While most actors would covet the plum role of Mr Darcy, Matthew Kelly reckons that he actually has the best part in Pride and Prejudice.
It鈥檚 a part that鈥檚 been played by Benjamin Whitrow (who started his career at the Liverpool Playhouse), Donald Sutherland, and Oscar winner Edmund Gwenn ?of Kris Kringle fame.
And now Matthew is taking on the mantle of reluctant patriarch Mr Bennet in the Regent鈥檚 Park Theatre鈥檚 version of the Jane Austen classic.
The 66-year-old Everyman alumnus is making his first return to Liverpool since he appeared in Twelfth Night at Hope Street three years ago.
I caught up with him to talk Pride, Prejudice ?and Mr Pastry.
What attracted you to the role of Mr Bennet?
Well, there are a couple of things. One is it鈥檚 the best part in the play. I have relatively little to do, especially in Act 1, there鈥檚 no costume changes and I鈥檓 incredibly lazy!
Mr Bennet is also incredibly lazy, so I can identify with the part completely.
But the main thing, the one that really did it for me, is the fact Felicity Montagu is playing Mrs Bennet.
I did a series called Kelly鈥檚 Eye with her 30 years ago, and I hadn鈥檛 seen here since. It was a comedy sketch show but it was more sketch than comedy. And it bombed because it was rubbish!
I鈥檝e seen her enjoying her career, and I know that she is a seeker of truths.
And Mrs Bennet, I think, really carries the show.
She knows that she and her five daughters, because the estate is entailed off to a cousin, if she doesn鈥檛 marry off the daughters then they鈥檙e all going to be destitute.
She鈥檚 a woman on the edge and has every right to be bonkers. And her husband is no help at all.
But actually I think she鈥檚 driven him mad as well. It鈥檚 a marriage that鈥檚 lasted too long really.
He adored when they first got together, and clearly loves his daughters as well.
Plus the fact that in Act 2, Mr Bennet gets a lot more to do, and he has the best scene in the play, right at the end, in which he tries to dissuade Lizzie from marrying Mr Darcy.
And of course it gives you the chance to return to Liverpool.
I always like coming to Liverpool. I was in Liverpool recently because we had the memorial for Alan Dossor (former artistic director at the Everyman), so we all came up for that.
That was a fantastic celebration.
And of course, the Everyman is a wonderful building. What Gemma (Bodinetz) and Deborah (Aydon) is doing is fantastic.
The Everyman has its new repertory company. You were in the famous company of the 1970s.
There was a Radio 4 programme about reminiscing and they got all the Everyman people together, like me and Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite and Bill Nighy, and Alan Dossor.
And I found it really hard to remember.
It was a great experience and I think that鈥檚 great about what Gemma鈥檚 doing now, is getting a company together who can work together and develop. And she鈥檚 got new people who have no experience.
I mean we had little experience. I鈥檇 been working for about eight years then.
I鈥檝e been working 50 years this year. Da da daaaaahhh!
I believe you started making custard pies for entertainer Mr Pastry. Is that true?
Yes. I went to Rhyl to see a mate in a show, and I was supposed to go back to school but I actually applied for a job over the road from the theatre as a bingo caller, and I got the job.
Then the theatre manager called me back over to the theatre and said 鈥業 believe you want to work in the theatre鈥? I said yeah, he said 鈥榙o you want a job?? I said yes.
And that鈥檚 what I did. And never went back home.
You鈥檝e said before that your favourite bit of the whole process is actually rehearsals.
Oh God, yes. I mean I really just like drinking tea and larking about with my chums in the dressing up box, that鈥檚 what I like.
I also like being on the road. And I also like being in the provinces.
I鈥檓 not very keen on the West End to be honest, because I think that the West End is more about management and money and status and power, and you鈥檙e not playing to a community, you鈥檙e not part OF a community.
And big producers don鈥檛 really impress me. I mean, I鈥檓 not against money, don鈥檛 get me wrong! I鈥檓 very fond of it.
But I think what happens is that creativity is knocked back in favour of capitalism really.
So when you鈥檙e out in the provinces, you are PART of a community, you鈥檙e playing to a community, and you are a small community yourself, travelling around.
Going back to the new Everyman Rep, do you have any advice for them?
Oh God, no. They鈥檒l have a brilliant time. There鈥檚 no advice I can give except just to listen to everybody.
It鈥檚 the only advice I give myself now. I鈥檒l take notes off juniors, I don鈥檛 care. I鈥檒l take line readings, I need all the help I can get!
I like directors to be benign dictators.
I鈥檓 not very interested in democracy in the theatre. I think there has to be somebody with an overview, which I don鈥檛 think any actor can particularly have. And I never did.
Which is why I鈥檓 not interested in writing or directing or producing.
What does the rest of the year hold for you?
Nothing. I did two tours last year, including Toast, and at the beginning of that tour my mum died, so it was kind of a hefty year really.
That followed on from panto. Which had followed on from nine months at the RSC, which had followed on from a previous panto. So it鈥檚 been a long time and I need to stop.
So I鈥檝e kind of decided I鈥檓 not that bothered.
Am I open to offers? Yes, of course. Because we never have to retire.
I鈥檒l never retire. What will be the point of retiring?
Of course, if you鈥檙e not in the real world, why would you want to? I don鈥檛 blame people for retiring, because who wants to live in the real world?!
Whereas my life is quite good in this job. It has relatively little to do with reality.