Edward Baker-Duly, playing the dual roles of Fred and Petruchio in Kiss Me, Kate, feels at home at the Crucible.
“It reminds me of working at the National,” he says. “It feels like an institution. Everyone is working to make the best of what this institution is about and the stage is like walking out on to the Olivier or even the Vivian Beaumont at the Lincoln Center in New York.”
He speaks with experience of both.
“I went over to the US for an adventure five or six years ago and I took my family and just wanted to experience life somewhere else,” he explains.
“I have quite a chequered background in a good way. I am Swedish by birth, spent a little time in Ethiopia as a baby, lived in England for a year when I was three or four and then stayed in South Africa for 20 years and then came to London, went to America, and now we are back.
“I was very fortunate to do some interesting things there. I really felt I was maximising myself as a jobbing actor. There was television, there was theatre, there was film, voiceover, motion capture, gaming, there was a huge array of opportunities at one’s disposal.
“We came back for every reason which is not part of the profession. There were family reasons . We wanted our children to be British. They are ten and 12 and my son has just started senior school and we wanted to here and near our own family house, my wife is English.”
People told him he would never make it. “But you don’t know and what is making it? Making it is being a jobbing actor and working. Of course I would love to command the huge salaries of A listers, who doesn’t? But do you know what, how happy I am to room here because I feel this is where I belong – in Sheffield at the Crucible working on this fantastic piece with the most amazing company.”
The Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate centres on feuding divorcees Fred and Lilli as they co-star in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew before gambling, gangsters and mistaken identity conspire to create chaos.
The actor, who came to Sheffield from the King and I in the West End, believes the production has addressed some of the outdated gender politics of The Taming of the Shrew and the musical written in 1948.
“It certainly makes more sense,” he insists. “A power struggle is set up in the infamous spanking scene. In this production she gets as good as she gets up to the point where the straw breaks the camel’s back and unfortunately it goes to a dark place but I think it’s good that we go to that dark place and make it as realistic as possible so that they are seen as equals in a way rather than just some misogynist who is dominating all the time.”
The backstage tensions are certainly recognisable. “Fred is an actor and he is also producer of this and the stakes are so high he is at absolute breaking point and it all starts to go wrong,”says Baker-Duly. “ Creatives are dramatic people and we have to reveal so much and when there is an injustice to it one is very quick to temper and you want to be heard, stand up and get it off.
“If someone is rubbing you up the wrong way it is difficult to shrug it off because for us there is no definite line between work and play. We are always at play and when it is good it is the best thing in the world.”
Kiss Me, Kate runs at the Crucible until Saturday, January 12.