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Matt Berry on being a real West End actor: ‘I’m continually amazed that I get offered anything’

Cult comedy icon Matt Berry is best known for his eccentric West End actor alter-ego Steven Toast in the surreal sitcom ‘Toast of London’. We chat to Berry as he hits the stage for real in ‘The Philanthropist’

Matt Berry
Image: Andy Parsons
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You’re famous for playing a pretend West End actor – why did you decide you’d become a real West End actor?

‘There’s big differences, in that, Toast, I suppose, continually thinks that he should be getting bigger and better things, whereas I’m continually amazed that I get offered anything. But I did it because I wanted to work with Simon Callow.’

Did he approach you?

‘Yes, he’d seen a number of things I’d done. I’d never met him before but I’d always really liked him. I liked him when I was little and saw him in [terrible, forgotten sitcom] “Chance in a Million”, and as a little kid things like that stick in your head, I’ve been aware of him all my life, really.’

Who is your character in the play, Braham?

‘Well he’s one of those people who has taken the devil’s shilling. He recognised a gap in the market for a certain kind of holiday novel. He has the ability to do much deeper stuff, but he’s kind of fucked it off for the money, and this irks the other people at the dinner party somewhat.’ 

“Jesse

Charlotte Ritchie, Matt Berry, Tom Rosenthal, Simon Bird, Lily Cole in ‘The Philanthropist’ © Shaun Webb

Was ‘Toast’ born from a love of West End theatre?

‘Yeah, but that world you see in it is long gone, I learned about it on jobs with older actors. People go to the gym when they’re not on stage now, whereas in the old days people would have gone and gone pissed. It’s a different world: when I’m writing “Toast” I’ve got one foot in 1974 and one foot in the modern day, because the modern day is nowhere near as funny or interesting.’

Will there be a fourth series?

‘Possibly, yeah. It takes six months to write six episodes and six months to make them, so it’s a lot of work.’

Is it up to you, basically?

‘It depends, because the people I know at Channel 4 might all leave or be sacked. What I love about “Toast” is that there‘s always new stuff you can do with him. But I’ve got other things I want to do first.’

The Philanthropist’ is at Trafalgar Studios until July 22 2017.

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