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That’s a nice moustache.
‘It’s not trendy, as you can tell. I’ve committed to it for a fortnight; it’s only a short run.’
Who do you play in ‘The Vote’?
‘I am the presiding officer of a polling station. I am like Captain Peacock, I sort of floorwalk while Catherine Tate and Nina Sosanya are the polling clerks in a fictional district modelled on Lambeth; the cast has the exact ethnic make-up of south Lambeth. It’s a farce, essentially: it’s apolitical.’
Are you a fan of polling stations? There’s a kind of ‘League of Gentlemen’ vibe to a lot of them…
‘It’s a world of Marks & Spencer suits and local government which I find strangely comforting.’
‘The Vote’ has a huge cast, with bit parts for the likes of Judi Dench; how’s it working out?
‘We just ran it with everyone for the first time and it was fantastically alarming but very exciting. I’ve never done a play where the next person coming through the door was more of a surprise.’
You’re one of many celebs who encouraged people to sign up to vote this year – is there a danger of being a bit condescending?
‘I read a brilliant thing on Twitter, somebody said: “Remember, if you’re famous you have only ten more minutes to tell other people to vote.” But you know, I do believe in it, you can’t spend the next five years moaning if you didn’t at least try.’
Why not just endorse a party?
‘If you try telling people how to vote, you end up like one of the liberal puppets in “Team America” – “MATT DAMON!” It just doesn’t work. It’s no secret I could never vote Tory – my hand would wither – but I’m not hugely inspired by whatever else is around, so I’ll vote on a local level.’
Do you find anything entertaining about Ukip?
‘No. I wish I did but to me it’s the most familiar thing. Farage is a Mr Toad: he is that type of popinjay who every now and again pops up. If he had died in that plane crash we wouldn’t be in this situation; they’ve got nothing else. Nothing.’
You recently won a public-voted award for ‘Coriolanus’; did you try to solicit votes?
‘No, no, I can’t bear that! One of the many reasons I nearly leave Twitter every day is that I find people’s retweeting of praise for themselves astonishing. If you’re doing a fringe play, fine – but I find it really odd when people retweet praise for their massively successful shows.’
Speaking of which: is it fair to say there was a modest backlash to ‘Sherlock’ series three?
‘You’ve got to do it your own way. The third series of “League of Gentlemen” was controversial, but now some people think it’s the best. I was heartened to discover that the great John Harrison, the longitude pioneer, had this idea for a self-regulating clock. He was mocked for the idea at the time but now they’ve recently made it and he was right: vindication 200 years later. You have to do what John Harrison would do.’
‘The Vote’ screens live from the Donmar Warehouse on More4 on Thu May 7 at 8.25pm.