“It was a subject that instantly moved me and was very close to my heart in so far as it deals with the effects of combat stress and I spent quite some time meeting all sorts of people who have witnessed horrors and have all kinds of injuries to deal with.”
Reflecting on his role as Major Oscar Hadley in Sandi Toksvig’s play Bully Boy (to appear at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate later this month), actor Anthony Andrews makes clear how affected he has been by the emotive nature of the show’s subject matter.
The play follows the story of Falklands war veteran Major Oscar Hadley, who is sent to a combat zone to prove allegations of severe misconduct by a young squaddie from Burnley in a “Bully Boy” unit of the British Army. The two men eventually bond over their shared experience of the horrors of war.
Anthony said: “The charity Combat Stress is working tirelessly to help people who suffer in this way.”
A famous face to many, Anthony could easily be counted among Britain’s most successful actors, with a career which spans the decades on stage and screen.
Many will still remember him as the fatally flawed Sebastian Flyte in the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited (for which he won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe), and more recently as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech.
And reading and learning a lifetime of scripts was a personal challenge he took on ever since, as a child, it was discovered that he had dyslexia.
He said: “A turning point did not come until my school master recognised I had some problems at school. I was dyslexic, although that condition was only really known about years later and at that time there were many people who did not recognise you had it. But this brilliant man, who taught English, recognised I had a problem and he decided a way for me to get past it was to be given a part in the school play, so I had to learn dialogue and I would become more confident.”
He continued: “Whenever I turn to a page my eyes still automatically go to the middle and that is a hangover from school days when I was so terrified I just wanted to get to the end of the text.”
Overcoming his own personal obstacles also meant the story of The King’s Speech, which follows King George VI’s quest to overcome his stutter, had particular resonance. He said: “It was very early on that it was recognised it would be more successful as a film. They did produce the play and the mother of Tom Hooper(King’s Speech director) went to see it and rang Tom to say ‘I have found your next film.’ He was moved by it and the rest is history.”
Bully Boy will be performed on the Royal stage from August 24 until September 15. To book tickets log onto www.royalandderngate.co.uk.