Please Sir, can we have some more? Theatre's hitmaker Daniel Evans on 'Oliver' and bringing 'The Full Monty' to the stage

Sheffield Theatres’ Daniel Evans is reviving ‘Oliver!’ for Christmas and giving West End audiences ‘The Full Monty’.

In 2008, Daniel Evans was a successful stage actor with a career flying ever higher, thanks to an Olivier award and Tony nomination for his role in the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George. But, “in a funk” after the show’s Broadway run, he decided to take a career left-turn and apply to be artistic director at Sheffield Theatres, despite precious little directing experience. It was a gamble that paid off: over the past four years, he has received fulsome acclaim, and this year he found himself in the final three in the selection process for the next director of the National Theatre.

While some might have regarded this personable and eloquent Welshman as a dark-horse candidate in the race to succeed Nicholas Hytner, those who have watched the growing confidence of Evans’s tenure were not in the least surprised. So what was his big idea for the South Bank? “I think one of the challenges it really does have to address is how it [can be] truly a national theatre and in a way that doesn’t mean beaming [plays] into cinemas. The thing that I kept harping on about [in the interview] was that I saw Ian McKellen play Richard III [in a 1990 NT touring production] at the New Theatre in Cardiff three times in one week. It made an indelible impression on me. You felt you were breathing the same air as Ian McKellen and it’s not the same as watching Ian McKellen on film.”

National adventures aside, it’s been another busy year for Evans with no sign of a let-up. His production of a new straight-play version of the hit British film The Full Monty was rapturously received in Sheffield and will transfer to the West End early next year. What’s the enduring appeal of those steelworkers-turned-strippers? “I think it’s [to do with the fact that] men are in an uncertain place at the moment”, he says. “Because [they] are now required to moisturise and all kinds of other things”. Do you moisturise? “Of course I do! I’ve just turned 40! In fact, I don’t know a man who doesn’t. Even my father moisturises nowadays.” The show’s treatment of masculine confusion also has another resonance for him. “For me, even though it’s set in Sheffield, it was a post-industrial community that felt very Welsh to me. Nothing has replaced the industry and so men are feeling at a loss.”

Before this, though, there’s the small matter of a major revival of the musical Oliver!, which Evans promises will be “darker” than the Cameron Mackintosh version that has dominated for the past 20 years. Evans has form with injecting life into the old warhorses of musical theatre, having directed a fresh-as-paint My Fair Lady, starring Dominic West, at Sheffield last Christmas. He talks about the scene of “grooming”, when Oliver is introduced to Fagin and the gang, and then makes a point that intriguingly echoes his thoughts on the National Theatre. “It’s also a tale of the regions versus the capital, because some of the first half happens in the provinces and there’s a sense that life there is tougher, there’s less money to go around. That’s interesting to me after reading the ROCC Report last week”. He’s referring to the new independent report on arts funding, Rebalancing our Cultural Capital, which alarmingly revealed that gross arts subsidy comes in at just £4.58 per head in the regions as opposed to £68.99 in London; it’s a statistic to which Evans keeps returning during our conversation.

“What a discrepancy! It’s wrong and it’s not democratic,” he says. “It’s strange, because one of the quotes at the beginning of the report is from David Cameron, saying that things have been centred on London for far too long. You think, well, yes, but you’re part of an ideology that is increasing the divide between the centre and what he calls ‘the periphery’.” This sort of talk is Evans in his element; he admits that he revels in the “political” side of his job. “With the role comes huge responsibility and that’s something I craved. As merely an actor I found it frustrating, because I craved power in the best sense of the word, not in a megalomaniacal way, but in a way that meant I could make a difference.”

Despite a tough country-wide funding climate and a 20 per cent cut in his theatre’s local authority grant, Evans has turned Sheffield into one of the buzziest venues in the country, as evidenced by a recent four wins at the UK Theatre Awards. He plans to put his money where his mouth is in terms of education and community engagement by directing the 100-strong community play himself next year. He also wants to continue with his acting career, having recently taken part in a New York workshop for an intriguing-sounding gay spin on the classic Sondheim musical Company. “I have a very active super-ego and he’s quite a harsh critic, so I like to work to keep him at bay,” says this self-declared workaholic wryly.

Evans has been determined to succeed ever since his childhood in the Rhondda Valley, where he was bullied throughout school. “I think I was bullied for being gay, even before I knew I was gay. You get called names you don’t even understand and you find out later in life what they mean and you think, ‘How did they know and I didn’t?’” He sought refuge in the drama group, “because it was a place where I was somehow applauded for being myself, literally and metaphorically”. Weekend trips to the National and the RSC strengthened his resolve. “It taught me there was a world elsewhere and once you see that world it’s hard then not to be in it. I genuinely do believe that the theatre has the capacity to change people’s lives. It changed mine”.

What if, by some peculiar chance, he should bump into the biggest school bully of the lot when he leaves this interview? He hesitates. “I hope I could find it in myself to be generous”.

You wouldn’t want to punch him? “I think a part of me would, but there’s no point in continuing that cycle of violence. The way to break it is …” he trails off. Is to be as successful as Daniel Evans, I’d say. That is surely the most elegant form of revenge.

‘Oliver!’ is at the Sheffield Crucible until 25 Jan  (sheffieldtheatres.co.uk); ‘The Full Monty’ is at the Noel Coward Theatre from 20 Feb (fullmontytheplay.com)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future