EastEnders' Adam Woodyatt reveals how much he's looking forward to coming to Milton Keynes
He played Ian Beale for 36 years - but now he's taking on a new role at MK Theatre
After appearing on our screens as Ian Beale in EastEnders for 36-years, this summer brings a change for television star Adam Woodyatt as he swaps Albert Square for the UK premiere stage adaptation of Peter James’ bestselling thriller, Looking Good Dead.
We sat down with Adam to talk about the tour, which visits Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday August 17 to
Saturday August 21.
We ask Adam what it is like to play such an iconic television character for British audiences, and what has kept him working at EastEnders for so long.
“That is a very nice thing to say,” he replies. “But I have never seen myself as a legendary character or anything like that. I have always seen myself as just someone doing a job. It is how everyone else has perceived the character that has given Ian that kind of status. I’ve just been a guy going to work for 36 years and I have been
lucky that my work is at a TV studio!”
After so long working in television and being part of the same team, there must have been something special about Looking Good Dead to temporarily tempt Adam away from EastEnders.
“What has really appealed to me about being part of Looking Good Dead is getting that live reaction,” he says.
His eyes light up as he talks about the live experience, “EastEnders has had massive responses when we’ve done live episodes. Especially in 2015 for me. I loved it. I loved that feeling of immediacy and knowing that what happens in this moment is what the audience will see there and then. I love that buzz.”
His enthusiasm is palpable as he continues, “I’ve done pantomimes over the years, which are always a favourite, so the prospect of being able to go out and do a theatre tour is really exciting. I spoke to the producers a couple of years ago about being part of something and I’m so glad that Looking Good Dead has worked out timing wise. I just can’t wait to have a live audience and I am really looking forward to it!”
Adam is not the first television star to take on a role in adaptations of Peter James’ works. In fact, many of the previous stars have been fellow EastEnders cast members including Shane Ritchie, Jessie Wallace and Rita Simons. We ask Adam what it’s like to now be part of this acting fraternity.
“There have been some great names” he says, “it’s a fun coincidence that a lot of them have been colleagues of mine! I’m really looking forward to being part of this show.”
So, is Adam a big Peter James fan and has he read the novel Looking Good Dead? “I have read Looking Good Dead and really enjoyed it. Like the previous plays have done, I’m hoping that the show will appeal to both fans of Peter James’ novels and many more people, who perhaps, like me are not massive readers. When I read the book, I was kept guessing the entire time, and I hope we can bring that excitement to audiences in the theatre.”
Over the years, many of James’ novels have been adapted to the stage and have a loyal following. So, what does Adam think is the key to their success?
“The adaptations are faithful to the book, but they always have a few twists or small changes, so that even someone who knows the book incredibly well isn’t one hundred percent certain what is going to happen on stage, which adds a brilliant element of surprise and anticipation. I think there’s a lot to look forward to in the stage play of
Looking Good Dead.”
The appeal of a thriller, as a book, play or film, has endured over time. Adam explains why he thinks they have a longstanding appeal for audiences. “I really enjoy a good thriller. I’m not one for really scary horrors, but something that makes you jump a bit, keeps you guessing and gets your adrenaline going is great entertainment. If we can draw people in and make them believe everything and end with a sharp intake of breath, then I think we have done our job. It’s one of those chances to get a thrill in a safe space.”
Although we are all used to seeing Adam on our TV screens regularly, it has been a while since he has performed on stage. “It’s definitely more than just a few years since I’ve done a drama on stage, definitely!” he chuckles.
"I started my career in Oliver! in the West End in the 1980s. So, the first thing I did was a musical where I played one of the kids and I also got to play a posh boy – just because I fitted the costume! I was eleven or twelve at the
time. The first straight play I did was On The Razzle at the National Theatre with a brief tour in 1981 I think. So, it’s been a while.”
After such a long time, is he nervous at all?
“At the moment it’s just excitement but maybe ask me again right before I go on stage, and I will probably be feeling some fear!”
Travelling around the UK with a tour is a very different life to arriving on set each day, so what is he looking forward to experiencing? “I’m so looking forward to getting to see some parts of the country that I have never visited before. I’m also looking forward to spending my daytimes with my bike and having a wander around the local areas.
"I’m also really looking forward to seeing the different theatres. I know that around the country there are some stunning and historic buildings everywhere. I’ve done the same job for 36 years so to have a chance to go and enjoy myself touring the country is so exciting for me.”
It’s hard to talk about an upcoming play, without considering the void left with no theatre for the majority of the past 12 months. Adam admits that he’s missed going to the theatre and talks about why he believes it is so important that it comes back as soon as it’s possible to do so.
“I think theatre is important on so many levels. Not only is it a place to entertain and share stories with audiences but it’s also people’s jobs and livelihoods. The entertainment industry is one of the biggest industries in the country, in all its various guises, theatre being one element of it. It is not just the people on the stage - it is everyone working behind the scenes, the people building the sets and costumes, designing and printing the programmes, the food and drinks businesses around the theatre. One theatre can spark so many other industries around it. It is vital that theatre comes back.
"For individuals coming to see productions it is such a great form of entertainment and storytelling. It goes back to the days of Scheherazade. Theatre in some form or another is as old as time. I think you can see by the response to the first productions that were able to open briefly at the end of last year that people are so thrilled to be able to be back in a theatre, experiencing something live, collectively again. It was hard to see it taken away so quickly.”
Aside from work, and preparing for Looking Good Dead, we ask Adam what he found himself doing to keep busy during lockdown. “I went back to cooking,” he says with a smile. “Cooking is one of my loves. I found myself doing a lot more of it and I even started baking. I haven’t baked since I was a kid. My showstopper bake is the same as everyone else’s I think, a good banana bread. I also got back into cycling again which I have really enjoyed, and I have a renewed passion for cycling which I hope to continue with throughout this tour.”
What can audiences look forward to when they come and see Looking Good Dead? “It’s going to be a really brilliant production, says Adam. “Peter James’ story is excellent, and the script has been adapted beautifully. It’s got thrills, fun, twists and turns and I am confident that people can have a really great evening or afternoon out. Plus, you can get an ice cream in the interval!”
Finally, we wonder if he has held onto any sage wisdom throughout his lengthy career as an actor.
He laughs and says, “Speak clearly and mind the furniture!”
You can book tickets to see Adam in Looking Good Dead at https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre/.