Baz Bamigboye: Act My Age...Not a Chance, Says Sir Derek Jacobi As He Prepares to Play Mercutio on Stage in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Daily Mail, 30 April 2015
By Baz Bamigboye
Thanks, Haley

Derek Jacobi, who insists he still feels like a teenager, will join his fellow Cinderella film stars Lily James and Richard Madden on stage in 'Romeo And Juliet'.

The 76-year-old theatrical knight has been persuaded by Kenneth Branagh to play Romeo's swashbuckling pal Mercutio a part usually taken by actors half his age.

Jacobi, who has had a long acting association with Branagh, told me he didn't expect to be playing Mercutio 'at my age', though he and Branagh pointed out that Mercutio's age is never mentioned. In any event, he's not at all fazed by the age difference between him and fellow thespians Lily James and Richard Madden.

Jacobi told me that though he will be 77 by the time the play hits the Garrick Theatre stage in May 2016, he has a young mind.

'I didn't pass 18,' he joked. 'In my head, I'm still a teenager. I haven't acquired the wisdom of old age at all!'

Jacobi, an authority on Shakespeare, said Mercutio felt that way, too. 'The language is very evocative and extraordinarily bouncy and gives off a kind of youthful sense, but that's his mind.'

He said there's a hint in the text of Mercutio being something of a father figure to Romeo and his friends, and there's justification in the play 'of their acceptance of his company, and his delight in being in the company of those relative kids'.

Nor is he concerned about the fight scenes.

'I've swashed a buckle in my time. If I survived fighting with Peter O'Toole at the end of 'Hamlet' in the Sixties, I could survive anything.'

Branagh directed his first 'Romeo And Juliet' 30 years ago and has always wanted to revisit it with a more mature Mercutio.

'As part mentor, part father figure to Romeo, there is a fascinating chance to chart a different experience of the defiance and independence of the character,' he mused.

Branagh added that Jacobi and Madden 'share a great acting chemistry', which was apparent in 'Cinderella', where Jacobi played father to Madden's Prince Charming.

Romeo And Juliet will be the fourth production in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's season at the Garrick. It begins this autumn with Branagh and Judi Dench in 'The Winter's Tale' directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford (previews start on October 17).

Like his contemporaries Dench and Ian McKellen, Jacobi always has work on the go. He's hoping there will be a further series of 'Vicious', the TV comedy in which he co-stars with McKellen.

And there will definitely be a fourth series of the award-winning Sally Wainwright drama 'Last Tango In Halifax', in which he stars with Anne Reid, Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker.

Jacobi joked that 'Last Tango' and 'Vicious' are shown on the same night on PBS TV in America.

'At eight o'clock I'm married to Annie; and at ten o'clock I'm married to Ian.' He puts the longevity of their careers down to the fact 'we're still teenagers'.

'I do think we're in a business that is rejuvenating. I do think actors keep one foot in the cradle, because we are expressing emotions that we have to be able to tap into.

'OK, we mature as we grow up, but we don't get rid of all those childish things we're told to get rid of in order to be grown up. In the back of our heads and deep in our hearts, we stay children.'

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