Spotlight On… Star of Fracked, Harry Hadden-Paton

Fracked is on UK tour until 27th May and has two performances at Richmond Theatre, tomorrow.

Harry Hadden-Paton is an actor who I was familiar with as the man who married Edith in Downton Abbey – we all wanted a happy ending for the unlucky middle daughter of the Grantham family, didn’t we? However, I have recently had the pleasure of watching Harry on stage alongside Anne Reid and James Bolam in a new play called Fracked! Or please Don’t Use The F-Word. I was delighted to chat with Harry about his character in the production.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Harry, tell me your character, Joe…

Joe’s a chatty character and he likes the sound of his own voice, he does the PR for Deerland Energy.

What did you think of the script when you first saw it?

When I read it I thought the part just spoke to me in a way because I’ve played a series of nice guys in Downton Abbey and The Crown. So it’s quite nice to do something different, but I’m also in Versailles playing a villain too. I get heckled and admonished on stage occasionally for being mean to Anne (Reid) about her Aga cooker!

Going back to your role in Downton Abbey, what are your highlights of being part of that series?

It was an amazing experience, there were no teething difficulties and everything ran perfectly because they’d done it for six years. Everyone was really welcoming and I got to go in with a big storyline so I was really spoiled. Laura (Carmichael, who played Edith) and I filmed the last scene of the whole series together which was the one in The Ritz. That was the last ever day’s filming on Downton, t was filmed through the night whilst guests were sleeping upstairs and all of the members of the costume and make up departments were in costume playing the extras in the scene. So everyone sitting at the tables surrounding us were people that had worked on the show for years and in between takes were putting their napkins down, getting up out of their seats and touching up our make up! It was a really special occasion, the slight anti-climax being that at 6am when we finished. we had to be quite quiet because everyone was still asleep. There were a few whispered speeches! It was fun getting to know them all, the things about going into something like that is they’ve all known each other for years, they’ve experienced the highs and the lows of becoming household names. There’s a lot of history there and on the downside I’m the new boy, but on the plus side it was a great experience to be with them all.

Do you have a preference between stage and screen work? What differences between the two do you notice?

I did an awful lot of theatre to begin with and I loved it and I’ve always loved it, I’ll always do it – this is the first play I’ve done in about four years. I love working on screen too, it’s been a real learning curve getting to know how a camera works, how to create a character, sustain it over that amount of time. Fracked has come along and I’ve been able to do it while filming the second series of The Crown which is a bonus.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to come and see the play?

Come and see it because (I hope) it’s funny, that’s the big draw – there are lots of laughs, we get rounds of applause in the middle of scenes. It’s fresh, it’s new and it’s Anne Reid and James Bolam being hilarious, there’s not a line wasted. You’ll learn something as well.

Thanks to Harry for his time, I highly recommend the play and you can read my review from it’s run at Malvern Theatres here: Fracked! Review




Fracked ~ Malvern Theatres

Fracked runs at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 29 April, click here to book: Malvern Theatres Box Office

Star rating: ****

If the opportunity presents itself to see James Bolam and Anne Reid on stage together, you take it (well, I am of that opinion at least!). Especially when said production is directed by Richards Wilson – this truly felt like a piece of theatre (for the most part) created by heroes that I have grown up ‘with’.

Fracked or Please Don’t Use The F-Word is written by Alistair Beaton and couldn’t be a more current piece in the current political climate. The fact that it has two more mature characters at the helm in strong roles is especially notable and also exceptionally observational (my parents are that age!). However, it is a play featuring a wide variety of well-rounded characters all of whom play an integral role in the story. From PR guru, Joe (Harry Hadden-Paton) to loved up campaigners, Sam (Freddie Meredith) and Jenny (Andrea Hart), the wet lettuce head of Deerland Energy, Hal (Michael Simkins) and the benign Malik, PR/techie bod (Waleed Akhtar).

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a way of assisting the release of gas or oil by pumping chemicals and water under a huge pressure into a shale below the surface. As with every proposition, there are activists campaigning against this, all the more so when they get hold of the information that the result is fuelled with radioactivity and therefore not a viable option given the levels that are occurring. The fact that a play is written about Fracking doesn’t sound inspiring but the story revolves around the campaigners and the fierce PR strategy and that makes for a superb comedy drama.

Anne Reid and James Bolam play husband and wife, Elizabeth and Jack – they live in their picturesque cottage (the set for their home is stunning, homely and could be straight out of Last Tango In Halifax!) and have no signal for mobile phones. They have a landline and if a signal is required they head for a nearby field, avoiding the resident bull! Bolam and Reid are a comedic force to be reckoned with. Elizabeth gets herself involved in campaigning against fracking, loans their back garden to fellow activists and newly dating couple, Jenny and Sam (she’s a lot older than him…) and becomes glued to her laptop in the quest to stop Fracking. Jack, meanwhile would prefer to play Scrabble and would love for Elizabeth to cook for him again. One of the stand-out performances comes from Harry Hadden-Paton who is like the proverbial Duracell bunny and spinning plates all over the place for his client, Deerland Energy. He is a bafflement to Hal, and his assistant, Emma (Sophie Khan Levy) – but he appears to have a loyal assistant in Malik.

It’s packed with laugh out loud humour and only too familiar political snipes. The set and lighting is quite incredible and drew me in, from the clinical whiter than whiteness of the PR company offices to the cosy kitchen belonging to Jack and Elizabeth, the simple revolve does the trick and those two main sets are enough.

You don’t have to know a single things about Fracking to enjoy this, such is the cleverly engaging style of the script. Highly recommended!

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