided that acting was what they wanted to do. It is so precarious.”
“She wanted to make sure I knew what I wanted. She and my stepfather were adamant I needed a proper grounding, I should know what my tastes were, I knew what I like, I had opinions about the theatre. They felt it was very important to go and see things when you are young so that you know what you like because your opinions will prove the basis of your talent and what you do.”
“But unfortunately, that’s just he way it is. It would have been a lot easier if I had just been anonymous. People assume it will make your life easier; people think you are going to be a shoe-in for parts because your parents are famous. But that’s just not the way it works. You can’t get a job if you are terrible but your parents are famous! At the end of the day it all has to come from you.”
“But certainly when I first became a professional actor, there were people waiting to see me fall flat on my face because of who I was. It puts more pressure on you. It took me a long time and a lot of hard work. Obviously, I don’t go out of my way to bang on about my parents, but one has to talk about them, and the fact is that I am extremely proud of them. It’s hardly something I would want to deny. But I am happy now with my own reputation.”
“Theatre has always been the bedrock of what I do. I always come back to the theatre. It’s like a comfort blanket for me. It’s where I feel most comfortable as an actor. There is nothing else.”
“Filming is odd. You make it in chunks out of sequence and then six months, a year later, it is finally released and your control has gone. Somebody else has edited your performance or cut it or whatever. You wonder just who is in control of a film. Is it the director? The producer?”
“But with the theatre, you walk on stage. You go through adrenal moments, but it is where I am in my element. It’s where I feel comfortable.”
Source: Chichester Observer
“I would love to be in a Jimmy McGovern drama on TV, but there is no way he would ever ask me unless it would be to play a lawyer or something. That is what I love about America – they don’t have any of this. Actors are actors, and they can play whatever they want and whoever they want. That’s what I would like to see.”
“For example, at the Arcola you’ve got all these funky spaces, then the Almeida which is beautiful and doing really interesting stuff.”
“…there’s always something going on. Whatever I am not doing I want to do! If I am doing a movie, I kind of wish I was doing a play and vice versa. A lot of people assume you like doing theatre more than anything, but that’s not the case. It can be a much more satisfying experience if it’s a good experience. If it’s a bad experience – and luckily I haven’t had many – it can be pretty awful.”
“For actors, it tends to be where you do some really good work. I think often actors give their best performances at a read through and that’s what you are doing. A couple of years ago I did all the Raymond Chandler stories, which was great – I was playing an American detective and I’d never get a chance to do that anywhere else apart from on the radio.”
Source: ‘A Double Life’, Angel Magazine
“My parent’s parents were regular working class people. I ended up speaking in a certain way and one gets sidelined into doing certain parts. I think that is really quite narrow minded. We are still hampered by class in this country and I think it is really sad, especially in terms of theatre because there isn’t class in acting - we are totally classless.”
“That is what I love about America - they don’t have any of this. Actors are actors and they can play whatever they want and whoever they want. Thats what I would like to see here.”
“You can be much more fluid, you can exercise your talent. Places like the National Theatre or Sheffield, these great engines of theatre, make it cutting edge because they can be experimental. They can do plays that nobody else can afford to do in ways nobody else can afford to do. That feeds into the West End, because eventually all the things that are created within those subsidised theatres - lighting techniques, the way they do certain things - edges into other forms. That, for me has to continue.”
“In the teeth of a recession with a very uncertain future it’s very frightening because you don’t really know who you are and you are very uncertain of your talent.”
“I used to read reviews and I had both good and bad experiences. It seemed the thing to do, everyone did it. And then, suddenly, I found it was really effecting me. It is the old cliche - good reviews are never good enough and you can never get away from bad reviews. They stick with you forever. I don’t read them anymore. It is not easy but it does help. Ignorance is kind of bliss. Although it is never total ignorance, because you can, by osmosis, get what the general gist of the reviews are. It is either pity or a lot of jollity, but it is better than reading them.”
“There are some awful things that people write”.
Motto : “to do what we rehearsed”
Source: The Stage
“I was so naive when I first came into the profession that I didn’t think it would matter. And then you realise that you’ve got to deal with people’s expectations. Human beings can be quite perverse. They want you to be terrible.”
“I didn’t mind at the time. But film and TV people tend to go, ‘You do that kind of thing,’ and that’s where they want to keep you. After Bond, I felt, ‘I don’t want to do this any more because it uses about that much of my bandwidth’”
“I love the fact that the audience feel that they are illicitly looking at something.”
Source: London Magazine
TOBY ON OLYMPICS
“My favourite Olympic moment is Daley Thompson winning the decathlon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It was a fascinating contest and I remember being chuffed that he won; he’s the consummate athlete and is so charismatic. The decathlon is incredible, the athletes have to master so many disciplines and be really good at them all. As it’s all about points, very tactical.”
“I must have been about 15 at the time and I remember I was on holiday in West Sussex. Generally summer holidays got a bit boring because we lived in the middle of nowhere, but it was great when the Olympics were on because it gave me a focus. I really got really into it.”
“I think my favourite Olympic sport has to be male gymnastics. They have such strength but there’s a sort of beauty to it. Watching gymnastics on TV is extraordinary – it’s really tangible.”
Source: Omega Magazine
2012 : IN TOBY’S OWN WORDS
TOBY ON ‘JANE EYRE’
"The original book is a masterpiece and it’s very personal to a lot of people. Many women sort of hold it dear. I was very lucky because I think we managed to do it service and I managed to play Rochester in a way that most of the people who were fans of the book liked. I wouldn’t want to p*ss them off, there’s a huge amount of them.”
"Those sort of things are very gratifying to do. I think they are slightly overdone - they come up with great regularity and they can be slightly formulaic. Prior to doing ‘Jane Eyre’, they had been on a slide. There hadn’t been any adaptations that had really made a mark, they were just sort of churning them out. I think ‘Jane Eyre’ was successful because it made the characters very real.”
"I think when they do break the mould and create a world that people find interesting and real, that’s when they work. I think when they become just another generic period piece, it’s a bit boring."
TOBY ON ‘DIE ANOTHER DAY’
"Uh … To avoid any misunderstanding: I’m glad I played it, but it was a strange experience. Usually I sit in small TV studio or theatre, and suddenly I was six months in the midst of a gigantic business world full of stars and giant sets. Then I had to choose: either return to England, to smaller productions, or go to LA and wait for a new role. And who exactly would undoubtedly have been the same as my role of villain in the Bond movie. But once you’ve played a villain, it’s easy to be stereotyped. I see the producers thinking: "We still need a baddie, can we call on the Brit?" I prefer more variation. "
"I think that’s great that Bond has moved on. I think we reached the apotheosis of ridiculousness. I remember going in for the casting and having this meeting with the director and Barbara Broccoli. They’d sent me two pages of dialogue for the character Gustav Graves, and I did the scene and they said, ‘Do you know what’s going on here?’ And I said, ‘No, this guy is doing a press conference’. And they said, ‘OK, we’ll tell you. He’s actually a North Korean who’s had a genetic reworking and he’s now a Westerner’."
"I’m walking out and I’m like, ‘What the hell was that about?’ It had gone so far in that direction that now it’s gone the other way, it’s gritty and dark."
"I do miss the humour, and the irony and the fact that they didn’t take themselves that seriously. The British thing. But at the same time I think it works really well and he’s been great for the Bond franchise."
"I really couldn’t. I think they’re so different. The strength of someone like Brosnan is the old-school kind of cool yet dry, and not taking himself that seriously. The great thing about Daniel is that he has some sort of darkness. He’s a very fine actor and he brings something that’s much more textured to the part. I do miss the wry panache of Brosnan. Whereas Daniel is a bit more thuggish, but there is something kind of compelling about that."
“He said, ‘OK, your character is North Korean, but he’s had a genetic modification, so you are now a Westerner. So shall we do this scene now?’. I said yes, but asked if I had to do a Korean accent. ‘No, just do it in your own accent’… I walked out of the audition and said to myself what the hell was that about!?”
“I am probably past it now but yes it would have been great. It’s one of those roles that I think is tough because you are taking on such an enormous thing and everybody’s expectations are huge. That was my first blockbuster. It was so surreal, but a great experience. In a way it has taken me ten years in film terms to get back to ground zero again because for a long time my agent was saying, ‘Come out to Hollywood and do films over here’, but the problem was I was offered a number of films playing exactly the same part. It’s such an enormous franchise that you are very much identified with this brand and it makes it very difficult to do other things because people immediately go ‘he’s the guy from Bond’. But now I feel like I have got back to a place where I can do interesting things on film, which is great because I do love film.”
Source: ‘A Double Life’, Angel Magazine
And on playing Bond on the Radio:
“He’s a simple character in terms of how you should play him. He’s about functionality, simplicity and getting the job done. I’m not trying to laden him with innuendo.”
Source: Radio Times
TOBY ON ‘THE MACHINE’
“I’m just about to start filming that, it’s a brilliant script, it’s set about 20-40 years in the future and it’s about a guy who’s trying to create artificial intelligence, he’s being funded by the government and he has a child who has a debilitating disease called Rett Syndrome, so he is searching for this artificial intelligence to create his son as perfect. The military are funding him because they want him to create this invincible solider - a killing machine - with the ability to be a peace-keeper, a negotiator as well as a soldier. He’s doing it for his own personal reasons and blocking out what the military are going to do with it. He creates this female android and he has to work out how to he should treat it – this is a sentient thing now, when do they become human? Do they have a soul? It’s really interesting and it’s very ambitious, I’m really excited about doing it. It’s very brave, it’s more than just a sci-fi film - it’s actually about our future.”
“As soon as I finish ‘The Machine’, I’m heading to Chichester for a production of Noël Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ with Anna Chancellor. A friend of mine, Jonathan Kent, is directing and it will be the 50th Anniversary of the theatre that has also been a great launch pad for London shows - they do really high quality stuff.”
“It’s a mixture of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Metropolis’. I play a slightly unhinged scientist who has lost his moral compass. We shot it in only four weeks: I hope it works out.”
Source: Chichester Festival Theatre
TOBY ON ‘ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN’
“I’m in a film called ‘All Things To All Men’ and it was another great script, it’s sort of a heist film and Rufus Sewell and Gabriel Byrne are in it, I play a safe-breaker who breaks into these very high security safes, and this gangster, played by Gabriel Byrne forces me to do a job for him, he has this corrupt relationship with a cop and in order to screw each other over they get me to do this job - I’m sort of the pawn in the middle. It was one of those scripts that I just thought was really impressive, very tight.”
2012: TOBY ON ‘PRIVATE LIVES’
“They’d asked me to do some plays in the season down there but I wasn’t that keen on he plays they had offered me so they asked me if I could come up with something; I re-read the play, because Jonathan had asked me to do it a while back and I just thought it was an amazing piece of work – it’s funny but it’s also incredibly moving. It had become stuck in this very stylized thing where everyone was coming up and doing this very Noël Coward camp acting when it actually could have been written yesterday as a great piece of naturalistic dialogue. It’s a very real relationship, it’s about the impossibility of love between two people where it’s great when it’s great, but it’s awful when it’s not. We wanted to do it in an environment more like the Donmar where people are on top of you and you can be much more naturalistic and make it less of a performance. I love when you can fool an audience for a very short period of time that they’re observing something that they shouldn’t be seeing, and you can feel it, I love creating that.”
“I’d never thought of myself as an Elyot and, to be honest, I never really liked Coward’s plays. I’d seen quite a few of them and I felt that they were all affected and that you always knew you were watching a Noel Coward play. Jonathan suggested that I read ‘Private Lives’ and I was genuinely surprised by how moving it was - how much it is a play about love. Elyot and Amanda have a love that is real but which is also impossible; the chemistry they create is both wonderful and explosive. I also felt that there was a kind of sadness about them, especially in the way they are constantly trying to escape from reality.”
“I’d been talking to Chichester about doing something for the fiftieth anniversary season but nothing they suggested had much appeal for me. Then Elyot came to mind and I thought that I’d better play him before I got too old. I also felt that it would be really interesting, simply to have these two people in a room talking with the audience looking into this relationship from close quarters.”
“They appear to behave in a superficial way but at times the mask of superficiality slips and you see how this pose is a defence against the world. What they suffer from is boredom and boredom can be a terrible thing. It forces their energies back on themselves. Elyot is desperately trying to get some control over his life. He’s trying to conform and he tells himself that he will find a sensible wife. He’s also gone round the world in the five years since the divorce and I think that there’s a part of him that had hoped Amanda would still be available.”
"It’s very nice to be working together, although, since Elyot and Sybil have only just got married and so there’s a physical unease between them, we’ve had to unlearn the short-hand which we’ve developed as a couple. It’s also nice that we can come home after a day’s rehearsal and talk about how it’s gone. In a way, I’m glad that Anna-Louise is playing Sybil rather than Amanda. I think that it must be a very risky business for a married couple to play Elyot and Amanda. The play is very close to the bone at times and it is such a bare-knuckle fight between them that it might be dangerous for the strength of the off-stage relationship."
“It’s the most fantastic piece. It’s funny obviously, but it’s also bittersweet and very sad in a way because it’s about the impossibility of love.”
“not an enormous fan, I think the play suffers normally from being slightly clichéd in that it’s always done very Noel Coward, where people talk terribly like this. This dialogue just screams out for naturalism because it’s so sparky.”
Source: ‘A Double Life’, Angel Magazine
“All of it was so well written and so real. I was really surprised that at the heart of the play is this really sad observation about a certain type of love. Elyot and Amanda are so like one another - their sense of humour chimes together and they have such a great time. But they are also disastrous for one another.”
“There is so much going on underneath the surface. They try and be brittle, breezy and jokey, but there is something truthful underneath. It is really trying to get to that bedrock and then trying to lay all the other stuff on top, so the audience knows it is something real and not some bright, glittering thing.”
“I have seen the play a couple of times and it is instantly forgettable if played on that superficial level because there is nothing at stake. It seems to me there is a lot at stake - but that doesn’t stop it being funny.”
“I think all parts come with baggage unless it is a brand new play. If one was daunted by that, you would never do anything. You would just say ‘I am going to wait for a brilliant new play to come along’. Well, I could be waiting my entire life. I don’t seem to be offered many new plays. I don’t think I am that sort of actor. I don’t want to sit around and wait.”
Source: The Stage
2012 : TOBY ON ‘VEXED’
“The two detectives are reluctant partners. Jack is pretty much the opposite of what you expect in a police series. Usually, the detective is a tormented spirit who is completely absorbed by his work. Here is a bit different. He is probably the worst detective of all time.”
“His colleague wants to do her job really well. She is terribly ambitious. The fireworks between these two characters is what ‘Vexed’ is all about: a perfect antidote to all those American and British cops - dead serious dramas.”
"In the theatre I’ve done comedy, but in movies and on TV I tend to somehow always do more serious work. When I auditioned for the role of Jack, I therefore didn’t expect that I would get it."
"I loved it! It was almost a vacation, I had so little to do. Jack is so awful at his job that he has no clue what’s going on: my character was even less informed than me."
“Yes. I think he hopes it’s going to be a man. After the last series, I think he’s requested a male partner. But I’m glad it’s another woman. I think I’d be bored out of my mind if it was another bloke.”
“Well he mistakes her for something totally different and he thinks she’s really attractive. But then it becomes clear that she’s his partner, and there’s something out of bounds about that. When he realises that she likes to do everything by the book, he thinks it’s all going to be a nightmare, because he can’t be bothered to do things that way. And he doesn’t think that method works anyway.”
“I think it takes her a while to figure him out. At first, I think she’s hoping that this guy is a very good experienced detective who she’s going to learn from. Then gradually she realises that he’s really lazy, gets things wrong, puts his foot in it and is some sort of chauvinist bigoted idiot!”
“Well he’s a bit naïve, which is why I hope he comes across as appealing in the end. Because if he wasn’t, he’d come over as unpleasant. He does get things wrong, but he doesn’t mean to. I think he’s fun. He becomes a fun character, and I think George realises that his instinct – which he usually works from – is often right.”
“Yeah, I think over the years, I’ve watched pretty much everything. One does. And it’s such an over-egged thing, the detective drama. And what I like about this is it kind of subverts the whole genre. The whole thing is so clichéd. It’s very difficult to do anything new with it. What’s great about ‘Vexed’ is that I don’t have to do anything new. It just subverts all the clichés and has fun with them, and totally turns it on its head. The actual murders are great fun. In the fourth episode of this second series, there’s one on a TV cookery show, and Georgina has to go undercover on the show. It’s such fun!”
“It’s quite a different show for a British audience, and it was frustrating only having three episodes the first time around, to create a sort of new genre. And it took a while for people to get their heads around it. I know friends of mine, and people in the industry who really wanted it to come back. I had so much fun doing the first series, so I really hoped I’d get another chance to play him. So I was thrilled when it was picked up again and we’ve been given six episodes. It really meant we could perfect what we’d started in the first series and give it a good run. You can take it in all kinds of directions and have enormous fun with the characters. The comedy isn’t on the front foot. It builds as it goes. So I really hope people enjoy it.”
“I hope there’ll be an element of ‘will they/won’t they.’ With Lucy Punch, we were both such extreme characters and they were never going to get together. There’s only so far you can go with that because if they’re constantly arguing with one another, it gets boring after a while. Whereas now, Jack and Georgina have the battle of the sexes going on, and they’re constantly misreading and surprising each other. The audience is constantly surprised as a consequence. But they’re also as bad as each other in different ways, although they work well together. There are moments where they might look at each other in a different way and I like that.”
“Yeah, like any good relationship they bring out different things from each other. And that’s quite nice and sexy as well. Miranda’s great fun to work with and what she brings to the series is great.”
Source: Elaine Penn, TV Choice
“When it comes to casting, there doesn’t always seem to be much imagination. It’s a quick grab thing — you want someone who fits the part and because of Bond they knew I could do it. For a while I was happy to play cads, bounders and posh aristocrats, but it wasn’t really me. And it was such a small fraction of what I am able to do that it felt like death.’
“Jack is much more like me than any of the other characters I have played. I am very laid-back and I have a lot of his faults, which is why I identify with him. He’s lazy, he gets it wrong, he is a bit cack-handed; there is no malice to him. Doing this stuff is the most fun I have ever had.”
Source: Daily Mail
“I was really thrilled to come back because I had an enormous amount of fun making the first series.”
“I’m not done with this and I’m certainly not done with Jack. For me it was great to get more of a crack at it because I felt there was much more to be got out of him.”
“I really hope that we get another series because I just think that it’s a great format.”
“We went through a lot of people before we decided on Miranda. We really got lucky with her.”
"I think what’s great about Miranda’s character is that both her and Jack on their own are useless, but together they actually make kind of a good team.”
“She starts taking on some of Jack’s attitude, and he starts taking on some of her. They are constantly surprising one another.”
"The main thing is that I’ve got a new partner, Georgina, in Miranda Raison and that does change the dynamic quite a lot. It’s a new chemistry between the two of us. In the first series it was great working with Lucy, but the characters were real opposites. You felt there was never ever going to be any real compromise between the two of them. I think there was only so far you could’ve gone with the original setup.”
"I feel this gives much more potential to develop the characters and show the different sides of them. That is the main thing. Also, the first series was only three episodes. It was really hard to introduce what is a very unusual form for British TV… cramming this thing into three episodes. What series two allows is much more of a slow burn. It allows it to kind of ease the audience into their world. And then to slowly ramp up the comedy of it."
"Yeah, it sort of does, although I really loved doing it. I had an enormous amount of fun. I certainly don’t want to disown it because it was really great. We have been able to pick up on the weaknesses of the first three episodes and said we can do this a bit better or we can do that a bit better, and I think we’ve done that.”
"We’ve really tightened it up and made it consistent. Series one was slightly inconsistent. There were really funny bits and then there were slightly puzzling bits. Whereas with the six episodes it’s all kind of seamless.”
"I think the BBC loved the format. I think they liked the idea of a show that subverts police drama. For various reasons series two got delayed slightly. By the time the BBC said, ‘OK we do want to pick this up’, Lucy had got another job. So they had to move with it and I think that that shows that they really did want to do it. They were really willing to recast.”
"It was quite a long process, recasting somebody, because it was like, ‘We wanna get the right person, we wanna get the chemistry right’. We went through a lot of people before we decided on Miranda. We really got lucky with her."
"Yeah it is. I was really thrilled because I had an enormous amount of fun making the first series. I’m not done with this and I’m certainly not done with Jack. For me it was great to get more of a crack at it because I felt there was much more to be got out of him. I still feel there’s more. I really hope that we get another series, because I just think it’s a great format."
"I think they will. I think what’s great about Miranda’s character is that both her and Jack on their own are useless, but together they actually make kind of a good team. She starts taking on some of Jack’s attitude, and he starts taking on some of her. They are constantly surprising one another.”
"There is a slight romantic feeling now. The audience should want them to get together. You kinda think, ‘Come on, why can’t you see?’ But they would be horrified at the idea. So there’s that kind of ‘Will they won’t they?’ dynamic going on."
"That’s the end of the show. You want it constantly to be there, but it’s a dynamic that has to work for the series to continue. If a romance happens, then you kind of ruin it. You sabotage it. But there definitely needs to be that kind of chemistry I think."
"The mysteries are almost secondary to the characters’ lives and how they relate to each other. The plots are secondary to what they are. You just want to create a dynamic. You want an audience to hang out with these people a bit and enjoy their company.”
"I think what would’ve been awful is if they’d gone to Lucy, ‘We’re just going to do a Doctor Who with this. There’s someone else playing your part’. I think that would’ve been really difficult. Also I think it would’ve been really difficult for Miranda, because what Lucy brings is so unique and fantastic.”
"Whereas they’ve created a totally new character and a totally new relationship. For Miranda it makes it a lot easier and for the audience it makes it a lot easier. This is almost like starting again. You could start watching this and not have seen the first series, and you’d know exactly where you were.”
"I feel really happy doing the sort of stuff that I’m doing. I think I was too much related to the period piece. I’m glad to not be doing that at the moment. There may be something in the future where I’m sent something and I think, ‘Wow, I have to do this, it’s beautifully written’. But at the moment I’m happy not to be doing that.
"I’ve had some really great experiences in the last year. Doing comedy, doing serious stuff, doing sci-fi. I’m mixing it up and I like to keep it that way. It’s much more fulfilling.”
“Yes, though I kind of think of it as our first series because the first series was more like a pilot – just three one hour episodes, which was not really enough to bed it down, so this feels like a proper series with six episodes.”
“Yes, I’ve loved doing it, it’s what they call comedy-drama, but it’s more of a comedy.”
“I see it as part of the whole thing, I like using all my range, what tends to happen in this industry is that they like to see what they’ve got, they’re like, ‘He does villains. He does English cad villain-types.’ I can actually do lots of other things so comedy was always part of my vocabulary but I’ve never done it undiluted, my character in ‘Vexed’ is a comic creation and I have to say it’s the most fun I’ve had. I just love the character I play, I like playing anti-heroes, it’s more interesting – the guy’s a total dick, but he’s a likeable dick, he’s like any guy if they were honest with themselves, that’s what they’re like and that’s where comedy works – when it chimes with reality, so he’s a very real character and he’s very much part of me. I love doing it because you can have fun when you go to work everyday - it’s not like doing a serious drama where you go in and you’re like, “Where am I in the plot, psychologically? Oh god, I have to cry in this scene.”
“The first series was an experiment. It was much more American-based, very character driven, and it was looking at the detective genre and totally taking the p**s out of it! I really loved doing it because my character was so much fun to play. I often do serious parts, so to do comedy is just great fun.”
Source: ‘A Double Life’ Angel Magazine
“It was kind of like having a vacation for me. I just had to turn up every day and have fun.”
“Once you’ve done a villain, that’s all you end up doing”.
Source: Northern Echo
“There is a frisson between Jack and George that they’d never admit to themselves. He’s lazy, apathetic and hates paperwork. Like a lot of guys, he finds it difficult to focus on things. If I’m honest, there is a lot of me in him!”
“There are so many police dramas out there. The genre has become so hackneyed, it’s great fun to be employed to take the mick out of it!”
“In a recession we all need a laugh. I don’t want cynical comedy which tells me how awful things are and makes me think ‘Is this supposed to be funny?’ ‘Vexed’ is shamelessly trying to make us laugh.”
Source: Daily Express
2012 : ‘PRIVATE LIVES’
Toby’s return to the stage in 2012 was triumphant. He played the role of Elyot in Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ opposite Anna Chancellor at the glorious Minerva Theatre at Chichester, in the closing performance of Chichester Festival Theatre’s 50th anniversary season. Directed by Jonathan Kent it was Toby’s debut at Chichester, the theatre where he began his career as a stagehand and began his acting career in end of season productions mounted by the crew; and where his parents once trod the boards. It also saw him share the stage for the first time with his wife Anna-Louise Plowman.
It was well received by the critics and almost all were unanimous in their praise, although early reviews weren’t as flattering. It was obvious that over time this small company which also included a Chichester regular, Anthony Calf, just got better and better as each actor raised their game.
Theartsdesk wrote “Chancellor achieves all this with a level of apparent physical and verbal ease that is frankly awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, Stephens doesn’t match it. Right at the very end, his descent into childish naughtiness at the spouses’ expense releases an easy glee which has been missing. Elsewhere, although his Elyot is a flaneur, affecting to value oh so very little, Stephens’s work is too effortful. He replaces relaxation with visible effort and rage which makes lines indistinct and kills several of the laughs. The lack of exhilarating collective rhythm isn’t helped by Anna-Louise Plowman’s rather shrill Sibyl. Since her performance lacks charm, it’s hard to see why he married her. But if she’s an insufficient foil, the same cannot be said for Anthony Calf.”
However, that opinion was very much the minority - and one wonders if they actually ‘got it’. Stephanie Walls for The Public Reviews gave it 4 stars and wrote, “As one would expect from a Noel Coward piece the text is sparkling and witty; fizzing and popping with one liners and scathing put downs delivered with relish and effortless charm by Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens as our self-absorbed protagonists. Chancellor and Stephens are perfectly matched as Elyot and Amanda and we are drawn in by their passionate and flamboyant characterisations. Chancellor is a skilful and precise performer who gives a master class in how to deliver each and every gem she has been given by Coward. Stephens’ Elyot is a grade A cad who swans about the stage with camp delight as he delivers his sardonic wit towards his new bride Sybil and all too soon in Amanda’s direction once more. Paired together on a stage surrounded by Anthony Ward’s elegant design work, Chancellor and Stephens transport us completely into Coward’s delightfully frothy tale of immorality. There are strong supporting performances from Anna-Louise Plowman as Elyot’s irritatingly needy second wife Sybil and Anthony Calf as Amanda’s downtrodden second husband Victor. Calf gives a startling performance in the final act of the play as we see all Victor’s otherwise repressed feelings bubble to the surface. Plowman’s portrayal of Sybil provides us with a completely unlikeable figure who we are almost glad to see crumble before our eyes. This is a refreshing change to the sickly sweet characterisations of Sybil that we have seen before and it makes Elyot’s alarmingly amusing threats towards her in the first act even more wickedly amusing. Stephens and Chancellor both give truly believable performances, something which is incredibly important when watching a Coward piece or indeed any piece from the era. The actors have to believe in the words they are speaking and deliver each ‘terribly’ and ‘darling’ with pure conviction. Chancellor’s silky smooth speaking voice is suited perfectly to the text, as is Stephens’ plummy public school boy delivery. ‘Private Lives’ is a couple of hours of escapism into a time gone by with a story that will forever remain relevant. There is no need to over-think or over analyse this piece and that is what makes it such a joy. It is also remarkably reassuring to sit back and relax knowing this theatrical classic is in the hands of such a skilful company of actors. Thoroughly recommended!” [Couldn’t agree more!]
“Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens are perfectly matched as the reckless, glamorous lovers who are hopeless apart and even worse together. Elyot and Amanda are bitchy, spiteful and monstrous, but Stephens and Chancellor, with performances wonderfully rich in little looks and gestures, also made them cool and elegant, exactly as you’d imagine the Master conceived them – complex aggravating creatures that you really can’t help falling for. Anthony Calf is excellent as the dullard new hubby Amanda has inexplicably lumbered herself with; and Anna-Louise Plowman is perfect as the sweetly-drippy new wife Elyot has acquired.” So wrote Phil Hewitt for Chichester.co.uk.
Charles Spencer in the Telegraph wrote, “Jonathan Kent directs one of the finest productions of the play I have seen, with tremendous performances from Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens as the self-obsessed lovers, Amanda and Elyot, who can’t live together and can’t live apart. Stephens and Chancellor ignite thrilling sparks even as they knock lumps out of each other. Theirs are the most persuasively sex-drenched performances in ‘Private Lives’ since Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan set the West End ablaze 11 years ago. I haven’t seen Toby Stephens give a better performance than he does here, following in the footsteps of his parents, Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith, who were a famous Elyot and Amanda in the Sixties. Right from the start he suggests an edge of danger beneath Elyot’s witty well-spoken manner, gazing on his vacuous new wife as if she were a porcelain doll that part of him would already like to smash. This is a man who really believes “that certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs”. The miracle is that Stephens’s Elyot combines such sentiments with sudden moments of heart-melting charm. These thrilling star performances are accompanied by fine work in the supporting roles. Victor may be a dull old stick but Anthony Calf memorably captures his decency, too, while Anna-Louise Plowman’s shrill, whining Sibyl makes you feel she deserves everything she gets.”
For the Times, “With his quiff and blazer Stephens is more like an overgrown modern public-schoolboy, and the timelessly wired-haired Chancellor as assertive as a young Germaine Greer. But the irritable spats with their new spouses on the balconies are pacy and fun, as she confronts Anthony Calf’s aggravating tweedy Victor and he snaps at the kittenishly controlling Sibyl (Anna-Louise Plowman). There is a lovely moment when Elyot, reeling in shock at finding his sinuous, black-clad former wife on the adjacent balcony, turns to find his new bride in sickening baby pink with marabou trim. Stephens delivers a very un-Cowardish “Aaaargh!”. Later, Stephens’s cruel parodies of her social “poise” are brilliant, as is the crisp moment when each in turn curls up foetally on the couch, like grumpy teenagers threatening to make everyone sorry when they’re dead.”
“Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor possess, as a stage duo, just about everything you need to play Elyot and Amanda, the divorcees who, five years after their split, meet on adjacent hotel balconies while on honeymoon with their new spouses. Their sexual chemistry has a violent volatility that suggests that this is a union simultaneously hatched in heaven and in hell. The irresistible attraction rekindled in the famous balcony scene is both achingly romantic and deliciously funny here, with Toby Stephens’s drawling public-schoolboy-ish Elyot strangely affecting as he succumbs to its power well in advance of Chancellor’s taller, headstrong, thoroughbred Amanda, the epitome of “jagged sophistication”, who continues to fight it with brittle bravado.
Gender stereotypes are being drolly undermined so it’s no wonder that Stephens lets out a long, involuntary groan of disgust when Anna Louise-Plowman’s clingy, squalling Sibyl, his new bride, scuttles on in a queasily girlish pink outfit. Chancellor likewise wastes little time disguising her impatience with stuffy Victor, who, in Anthony Calf’s spot-on portrayal, is all tweedy decency floundering out of its depth in a world of spoilt, incoherent egotists. As they veer between post-coital languor and apartment-smashing aggression, Stephens and Chancellor brilliantly demonstrate that, far from constituting an interruption, these fights are the continuation of intense intimacy by other means – a form of foreplay.” So writes Paul Taylor in the Independent.
Fiona Mountford for the Standard wrote, “Ive never seen Stephens smile on stage before — and I’ve never seen him better than this. He has been blessed to have been paired with the magisterial Anna Chancellor, an actress currently in an abundantly rich vein of form both on stage and screen. The pair, as reluctantly reunited divorcees Amanda and Elyot, are gloriously at home with the glittering lines of Noël Coward’s high comedy and surmount the challenges of Act Two, where many have come unstuck before, with ease. Chancellor and Stephens have a cherishably easy chemistry as they sprawl about Amanda’s opulent Parisian flat (well done, designer Anthony Ward) in silk pyjamas. Yet crucially, behind all the sparkling flippancy which is delivered with ease in Jonathan Kent’s stylish production, they convince us that there’s something really at stake, a history, a love, a lifetime. Stephens has a roguish twinkle that occasionally clouds over into the look of a petulant little boy, while Chancellor captures with precision Amanda’s lightning-quick changes of humour. Chichester’s terrific 2012 Festival season might be drawing to a close, but the West End surely beckons for this lot.”
And for the Guardian, Michael Billington wrote, “The central casting in Kent’s production is spot-on. Toby Stephens lends Elyot, who absconds with his ex-wife while they are in the midst of honeymooning with new partners, a languourous drawl and a wicked temper: even the way his dangling left hand flicks cigarette-ash over the balcony of his Deauville hotel suggests a mounting irritation with his second spouse. But what Stephens and Chancellor bring out perfectly is the couple’s childish egotism and the strangely androgynous nature of a relationship in which Elyot’s sulks and flounces are met by Amanda’s ruthless body-blows. The test of a good Private Lives also lies in the quality of the rejected partners. Anthony Calf’s Victor is a precise study of a determined, clean-cut rationalist who finds himself hopelessly at sea in a violently irrational situation. Anna-Louise Plowman’s Sibyl is also skittish and frilly in a way that was once considered traditionally feminine. And this, if anything, is the point that comes most strongly out of this immensely enjoyable production. Victor and Sibyl embody what Shaw once jokingly called the “manly man” and the “womanly woman”, while Elyot and Amanda exist on a level where male and female tendencies prove intriguingly and excitingly flexible.”
For ft.com, Ian Shuttleworth says, “Toby Stephens shines in this excellent revival of Noël Coward’s 1930 comedy. The younger Toby Stephens, while always a consummate technician, did not always invite us into his character. In recent years, though, the actor’s portrayals have found a warmth that is organic rather than studied. It may seem strange to praise his naturalness in a role as mannered as Elyot Chase, the male protagonist of Noël Coward’s 1930 comedy, but Stephens repeatedly strikes precisely the right notes. He is serious without being earnest, keeping Elyot’s responses credible as he finds himself honeymooning in the hotel room next to his ex-wife Amanda, also on her honeymoon; and he is playful without being trivial as Elyot and Amanda rediscover each other, even amid flaming rows, and run off from their respective new spouses. When unable to observe the two minutes’ silence the pair have agreed whenever conflict looms, Stephens’ Elyot compromises by bellowing into a cushion. Amanda Prynne is a role Anna Chancellor was born to play. These two may well be the best Elyot and Amanda I have seen. Director Jonathan Kent shows some appealing cheek by casting Toby Stephens’ own wife Anna-Louise Plowman as Elyot’s deserted second bride. Her Sibyl is a willowy whimperer with just enough of a demanding undercurrent to make her final row with Victor Prynne all too believable. Anthony Calf¢s Victor is physically a more stolid, undistinguished version of Stephens’ Elyot, as if Amanda had been unable to relinquish the idea of Elyot altogether but instead chose a vastly attenuated model. Chichester productions must now be queuing up for available slots in the West End. Hopefully a jukebox musical or two will slope off to make room.”
Bella Todd in the Stage, writes, “Jonathan Kent’s production feels startlingly fresh thanks to the heroically shameless force of Stephens’ and Chancellor’s chemistry.”
But Neil Norman in the Express had some reservations, “Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor strike sparks off each other in Jonathan Kent’s highly wrought production. In Stephen’s case, he goes off like a faulty firework, suffering from what might be termed premature fulmination in the first act and unbalancing an otherwise deliciously provocative performance. Rather than treading in the louche footsteps of his father Robert Stephens, who sparred with his mother Maggie Smith in the same play, Stephens Jr attempts to combine the sulphurous spirit of Richard Burton with the physical mania of Lee Evans.” Hmmm.
For remotegoat, Jill Lawrie writes, “it is the mesmerising chemistry between the charismatic Anna Chancellor (Amanda Prynne) and Maggie Smith’s son Toby Stephens (Elyot Chase) who steal the show and lift it to what can only be described as an electrifying production. The sexual attraction and level of marital disharmony bubble like two violent acids. Both are equally spirited, self indulgent and hedonistic. Chancellor and Stephens positively sparkle in giddy defiance as their tempestuous love/hate relationship burns.”
For West Sussex Today, Gary Shipton writes, “The cast is perfection itself, despite the hallowed names who have performed the roles before. The set is a piece of mechanical mastery. This is the final production of the Festival 2012. Arguably it is the best. Audiences loved it, and so did I.”
And in the British Theatre Guide, Sheila Connor notes, “In Jonathan Kent’s perfectly cast production, sparks fly. Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor play the leads in this light-hearted comedy with more depths than it is usually given credit for, enough emotional and sexual chemistry between them to light up the national grid and more than enough to justify the volatile relationship of their characters where sex is stupendous but the aftermath leads to irritation and even physical violence.”
Editor-in-chief Ian Murray for the Daily Echo says, “Stephens, cutting a dash in dinner jacket and then vest and silky dressing gown – so very, very Coward – is marvellous.”
In the Independent, Kate Bassett writes, “Jonathan Kent’s Chichester Festival production is, in fact, thrilling and unusually touching. What’s brilliant is the closely detailed naturalism, and the depth of the love you can feel pulling Toby Stephens’ Elyot back to Anna Chancellor’s Amanda in Act I – when they wander out, discontentedly, on to the adjacent balconies of their honeymoon hotel suites. This is, in too many productions, played as a shallow farce. Chancellor’s Amanda, while posing swankily with a cigarette, seems spontaneously witty. Her repartee is, palpably, driven by simmering frustration and a wild streak as she lobs jibes at her stuffy but genuinely devoted husband, Anthony Calf’s Victor. Stephens’s Elyot adopts a more suave manner with his clingy bride, Anna-Louise Plowman’s Sibyl, but there’s a gnawing, melancholic cynicism as well as irritability underneath. When he sees Amanda, it is as if an emotionally tender underbelly is exposed, in a single, silent look. This is, quite possibly, the performance of a lifetime for Stephens. Once they’re in the penthouse, he and Chancellor are both extraordinarily real and relaxed, lolling around on chaises longues with limbs intertwined, kissing and joking, having a ball as well as blazing rows. Coward’s narrative twists, at the start and end, are too neat and symmetrical, but the heart of this play is wonderfully rumpled and funny and sexy. Let’s hope it transfers for a London run.”
On Reviewsgate, Timothy Ramsden comments, “Toby Stephens consolidates Elyot’s self-possession increasingly. Stephens has the ability to throw in an occasional modern intonation while making it seem perfectly natural, and his straight-backed walk to the ¡phone when he thinks Amanda and he have been rumbled by the others has a sure sense of foreboding.”
Georgina Brown in the Daily Mail writes, “Feisty and fiery, she’s not going to be any man’s conventional little woman. Similarly, nothing is conventional or gentlemanly about Stephens’s Elyot: so often played as a cold-blooded lounge lizard, here he has a genuine sense of humour as well as mischief. When he mimics Amanda, it’s with amused affection. Together they pull off the near-impossible and make Coward’s stylised repartee new-minted, meant rather than learnt. Their comic timing is miraculous.”
Kate Kellaway for The Observer agrees, “Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens are gloriously cast as the restlessly sexual Amanda and Elyot, their body language minutely revealing. Stephens’s Elyot can show indifference to his new wife, Sibyl, in a single gesture: his duty-doing, limp hand hangs round her shoulders with less animation than a fox fur. He reveals himself as a cad about to turn bounder – fast-tracking towards marital meltdown. To put a halt to the peltings with pillows and insults, they enforce compulsory silences, during one of which Stephens – killingly – performs a gleeful Charleston. They are two of a kind – worldly and infantile, creatures of appetite, conspirators to the last. When their other halves catch up with them in Paris they all settle down to breakfast together. Amanda offers “brioches” as if making an unconventional proposition – her cast-off second husband, Victor, flinches. By this stage Victor is vanquished. He has an unsexy, businesslike walk and looks grey as his suit – an expert performance by Anthony Calf. Toby Stephens’s cheeky-boy grin has spread all over his face. It’s divine. Like this production.”
leightonbuzzardonline.co.uk comments “Chichester Festival Theatre’s summer season ends on a high note with a fitting role for ‘Vexed’ actor Toby Stephens. Forty years ago his parents Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens played Amanda and Elyot in Private Lives. Now he not only steps into his father’s shoes but he puts his own distinctive footprint on the part of Elyot. There’s a wonderful spirit of freedom among the cast who relish every line of dialogue and positively indulge themselves in the physicality of their roles. Sophistication has been thrown out of the window.”
In Theatreworld, the following, “Toby Stephens’ Elyot is somewhat louche and a total cad. Anna Chancellor’s Amanda is completely self-obsessed and utterly charming. Both are a little sad in their needy, greedy love for each other. These two stunning performances are beautifully supported by Anna-Louise Plowman as a rather silly, simpering Sybil and Anthony Calf as poor, tweedy Victor. But it is in the Minerva Theatre that spellbinding productions of such quality that they stay in the memory for years to come. ‘Private Lives’ ranks as one of these. How wonderful that as the Festival Theatre goes dark for an exciting year of refurbishment, we are left with such a gem to remember. But sadly, if you haven’t already booked, returns are your only chance. It would certainly be worth the effort. And maybe, just maybe it will transfer. Let us hope so.”
For oughttobeclowns, “The chemistry in Jonathan Kent’s production is palpable with the nigh-on perfect casting of Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens. Chancellor, always a fearsomely good actress, brings a fulsome depth to bear which never lets us forget that there is a lifetime of love and loss that underlies all the comic business which occurs when the divorced couple meet accidentally on a hotel balcony, whilst both on their honeymoons with new partners. And Toby Stephens brings an unexpectedly delicious levity to his Elyot, public schoolboy through and through but charmingly warm too and both display perfect comic precision. They’re very well supported by their new spouses – Anthony Calf and Stephens’ real-life wife, Anna-Louise Plowman (who as it turns out, I still haven’t forgiven for being annoying beyond belief in Holby City…) – and Maggie McCarthy’s maid. It all looks a dream in the Minerva, thanks to Anthony Ward¢s designs, and the overall impact is so good that one suspects if schedules work out, this could easily make the leap into the West End.”
For thecriticsnotebook, “it is summed up pretty succinctly in the Telegraph. It is easily the best play that I have seen a long while. And as Charles Spencer rightly surmises, the play’s “success entirely depends on whether the actors playing the leading roles have the right chemistry between them”, them being Elyot and Amanda, played by Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens. True, this can be said of any Love story, or story of Lovers. However, in ‘Private Lives’ the story is this chemistry; it is what drives the play – without it you have nothing, really nothing.”
Last word goes to the Independent, “Toby Stephens put in the performance of a lifetime - to date at least - in Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ at Chichester. Scintillatingly funny and sexy, but also delightfully naturalistic and rumpled, his Elyot spent an enjoyable amount of time interwined on chaises longues with his old flame, Anna Chancellor’s Amanda.”
2012 : ‘VEXED’ 2nd Series
During March 2012, Toby was spotted filming in Grafton Street, Dublin for the second series of ‘Vexed’ scheduled to be aired in BBC 2 that autumn. This time Toby is paired with a new partner, Miranda Raison playing the part of Georgina Dixon, a highly efficient Detective Inspector, compared to Toby’s Jack Armstrong, charming, disorganised and prone to laziness!
This second series played over 6 consecutive weeks, an antithesis for those not watching the Olympic coverage, and the reviews this time round were equally mixed and the commissioning of a second series left some reviewers confused.
This from thisissouthwales.co.uk sums up the feelings very well, “I am in two minds about whether I should be recommending this quirky detective series at all. On its first outing it didn’t so much leave me cold, as befuddled. Part slapstick, part murder mystery, it didn’t seem to have much going for it on any level except for its cast. Toby Stephens? I mean he’s been a James Bond baddie and done proper serious theatre so he must know what he’s doing? Well, here it is back again for a second primetime series and this time he is joined by new screen partner played by Miranda Raison (so good as brave Jo in ‘Spooks’) so perhaps I have been missing something. Give it a go and, as someone who persistently fails to get the charms of ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’, I am prepared to be proved wrong.”
And for primetime.unrealitytv.co.uk, “I have to say that I was one of the few people who spoke up in defence of the first series of ‘Vexed’ as I found it fun to watch and that Punch and Stephens bounced well off one another while another of my friends liked it as it was a mystery show without all the violence that is contained in something like ‘Line of Duty’. Going by the first episode of this new series though I feel that the negative criticisms may have been justified as the majority of what was on show here irritated me no end. Firstly Stephens seems to have turned Jack into some sort of chauvinistic caricature with his forced deep voice being one of the most annoying things about him as well as his arrogant nature which I found to be off-putting rather than adding to the character. These attributes may have been more noticeable as this time he has little chemistry with his female partner instead trying to show her that he’s the boss but failing miserably. To her credit Miranda Raison does the most with the character she’s been given even if Georgina is the stereotypical woman police officer who has trained so much at her job that she doesn’t have time for a personal life. Though the writers did give Georgina a sympathetic edge where we discover that previous partners have told her that she’s too full on, I personally didn’t think we were given enough reason to care about her that much.”
theartsdesk.comwrites “Stephens plays against the braggardly type he embodied as a younger actor, a beta male who sees himself as alpha unless there are females in the room.”
The Metro said of Series One that “It’s saving grace was Toby Stephens as Detective Inspector Jack Armstrong, who looks laddish with his leather jacket and vintage Merc, but is actually looking for a proper relationship.” But of this second series concludes, “good chemistry, however, isn’t enough to keep me watching. It’s disappointing. Perhaps that’s why it’s called ‘Vexed’.”
insidemediatrack.comwrites, “The ever affable Toby Stephens is back in a role in which, while perhaps not his best, he is still very likable despite some of his more archaic attitudes as the suave D.I. Jack Armstrong. Toby Stephens is perfect in this role”
Pat Stacey for herald.ie liked it and rather charmingly wrote, “I met Toby Stephens, the main star of Vexed, very briefly, 10 years ago, back when I was reviewing films. The film in question was ‘Die Another Day’. The occasion was a pre-release press trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall. Neither Berry nor Brosnan were there on the day, but poor Toby Stephens was. He had to be. He was playing the villain and was probably contractually obliged to promote the thing. He seemed like a terribly nice man, if a little awkward and self-conscious. You’d probably be awkward and self-conscious too if you had to stand there for half-an-hour with a microphone in your hand while a gang of journos asked you a wide variety of fairly dumb questions. Among them was a starstruck young woman from an English regional newspaper; she asked Stephens if he’d ever fancied playing James Bond himself. This was an especially dumb question, since Stephens, though not as short as yours truly, is a man of modest height. But he’s a wonderful actor, as he proved when he played the brooding Mr Rochester in the BBC’s 2006 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’. All of which brings us back to the comedy cop show ‘Vexed’, in which Stephens plays Detective Inspector Jack Armstrong, a lazy, arrogant, skirt-chasing, politically incorrect idiot who seems to hop through life on one foot while the other one is stuck in his mouth. In other words, he’s a great character. It knows it’s far-fetched and puerile and silly, yet revels in it. Maybe the stuck-up UK critics will warm to it; maybe not.” He went on to write “I’ll ignore the dim plots just to see Toby Stephens in action as the fantastically idiotic, gloriously politically incorrect DI Jack Armstrong. As a comic performance, it’s fabulous, even if the scripts aren’t.”
Harry Venning for The Stage was less generous, “It is never helpful to apportion blame, but nonetheless the fault lies with Stephens’ insistence on trying to play the comedy instead of the character. What he produces is a bizarre and wholly irritating combination of Simon Templar and Swiss Tony, the car salesman from ‘The Fast Show’. He attempts loveable oaf, but manages only the second bit.”
Michael Moran in The Lady didn’t like it either “Let me be candid, I didn’t like it. I like Toby Stephens as an actor, he’s a remarkably accomplished performer on stage and in films as well as TV. Here, he seems to be laying on the parody a bit too thickly to sustain this character for anything longer than a sketch.”
Neither did John Walsh for the Independent who scathingly wrote, “God knows what Stephens thinks he is, but his character comes across as an 18-carat arsehole. And God knows what BBC2 is doing giving air space to this queasy, misconceived hybrid of ‘Dempsey and Makepeace’ and ‘Carry on Copper’.”
However Cameron McEwan for cultbox gives it 5 stars and writes, “Stephens is in his element, playing every moment to the hilt with shocking hilarity. Exquisitely portrayed by Stephens and Raison, the hugely enjoyable twosome lift an already giggle-filled script into the realms of a perfect hour of television heaven.”
On the blogging front, views were equally mixed, some hating others while one wrote, “Toby Stephens really does shine in this role and his comedy timing is so good that I am often left thoroughly impressed with this show.”
Last word from the Metro, “You can take the man out of Rochester’s breeches but you can’t take Rochester out of the man. A perm away from being the Hoff he’s an impression of TV cops everywhere as he hunts down baddies with the skill of ‘Mr Bean’. Stephens has said this role is more like him, more his kind of thing. If so, he’s a very low rate Gene Hunt even down to the specialist car and bored intolerance to crime disrupting his morning latte.”