The Best Man's Honeysuckle Weeks: Politics is like the court of Henry VIII now

In power: Honeysuckle Weeks in The Best Man
In power: Honeysuckle Weeks in The Best Man

Honeysuckle Weeks says her new role in a play about political corruption reminds her of her mother’s attempt to be an MP.

The Foyle’s War star, 38, is preparing to lay bare the sacrifices made on the path to the White House in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, first staged in 1960.

In 2010 her mother Susan Wade Weeks ran as a Conservative in York Central but lost to Labour’s Hugh Bayley. Weeks said: “I don’t like politics personally. My mother tried to go into politics once. There’s a line in the play, ‘To want power is corruption already.’

“And it’s this struggle of this man who’s trying to be moral and trying to get power — but you can’t do both.

“My mother should have kept going — she’d have got in, eventually. You put so much effort into a campaign and then you don’t succeed. You’ve just got to get up and do it again. I mean that’s life, isn’t it? I think politics was a great game in the Sixties. But now it’s almost like the court of Henry VIII. You’re bound to get your head chopped off.” Weeks, who stars as the wife of a US presidential candidate played by Jeff Fahey, triggered a police search after going missing in July 2016, with relatives saying she had been “anxious”.

The actress said she was happy to be back on stage after having counselling, adding: “Professionally I’m fine, personally I’m fine and mentally I’m fine. What doesn’t kill you... I’m really happy to be here. Is this a comeback? That remains to be seen!”

The Best Man, which also stars Martin Shaw, had a successful tour of the UK, including Richmond Theatre, and has its press night at the Playhouse Theatre on Monday. It runs there until May 12.

Maureen Lipman, who has joined the cast, said coming on board had led her to suffer stage fright despite 50 years’ experience: “For the first 40 years of my career stage fright was as alien to me as abseiling. Now I’ve become a little bit more scared. The trick is to ignore the audience, but this is a comedy so you are constantly reminded they are there when they laugh.”

Lipman, 71, a former Labour Party supporter, says politics is now more about presentation than ever, which is how Donald Trump was elected. She said: “It’s all about personality and how you come across on TV. That’s how we ended up with that orange-headed man in the White House.”

Vidal died in 2012. Shaw, 73, called his play “unbelievably relevant”, adding: “There is worldwide concern over Trump, and we have Brexit. Gore Vidal was so ahead of his time with this.”

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