In The History Boys, Felix the headmaster is the fall guy, the character nobody likes and who is continually mocked behind his back.
He is a man who epitomises the unimaginative results-obssessed education system that Alan Bennett so despises and is depicted as a bully, a hypocrite and philistine.
It’s a hard ask to wring much sympathy out of him from the audience. Nicholas Day, charged with inhabiting Felix in the new production at the Crucible, says an actor has to approach the character from the inside rather than the outside.
“It’s important when playing a character who is perceived as bad or wrong-headed or stupid not to take account of that. You have to be an advocate of that person.
“There was talk once of me playing Hitler and I remember thinking that was really exciting. Hitler as a loveable uncle adored by somebody..,” he reflects. You cannot play evil or bad or stupid you have to integrate it into playing the man.”
Day is an actor seen regularly on TV from the days of Lovejoy and Minder to current series such as Foyle’s War, New Tricks and Garrow’s Law.
But he is very much a man of the theatre and spent the last two years with the RSC.
Before coming to Sheffield he fitted in something much more gentle than the hectic running around he did there – filming an episode of Poirot.
His role? “A Whitehall mandarin. I do a good line in officious,” he affirms. “Someone once said whatever part I play I have to carry a clipboard.”
The History Boys continues at the Crucible until June 8.