Wilson plays Straight down the middle

Straight, Crudible Studio: director Richard Wilson
Straight, Crudible Studio: director Richard Wilson

SINCE being appointed associate director of Sheffield Theatres Richard Wilson has brought a succession of new or contemporary plays to the Crucible Studio and the latest is Straight.

The comedy by DC Moore is receiving its premiere in Sheffield and then will transfer to the Bush Theatre in London.

It is based on an American indie film called Humpday in which two college mates agree to a drunken dare that they will, shall we say, get intimate before the cameras in an adult movie.

“Daniel {Evans, Sheffield Theatres artistic director} commissioned David to write a play about sexuality and he had seen the film and thought it would fit the bill and bought the rights.

“I think it’s a better play than the film,” says the director. “It’s funnier, for one thing. It’s interesting in so much as it’s almost farcical at times but when it gets to the nitty gritty it becomes quite serious.”

The play is a lot about relationships, not only male friendships but male-female. One of the men, Lewis, is married, while the other Waldorf has a casual girlfriend, Steph, who is making the film.

“When Waldorf turns up after seven years, Lewis asks him where he is staying and his friend says, ‘Here, at your place,’ because years ago when circumstances were different he promised him that if he needed a place to live he could always come to him. It shows that things can come back to haunt you.”

Once again Richard Wilson finds himself directing a young cast. “That’s because most new plays are written by young people. But I don’t mind that, in fact I like it because older actors can be a little set in their ways,” he observes. “And, of course, it’s exciting when you are discovering new talent.”

As an actor Wilson can currently be seen in the fifth series of Merlin on BBC1, although he only finished on it two weeks ago. “I had to give Merlin two days of this production and go off and do some filming,” he says. “That was agreed beforehand. Merlin has been very handy because it subsidises the other work I do. It’s tough for older actors finding roles and even tougher for older actresses.”

Most of the One Foot in the Grave actor’s other work is directing – next up a play by Richard Bean, Smack Family Robinson, at the Rose Theatre, Kingston – although he is soon off to do a week of lunchtime theatre in Glasgow. He’s appearing with old friend Bill Paterson in something called Astonishing Archie in a programme called A Play, A Pie and A Pint. Sounds the perfect combination.

Straight starts previewing next Thursday, November 1.