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INTERVIEW: Dominic West by Fleur Britten

Dominic West

Dominic West (aka The Wire's McNulty) talks to Run Riot's guest writer Fleur Britten (Sunday Times) on all things weird and wonderful. From returning to the stage as the lead role in 'Butley' at the Duchess Theatre, to the weirdest thing he's done in London, along with culture, protest and his last supper - and what would he do on a runaway night?


Fleur Britten: How similar are you to Butley? [the titular English literature tutor that Dominic plays in his current West End show, who has a penchant for mischief-making]
Dominic West: Well, he likes good books and good poetry, and I like good books and good poetry. But there isn’t much else in common – he’s a brilliant man and very bitter, and he’s having a midlife crisis, which I seem to have avoided so far. But I share his sense of humour – it’s an acerbic, English, hungover, wry humour.

FB: Do you play pranks on people?
DW: Oh no! You’ve seen the show – that means I can’t make things up. No, I’m not that confrontational, which is part of the fun of playing Butley. He’s a risky sod, and out of control.

FB: What would you do on a runaway night?
DW: Fuck, I’m on the spot now. I’d water-ski up the Thames and paraglide into Buckingham Palace. Oh no, I’d better not say that. I’m generally house-bound with children these days (I have four: two boys, aged 1 and 2, and two girls, aged 4 and 12) so I tend only to make it down to the pub. Then I’ll go back to one of a number of neighbour’s houses and we stay up all night talking rubbish; usually it’s with James Purefoy, talking rubbish over his pretentious fire out in the garden. That’s a good night out.

FB: Are you good at going slow?
DW: I crave that, absolutely, but I find it difficult. I love going to Hampstead Heath – it’s the wildest place I can find. I’ll go for a walk, or a swim in the pond. Winter on the heath is the best time – it’s so wild and beautiful. What I like more than anything is wilderness. Does it empty my mind? It’s empty anyway (ha ha ha), but yes, it empties it of the trash.

FB: What was your last cultural outing?
DW: My wife’s a gardener, so for her birthday I took her to Great Dixter, this amazing house and garden in Kent, once owned by Christopher Lloyd, the guy who was voted best gardening writer of all time I think. I don’t know anything about plants, but my wife knows everything. She was telling me about all the roses, and one of them is called Lady Dunfield or something. She’s not very good in bed, but she’s great up against the wall (ha ha ha).

FB: Where would you spend your last supper?
DW: I’d go to the Princess Victoria on Uxbridge Road (a gastro pub), and I’d eat their oysters and then their crab, washed down with a few pints of whats-it-called – a great beer brewed in Battersea. It’s local so I can crawl home, and it’s actually a Victorian gin palace, so it’s ornate and high ceilinged and airy, and I know the landlord very well, so it’s like home.

FB: What's your kids’ fave activity in London?
DW: I do nothing but child wrangling and work. It’s mainly a bun fight of chaos. They’re young  and male and difficult.  But we just blew up the pool and threw them in there. That wore them out for a bit. That’s the only objective, to wear them out. Anything goes – swimming, crying, anything.

FB: What's the weirdest thing you've done in London?
DW: I like climbing cranes. When the Globe theatre had a big crane in the middle of it – it was the day Tony Blair got in – I jumped over the wall and shinned up the crane.  I’d been up all night, it was a beautiful morning and we were full of hope – gosh how our hopes were dashed. I climbed up that crane hopeful for the new dawn. I also got to see what the Globe’s acoustics like. There was absolute silence at the bottom, but as soon as I reached the roof, the roar of London kicked in. But it was 6am, the sun was just up, and it was just heaven. It felt good to be aliiiive.

FB: What would you march in a protest for?
DW: Anything. I enjoy it. It’s a great thing. I did the one against the war, which I’m glad I did. What was amazing is that you get to see London without any cars. I remember walking up Piccadilly and thinking it’s so beautiful – these buildings that you never see because you never look up because you’re terrified of being run over. That’s the good thing about protests.

FB: If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?
DW: I have great plans for the summer. I’m getting piano lessons, tennis lessons and cookery. Well, that’s the plan. My daughter plays the piano, so I bought her one - a beautiful old wooden upright, but she never plays it, so I thought, “I’m going to play it.” I’ve always wanted to play an instrument. Unfortunately, I grew up playing the clarinet - a beautiful instrument, just not in my hands.

FB: Will you be honouring the Attorney General’s request for a new series of The Wire?
DW: I met him! He’s amazing, about 8 foot, and a total dude. He came up to me and said, “I love the Wire.” So I said, “Oh that’s very nice of you.” Then he said, “I’m also the Attorney General”. I’d love to honour his request but I think David Simon, the writer, has other fish to fry at the moment. He’s in the middle of Treme – I think he wants to get into New Orleans music now.

FB: You’d better get onto those Piano lessons then.
DW: Yes, I could do a Hugh Laurie (ha ha ha).


'Butley' runs at the Duchess Theatre until 27 August 2011. Written by Simon Gray, and Directed by the highly acclimed Lindsay Posner with a cast including Dominic West, Paul McGann, Penny Downie and Amanda Drew. More details here.


Paul McGann and Dominic West in 'Butley'

Paul McGann (Reg) and Dominic West (Ben Butley) in 'Butley'

Dominic West and Martin Hutson in 'Butley'

Dominic West (Ben Butley) and Joey (Martin Hutson) in 'Butley'

Dominic West in rehearsal for 'Butley'

Dominic West (Ben Butley) in rehearsals for 'Butley'

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

Fleur Britten is the author of Debrett’s Etiquette for Girls, On the Couch: Tales of Couchsurfing a Continent, and A Hedonist's guide to London, A Hedonist’s guide to Life and A Hedonist's guide to Milan. She is also Senior Commissioning Editor at the Sunday Times Style magazine. Read the Run Riot interview with Fleur here where she talks all things Hedonistic.

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