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Life Lessons… Oliver Ford Davies

First Published 25 April 2012, Last Updated 2 May 2012

Currently starring in Written On The Heart, Oliver Ford Davies has enjoyed a career that has spanned four decades, seen him conquer the stage and screen, and become a published author and expert on performing Shakespeare.

After graduating from Oxford University, where he was President of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, Ford Davies went on to appear in more than 25 productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1990 he won an Olivier Award for his performance in the premiere of David Hare’s Racing Demon and has since been nominated a further two times; in 2003 for Absolutely! (Perhaps) at the Wyndham’s theatre and in 2007 for Hamlet at the Novello theatre.

As well as numerous theatre credits, including All’s Well That Ends Well, Saint Joan and Playing With Fire at the prestigious National Theatre, and King Lear, Naked and Ivanov at the Almeida theatre, Ford Davies is as recognisable a face on screen as he is on the stage. Appearing in cult film trilogy Star Wars parts I, II and III, the actor has also starred in five series of popular television drama Kavanagh QC.

As he returns to both the West End and the RSC to star as Lancelot Andrewes at the Duchess theatre, the actor looks back on his career and tells us what he has learned, what he wishes he could have done differently and the moments he would have no other way.

If I could go back to my first audition… I wouldn’t have tried to do a bit of Falstaff, for which I was far too young

…but I’d still… choose a passage that really stretched me.

The thing I’d do more of would be… movement and singing exercises.

The thing I’d do less of would be… trying to fit into a preconceived mould.

The production I’d have loved to be in is… the Peter Brook/Paul Scofield 1962 King Lear.

The acting job I wish I’d never taken was… The Little Hut at the Phoenix theatre, Leicester in 1969.

The advice I followed in my early career was… always be audible.

The advice I follow now is… follow your instinct, foster your imagination.

When I won an Olivier Award I felt… staggered. I assumed it would go to Ian McKellen’s Iago or Nigel Hawthorne’s C.S. Lewis. I had to check with my partner that I really had heard my name.

When going on stage for the opening night of Written On The Heart… my way of playing this part is unique to me: Take it or leave it.

What I’d like to tell my younger self is… try to play closer to myself, to my age – I was always ‘greying up’ – to my character and to my abilities.

What I’d like to do next is… play the doctor, Chebutykin, in Three Sisters.


Written On The Heart is taking part in Get Into London Theatre Summer 2012, offering reduced price tickets between 21 June and 21 July. Tickets must be booked by 31 May. Book now!


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