It’s been the best of times and not the worst of times for actor Jacob Ifan since leaving drama school.
He landed the lead part in the BBC cop show Cuffs and now appears in the Royal & Derngate’s production of A Tale of Two Cities playing in Northampton from Saturday September 10 to Saturday September 17 before going on a UK tour.
Interweaving one family’s intensely personal drama with the terror and chaos of the French Revolution, it is an epic story of love, sacrifice and redemption amidst horrific violence and world changing events.
Jacob said: “A Tale of Two Cities is one of Dickens most classic works, such a privilege to do on stage.
“It’s about the plight of the French peasentry under the arostiocuty and we also see the counter plight.
“He was a French nobleman and aristocrat, he gives away his wealth, and lands because he sympathises with them but inevitably he is drawn back to France.”
How aware was he of the book when he started the job?
Jacob added: “More than the part was the play. I had never read Dickens before, I had only watched it on the television and was a massive fan. Started reading the book and fell in love with the writing.
“I heard about the previous production and saw photographs and fell in love with the set. I immediately realised this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
There’s a number of challenges that come with putting on a production set in two places. Jacob has already showcased his English accent in Cuffs, how is he finding the French accent?
Jacob said: “It’s probably one of the better choices that we have decided to keep everyone on the RP English accent because us doing mock French accents would be, it is something I hate when productions decided to do that. Me trying to do it might come out a bit Allo Allo. I think I’d probably think I was doing a really good job but everyone disagree.
“The challenge is putting yourself in that period. Physically and emotionally. It’s finding a nuanced way of emotion when people are not allowed to. And to to justice to the hardship of the times.
“Your responsibility as an actor is to do the research. As a cast, we were all given research topics. I manage to surmise in 15 minutes, what people were drinking, eating.”
For someone who speaks so eloquently about the Victorian author, what does Jacob think is the appeal of the show
“I remember my local arts productions of Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby but I think he is such a marvellous writer because he is so accessible to actors at any age.
“He creates stories that are universal and widely related to audiences of all ages and I think that is why he has lasted so long.
“He’s hilarious, you don’t get in translations, but he is a comic and an actor. He was a show off. He liked to have the limelight on him. I suspect that is why he was the narrator in a lot of his works, you get his voice, but it is unique and special.”
We chat to the star during rehearsals for the show and then comes up with possibly the most unique analogy to describe the process.
Jacob said: “You start and feel precarious, it’s like a tortoise. It’s slow but hopefully by the third week it is more of a lubricated dolphin.
“You’re nervous about people thinking you are the worst actor in the room, especiallu when you are working with a whole load of new people. You are also nervous about learning your lines. The puzzle starts to fall into place and you can see what the play is.
And is he enjoying being back on the stage rather than working on television.
Jacob said: “I think stage and TV are completely different animals. I miss doing stage work, I hadn’t done anything since I was at drama school.
“It’s lovely and being in a rehearsal room makes you use a part of your brain daily.
“You get time to explore rather than working on it at home, then being driven to set and expected to go, bang, deliver it straight away.”
The actor’s big break came on working on the Brighton based cop show Cuffs broadcast on the BBC last autumn. A job which was short lived but one that he was delighted with.
Jacob said: “I was really lucky with Cuffs. We do a showcase at college and we get to go to the Royal Court and perform in front of a couple of hundred casting directors and agents. I think from that I got the audition for the show and then lucky enough to get it.
“It was a fortunate break. I got to spend the whole summer in Brighton which was lovely.
“Julie who wrote the show said she has been writing Prisoner’s Wives for years and she asked herself why have I set a series in the North during the rain and the winter. My next series, I’d love to spend the summer in Bright and she went off and created Cuffs.”
He also speaks highly of one of his co-stars Ashley Walters who he formed a double act with on the show.
Jacob said: “He’s a brilliant, so much fun to work with and he’s so laid back. Ashley really took me under his wing. I didn’t realise until one of the actors said on set, you are very lucky. I didn’t understand and asked what she meant. And she said, she had never worked on a show where the entire ensemble and crew all get on so well. For me that was the norm, I didn’t know anything else.”
And is he still proud of the show despite it being not renewed for a second series.
Jacob added: “You are disappointed when you put a lot of work into something and I thought it was a fantastic show. I think we ended in a good place. Sometimes TV series can go on and on for series and series. At least we can be happy with what we produced. We are really proud of it.”
To book tickets for the show call 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.