Having successfully unravelled the mysteries of Dead Head Denis Lawson makes a swift but welcome return to the small screen as the Welsh librarian in a BBC2 adaptation ofthe Kingsley Amis novel Thar Uncertain Feeling.

The novel has previously been immortalised on celluloid in the celebrated 1961 film Only Two Can Play co-starring Peter Sellers. Mai Zetterling and Richard . Attenborough. Lawson hopes that ; any comparisons made between the i two ventures will be superfluous.

‘01in Two Can Play was one of Sellers‘ best performances and it is a

. wonderful picture. I think there will be comparisons drawn although the tone ofthe television piece is quite

I different from the film. Ewart Alexander. who‘s a Welsh writer.

has done a very nice adaptation that’s quite witty and quite close to the novel which. in a sense. is much more low-key and slightly


Although born in (.‘ricff. Lawson has studiously avoided being

typecast as a specifically Scottish

actor and. Local Hero aside. has

deliberately set out to prove his

versatility in many areas. Thai

Uncertain Feeling called upon him to

master a Welsh accent. ‘I actually

used a dialogue coach for the first time for that.’ he reveals. ‘Not only

i had it to be Welsh but it had to be

educated valleys Welsh. I have a

couple of friends in Wales. one of

whom is a Professor of Humanities at

l a polytechnic there. He arranged for

i me to meet a couple ofguys from the

! valleys and I hung around with them

3 in their village for a day and then I

E drove to Swansea. which is where the

' piece is set. and sniffed about the

g town. I didn‘t know much about

3 Wales and there was a lot to take in

about the kind ofattitudes the

3 character might have.‘

i That Uncertain Feeling. which

I beginstransmission on 12 March.

_ co-stars David Calder and Sheila

i Gish. Filming took place during the

1 less than wonderfulsummer of 1985

as Lawson has good cause to recall. ‘There was one scene we played on

; top ofa cliff. It was a wonderful

l location they‘d found with sea in the

'. background and there is a rather nice romantic love scene when they have their first kiss. Well. when we filmed

it there was a Force lllgale. Sheila Gish was wearing a summer dress

j and I was just in a suit and

L lightweight shirt. We were standing closer than we are just now and we

2 couldn‘t actually hear each other;

I hair was going everywhere and we

. were wavering about with the force

' ofthe wind. It was absolutely insane.

i We made them re-shoot that scene.

'1 We did the close-ups behind a bus in

Q another field because it was so


Lawson is no stranger to inclement weather as the recent Dead Head was filmed between October 1984 and January 1985 when

temperatures fell as low as minus ten. ‘There was an awful lot of night filming and you get very disorientated.‘ he says. "There was one spell ofa fortnight‘s filming on {ie trot and it was tough. I had this

4'I'he List T— 20 Mar

From deadbead to bookworm. The List talks to iDenis Lawson who stars as a Welsh librarian in That Uncertain Feeling starting on 12 March on BBC 2.


little caravan to myself with this huge

gas fire and that kind of kept me

alive. There was one occasion at one

o‘clock in the morning when l was in

a pinstripe suit jumping up and down on a trampoline and I thought “What 1 the fuck am I doing here'.’"'l‘hey

never used that shot either. It was very arduous but I loved doing that job. I‘d worked with the director Rob Walker a lot in the theatre but never on television before. He wanted to film Dead [lead in black and white because it was a film noir. a pastiche. but the BBC wouldn't entertain the idea. They thought “People will switch off because it‘s not in colour." A daft view.’

Over the next few months it will be

hard to avoid Lawson who is something of a workaholic however much he may refute the charge. I lis last film The ('hain. an all-star comedy drama directed by Jack Gold. has just been released on

video. ‘It‘s based on the seven deadly sins and I play Sloth. It was shot very quickly. about five weeks. and I was I doing a play at the Royal (‘ourt simultaneously. I didn‘t do a great

deal in the film but I loved working

with Jack Gold who's a very charming man.‘ Lawson is currently starring in

l London‘s West End in a new

American farce Lend Us a 'l'enor. and is about to film a second series of his television sit-com The Kit ('urran Radio Show. And he‘s not a workaholic.

The first series of the Kit ('urran Radio Show was scheduled against Panorama and achieved a staggering ratings success. The new batch radically alter the format placing Lawson‘s hustler of a disc jockey onto the dole queue and into the murky waters ofrunning a pirate station. ‘It‘s going out on (‘hannel 4. which I quite like. There‘s a certain pressure you feel on a commercial channel. You feel with (‘hannel 4 you might get a slightly more discerning. interested audience. So. you might be able to give a slightly

' more discerning. interesting

performance.’ Does this mean that his performance last time was deficient ofsuch qualitics‘.’ ‘No.‘ is

his jocular reply. ‘I'd never done a series like that before and to play to

and audience and a camera at the

same time is incredibly difficult. The

type of audience that you get for a comedy series tends to like a broader kind of humour so. if you pull faces

5 and mention lavvies and knickers ? they laugh quite a lot. quite easily.

There is a great temptation to mug in a way that just doesn’t suit the

camera or. what’s more important. suit the viewer who‘s going to sit at home and watch it. It‘s a very tricky medium to work in and I always felt that I never quite got it right.‘

Lawson's television experience is extensive. ranging from The Flipside of Dominick Hide to an appearance on Wogan and a snatch of Shakespeare with Laurence Olivier. The Shakespeare production. early on in his career. proved a salutary experience. He was cast as Lancelot Gobbo in a production of The Merchant of Venice. The troupe had grown accustomed to the play during their run at the National Theatre. Lawson was the fresh-faced youngster cast as a television replacement for the otherwise engaged Jim Dale.

‘Olivier was great.’ he says. ‘I did learn something very vital from him by accident. We‘d been rehearsing for about three weeks and he had a line to me about being a gourmand. I asked him what this meant and he said. “It means you eat a lot. you‘re a glutton.“ I said. “Oh I see“ and didn‘t think any more about it. Then, later on. it just hit me that I'd been a complete schmuck because I should have known what that meant it was said about the character. Since I hadn't taken the trouble to find out what that word meant I‘d restricted the options I had of how to play that character. I could have made him somebody who ate incessantly for instance. It was that thought that made me more conscious of the fact that. as an actor. you should know words. should know the language. So. it was very valuable and it was quite unconscious as far as Olivier was concerned. Although he may have thought. “This boy‘s an idiot."‘

In a career that began in mime Lawson has convincingly proved himselfa man for all seasons. His theatrical credits alone encompass work at the Traverse. the Citizens’. in a Amsterdam run of Hair and a triumphant West End production of PalJoey. His films include the entire Star Wars series and Alain Resnais's Providence with Dirk Bogarde and John Gielgud. He would dearly love to establish himself as a film star but that ambition will have to wait until the autumn at least.

‘Ifthis play runs it will be the toughest six or seven months I will ever have had.

I‘ll be doing the Kit Curran series at the same time and that means seven days a week because Curran

is recorded on a Sunday. Curran is hard work on its own anyway because

he just spouts all the time. So. this could be my last interview before I go