BY ROYAL OINT
10 The List 19 November—2 December 1993
‘In To Play The King Urquhart’s wife is sitting at breakfast looking at photographs on the front pages of the newspaper, and says “There you are looking just like the Demon King”.’
To Play The King revisits one of TV’s most appealing recent villains, Francis Urquhart PM, anti- hero of House Of Cards. Tom Lappin met Urquhart’s alter ego IAN RICHARDSON.
he political dirty tricks book is rewritten every day in Parliament, but some moves are still considered a little de trop. Don’t bet on it. but pushing your former mistress turned pesky interfering journalist off the House of Commons roof to a splattery death on the ﬂagstones below would probably still cause a few raised eyebrows amongst the political set. who to date have restrained their acts of revenge on the media to blackballing Jeremy Paxman from the Garrick Club.
Nevertheless, that’s where we left ﬁctional politico Francis Urquhart in the BBC drama House Of Cards. peering satanically over the parapet as what was left of the rather too bright for her own good Mattie Storin oozed into the gutter. To refresh your memory, House OfCards concerned a back-stabbing power struggle in Government Circles, resulting in the downfall of a beleaguered Prime Minister, and his replacement by the suave Urquhart. Played with consummate nastiness by Ian Richardson. Urquhart progressed from discreet plotter through malicious conspirator to ruthless murderer in a performance that earned Richardson two Best Actor awards.
Now Urquhart is back in a sequel. To Play The King. adapted, like House Of Cards by Andrew Davies from the novel by Michael Dobbs. Firmly established in Number Ten, Urquhart is getting bored with staying three steps ahead of a plodding Opposition. and squares up to a more challenging adversary in the shape of a newly- crowned idealistic king, played by Michael Kitchen. The veggie-munching, eco-friendly monarch proves a tougher opponent than anticipated, and Urquhart‘s saturnine eyebrows are destined to twitch more than a little agitatedly during the course of four episodes. So closely has Ian Richardson been identiﬁed with the role of Urquhart, that the prospect of asking the actor a few questions seems a tricky business. ‘You may think that.’ you half- expect him to reply to the blandest of enquiries. ‘I cannot possibly comment.’ In fact. he loves the character. and deserves a large slice of the credit for one of TV drama’s most memorable recent creations. After a career spent predominantly playing decent. oh-so-British chaps, he relished the opportunity to be a villain.
‘Baddies are always much more fun than clean-limbed goodies who are rather boring usually.’ he says. ‘Urquhart has that pantomime villain quality about him. In To Play The King Urquhart’s wife is sitting at breakfast looking at photographs on the front pages of the newspaper, and says “There you are looking just like the Demon King". Everybody is aware of the fact that it is verging on melodrama.’