This week sees the world debut of Le Grand Mort by the late Stephen Clark at the Trafalgar Studios, SW1. This two handed black comedy was written especially for star Julian Clary by the four-time Olivier Award nominated writer who died last year. Dave Cross spoke to co-star James Nelson-Joyce plus we hear from Julian and director Christopher Renshaw.
Hi James, what is the basic story of Le Grand Mort?
The play is about two men who meet for a dinner date. Michael, a man who is very reserved and likes to be left alone and Tim who is brash and vitriolic, so it’s a recipe for disaster.
What can you tell us about your character Tim?
Tim is loud, fearless and loves to play games. He gets his pleasure from being manipulative and controlling. He lives on the edge so you’re never sure what he’ll do next.
What’s his relationship with Julian’s character Michael?
You’ll have to come and see the show, haha!
The subject of death is central to the play, but it’s described as a comedy, can you tell us about the humour?
The play is very fast paced and moves quickly. The comedy is more about these two different personalities trying to work each other out and get along. The subject of death is something you will have to come to the play to understand.
And what about the look and styling of the play?
The play is set in an apartment in Notting Hill, and is very stylish. Sleek lines, sexy music and a gorgeous sculpture that you just have to see!
What is it like working with Julian Clary?
JC is brilliant. He’s a comedy genius, he can get a laugh on the word ‘Pasta’! It’s been a pleasure but also so interesting as he shows a completely different side to what you think you know about him.
“In 2010 Stephen Clark took me out to lunch in Camden and told me he’d like to write a play for me. How lovely, how flattering, how unusual. Over the following few years I got the occasional email from Stephen saying ‘I haven’t forgotten the play!’ but I decided he’d probably thought better of it. We were both busy with life, work and in Stephen’s case, some serious health issues. Then, one day in 2013, it arrived. A funny, dark, beautiful play. Le Grand Mort will take me so far out of my comfort zone I may never return.”
Christopher Renshaw, Director
“Through our many collaborations, Stephen Clark and I became very close friends. Someone with whom I shared absolute trust, not only in our work but in our lives. A brave, honest, brilliantly funny man, who faced the many health challenges of his life without a single complaint. An inspiration. It is so very sad for me that Stephen will not be here for the first production of Le Grand Mort, but I know he will be watching from somewhere, sipping a glass of good red wine, absorbing and encouraging every moment of rehearsal, as he always did.”