Alan Breaks Back

Alan Howard was one of the first actors to step on to the Barbican stage when Trevor Nunn took him and Ian McKellen to test the acoustics several months before it opened.

Since then the former RSC hero has returned only for a pantomime and occasional readings while another generation of actors - Rees, Sher, Branagh - have commanded the space which Mr Howard might have considered belonged to him by right.

He said: "That's not really the case. I thought it was time I had a break from the classics and found out a little more about contemporary writing, television and films.

"To be honest, I have not missed it that much. Perhaps in a year or so I'll feel a need to go back. Not necessarily to Shakespeare, though I suppose I shall have to do Macbeth one day, but to Ibsen or Chekhov. We shall just have to see."

Mr Howard will, in fact, be back on stage under the RSC banner for the first time since he was seen in C P Taylor's Good when he opens at the Mermaid Theatre on Tuesday.

He has taken over Daniel Massey's role in Stephen Poliakoff's Breaking the Silence which moves from The Pit at the Barbican to Puddle Dock.

"It's not really a case of going back to the company. This feels very much like an independent production. But Gemma Jones and John Kane are here and it's the first time we have been together since the Dream (Peter Brook's) so that's been nice."

Since he returned from the Broadway run of Good he has been heavily involved in television, starring with Michael Gambon in a new play, Poppyland, and next month will be seen playing John Osborne's father in a TV version of the playwright's first volume of autobiography, A Better Class of Person.

He said: "It concentrates on his relationship with his parents. The father died of TB when he was quite young but it was an interesting piece to do. He certainly had a curious childhood."

The Evening Standard, 4.5.85.

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