facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Robert Bathurst

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 23 April 2020

Best known for the morally vacillating character David in ITV comedy-drama Cold Feet, Robert Bathurst is currently appearing in a very different sort of drama, Chekhov's Three Sisters , at the Playhouse Theatre. He told Richard Embray about his television and theatre career – and his desire to play someone other than an "emotional retard"…

On television, Robert Bathurst has seemed most at home in comedy drama, in high-farce sitcom Joking Apart, romantic comedy of errors Cold Feet and teatime childrens show My Dad's The Prime Minister. But despite never intending to make a career of comedy, that's where he started, in the Cambridge Footlights, with contemporaries Douglas Adams, Clive Anderson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Griff Rhys Jones, Emma Thompson, Simon McBurney and Nicholas Hytner. As President of Footlights, he went on to perform such shows as Botham – The Musical, but he followed a very different career path to those of his contemporaries who carved out a series of sketch shows in the 1980s.

"I did three years of it – too much of it for my director of studies' taste. But I'm glad I did and it did provide a way in, because I then did a revue show on radio. But it took a long time to shake off the tag of a university comedy trouper. I think I've served my time doing enough fringe and rep theatre not to be marked down as that, but that was a fantastic training of sorts. I went to law school and I did carry on doing comedy shows with people who were there. But as soon as I could I got into the National and held a spear and was utterly miserable doing it. Although it did give me an understanding of the wider world of theatre – how it worked."

His early experiences in theatre were occassionally tricky: "I did Judgement at the Man In The Moon which I think was the hardest work I ever did – It was a Barry Collins play. It was a two hour monologue about someone who had eaten all the people he’d been in prison with and was being tried for it by the audience. And sometimes the audience were only three people – they were meant to be twelve good men and true, but sometimes we didn’t have a quorum. That was very hard work, but that confirmed to me that I could do it!"

But given that he's best known as a comic actor, doesn't he find it strange that his most recent stage appearances have been in Hedda Gabler (a regional tour) and Three Sisters? "Well, yes, Ibsen was a strange thing for me to do, I thought. And I've never done Chekhov before, so it was great to be offered it.

"But there's still a few laughs here – bizarrely: it's packed full of really good ironies. The audience are having a good time. Partly it may be seeing other people having a worse time than they're having. That may be part of the appeal, I don't know! These people are miles from anywhere, not being in the centre of life, not being in the house they want to be in, not being in the town they want to be in. It's a serious play, but, Chekhov called it a high comedy and it's high because it's heightened. In Solzhenitsyn, for example, in the gulags, there's great comedy in that. People manage to find humour despite their situation and [director] Michael Blakemore has allowed laughter in, which I think some productions possibly don't."

Although Bathurst has never seen a production of the play before. "Its a gap! But, yes, it was quite good because I wasn't burdened with the weight of history and other people's performances. But Michael Blakemore said 'don't be too reverential'. Of course you're very alive to every last phrase and nuance in it, but in terms of playing as a hackneyed classic – rip that up and play it your way."

Bathurst's character in Three Sisters, Vershinin, is far from the most sympathetic of characters and – let's be honest – it seems to be continuing a tradition for the actor, who, while charming and softl-spoken in person, is most famous for his role as David in Cold Feet who is also a bit of a bastard. "Well, you never judge them, that's the key," he explains. "Otherwise you only play one facet of the character – he's a shit! But people are more complicated than that. There's much to despise about him, but on the other hand, he believes in what he's saying and he entertains Masha in some way. But it's for the audience to judge."

"Well, I'd like to play someone who isn't an emotional retard one day!"

But didn't he find it odd playing another bastard straight after David. "Well, I'd like to play someone who isn't an emotional retard one day! I got sent a script recently and yet again it was someone who's illiterate emotionally and I thought no, I'm going to play a good person. It's more interesting, actually, to try and make interesting dramatically someone who's a good person!"

Three Sisters is at the Playhouse theatre until June 29.


Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.