My first attempt at interviewing Mathew Horne didn’t quite go according to plan. Back in November during the acclaimed West End run of The Pride, which will be calling in at Richmond Theatre this month, I put in a call to him a couple of hours before an evening performance.
Unfortunately, the comfort of his dressing room proved too much and the Gavin and Stacey star dozed off, missing my calls. It was not until a couple of days later that we finally got to chat, when a wide-awake and enthusiastic interviewee gave me a ring to discuss his current theatre project.
The Pride tells two stories, one set in the 1950s and the other in modern times, which chart society’s changing attitudes to homosexuality. In the historical section, two men, Oliver and Philip, attempt to deal with their secret relationship while keeping it hidden from the latter’s wife. At the start of the present day story, we find another couple, also called Oliver and Philip, just at the point when their relationship is breaking down. To say too much more would spoil the experience of watching these plots unfold and overlap.
Mat fits in as three different supporting characters, including a sinister doctor and a lads’ mag editor. However, it is his entering the fray dressed as a Nazi that grabs the most attention. As with the rest of the plot it would be unfair to explain exactly who this character is and what he’s doing there, but when the truth does reveal itself, it’s a neat comic moment and one that grabbed Mathew instantly when he first read the script.
‘When I was reading the play, I felt it had a nice start with its Terrance Rattigan-like dialogue,’ he explains. ‘And then this character walks on in a Nazi uniform and I thought, “Oh no, this is not going to work”. But there’s this big reveal and it really kicks off from there.’
The Pride was written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and was originally performed at the Royal Court in 2008. It’s a mixture of sharp comedy, social commentary and dark (and on one occasion very violent) drama. This revival received a series of well-deserved rave reviews during its run at the Trafalgar Studios and Mathew welcomed the opportunity to take it out of the West End and on tour.
‘I know there’s a huge theatre following in Richmond and it’s great to be bringing the play out to them,’ he says. ‘It will be interesting to see how people react compared to our West End audiences. Hayley [Atwell, who plays both female parts] is leaving and we’ll have a new cast member so that will be a fresh twist. We are also going to Brighton and Manchester, places that have large gay communities, so we should do well there, too.’
Although Mathew raises this latter point about the production attracting gay audiences, he’s also adamant that The Pride is a universal story, a play that speaks to and about everyone. ‘I don’t think it’s in any way an agit-prop piece of theatre and it doesn’t affect you any more or less whether you are gay or not. The idea of being true to yourself runs through the play, which is reflective of whatever sexuality you are.’
Despite the seriousness of The Pride’s subject matter, Mathew and his female co-star have been keeping things light-hearted backstage by playing pranks on each other. A video did the rounds on social media of Mathew scaring his co-star by jumping out at her in a terrifying Halloween outfit. I’m sorry to hear, though, that as the West End run was winding down, so were the practical jokes (‘They’ve stopped because we are all so tired and they take a lot of planning.’)
This love of comedy has been in evidence throughout Mathew’s career. He started as a stand-up, before breaking into TV via Sheen resident Catherine Tate’s sketch series. He has performed in two previous stage productions, Entertaining Mr Sloane in 2009 and Charley’s Aunt last year, and inevitably, fans of his TV work, particularly Gavin and Stacey, have come to see him perform in the theatre. As he points out, those that know him for his telly comedy should brace themselves for an intense night if they buy tickets for The Pride.
‘Regardless of my different characters, the other aspects of the play are not what you’d get in your Gavin and Stacey box set,’ he says. ‘Some people really like seeing me doing different things, but others definitely don’t get it. But it’s seven years since I started doing that show, I was in my 20s and I’m now 35. Things are now very different for me and I have to move on in my career.’
And move on he certainly has. Once The Pride tour is complete, Mathew hopes to film a new series of another of his sitcom hits, Bad Education. There’s also another sitcom in the offing that will see him team up with Catherine Tate once again, and he’d also love to do another play later in the year.
Another of his goals is to appear on stage with his Gavin and Stacey mucker, James Corden. He jokes that this can only happen when his mate ‘finishes being a Hollywood film star’. Even if Mathew does have to wait a while for that reunion, he’s clearly got plenty to keep himself busy with in the meantime.
The Pride, Richmond Theatre, January 27 – February 1; atgtickets.com