Actor Ian Hallard is about to appear in Tumulus at the Soho Theatre, he’s married to actor and writer Mark Gatiss, loves Dallas, has seen Everybody Loves James three times and once destroyed a table at a party while dressed as the Evil Queen from Snow White.
Where are you from originally?
Birmingham. I went to University in Sheffield and I’ve been in London for twenty two years now so there’s not much left of the Brummie accent nowadays.
And where do you live now?
In Islington with my husband, Mark, and our twenty month old Labrador, Bob. Sadly our beloved old Lab, Bunsen, died last year.
What do you love about London and why?
Its vibrancy and the sheer range of things to do and see. London’s theatre scene both on and off West End is really exhilarating.
What was the first gay venue you visited?
I was 17 and I caught the train into Birmingham city centre without telling my parents where I was going and went to a gay bar on my own. I can’t even remember its name now. I sat at the bar for a few minutes, and before I knew it, I was swept ‘backstage’ to where the drag queens were getting ready, and spent the night chatting to them. They completely took me under their wing!
How would you describe Tumulus?
It’s a murder mystery thriller set in London against the backdrop of the contemporary chemsex scene. Our hero, Anthony, discovers his ex has been murdered and, with the police showing no interest in the case, he sets out to try and solve the crime himself. It’s fast-paced, witty, thrilling and ingeniously staged with three actors playing forty-odd roles.
Can you tell us about your characters?
I play all the older characters (and Harry Lister-Smith all the young ones!) They include a nerdy type who keeps a spreadsheet of who has taken what drugs at the chemsex party, an eccentric Scottish lady dog-walker and an academic whose specialist subject is Boudicca: one of whom may or may not turn out to be the murderer…
What was the last theatre show you saw, and what did you think of it?
I went to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie for the third time, at the Apollo Theatre, because I wanted to see Michelle Visage in it. It’s a great show. I think Dan Gillespie Sells’ music is wonderful, and when I took my Mum to see it, we were both welling up when it got to He’s My Boy.
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
Old episodes of Dallas on DVD. Pam Ewing’s evil half-sister, Katherine, is fabulously camp and my favourite soap character of all time!
I’m not particularly extravagant myself but we’ve just paid for my Dad to go to Budapest and get a new set of teeth!
Best gift you’ve ever received and why?
I’ve been a massive ABBA fan all my life. In 2013 I got to meet my idol, Agnetha Fältskog. I burbled on unintelligibly to her for five minutes and a few days later, a personalised, signed copy of her album arrived in the mail. That was a particularly special gift.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Playing Michael in Mart Crowley’s seminal gay play The Boys in the Band a couple of years ago. I got to work with my husband and a wonderful cast: all of whom have remained my friends (including, thankfully, my husband). We had a run at the Park Theatre, a UK tour and then transferred to the West End. The cherry on the top was being nominated for Best Actor in the Whatsonstage Awards, alongside the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Kenneth Branagh and Ian McKellen… who must have wondered who the Hell I was!
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
I never came out to my Nan, who I was incredibly close to. She died in April 1999, and I met Mark that September, so I’d love to take him back with me to meet her.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
A friend had a pantomime-themed, post civil partnership, fancy dress party. I went as the Evil Queen from Snow White, and for reasons I don’t entirely remember, was jokingly pushed into a trestle table by a Maleficent. The table collapsed beneath me and I had a terrible hangover all the next day.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t waste your time worrying about what other people think of you – especially if it’s people who give you no reason to respect them in the first place.
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
The volunteers who set up Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline. It’s 45 years old this year, I’ve been a volunteer there for the last ten of them, and we’re still supporting callers via the phone, instant messaging and email.
Who are the most entertaining people you follow on social media and why?
On Twitter, the brilliant Marina Hyde skewers our most egregious politicians on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Happy Birthtime makes me howl with laughter, particularly when celebrities think it’s a serious account and try to correct them.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
It would be nice to reassure my anxious teenage self that my family would embrace my sexuality and that I’d end up married to a wonderful man, doing a job I love. So basically that things would turn out OK after all.