'People love a caper': Miles Jupp on bringing classic comedy to Glasgow
HE IS just as likely to pop up in big-budget, primetime telly shows (Trigger Point, SAS Rogue Heroes) and acclaimed theatre productions (The Life I Lead, Rules for Living) as he is to appear as a very good value comedy panel show guest (Would I Lie to You, Have I Got News For You) or radio host (The News Quiz).
And for a particular generation, of course, he will always be Archie the inventor who lives in a bright pink castle on the CBeebies show Balamory.
However, stand-up was where it all began for Miles Jupp, and it is his early days in comedy here in Glasgow that he is recalling as he prepares to return to the city stage.
“I think my fourth ever stand-up gig was in Glasgow,” he muses. “So, right back at the beginning really, must have been around the year 2000.
“I also did the Live Floor Show in Glasgow, which was a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to coming back to the city.
“I can’t wait to perform at the Theatre Royal – it’s one of the few venues in Glasgow I haven’t worked in.”
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Miles is playing “bowler-hatted non-entity” Henry Holland in The Lavender Hill Mob, a stage adaptation of the classic Ealing film comedy from the 1950s.
Also starring Justin Edwards, the show tells the story of an unassuming bank clerk who dreams of stealing the van full of gold bullion he drives across London each day. When Henry learns that his new lodger makes Eiffel Tower paperweights out of lead, he devises a plan to make his dream a reality. It’s a golden opportunity to pull off the crime of the century, they’d have to be fools to mess it up….
“It’s a caper comedy, and people love a caper, don’t they?” says Miles, smiling. “Lots of people in period costume, running about – Henry is a fun part to play.
“He’s the archetypal grey man, a bowler-hatted non-entity –…”
Suddenly he breaks off. “Oh, I’m sorry, I was just distracted there by my cat doing something quite spectacular,” he says, apologetically. “She leapt off the dressing table on to the laptop – quite bananas…”
Miles gives the air of an affable eccentric, happy to dither in and out of conversations about Bramble, the aforementioned cat and her death-defying antics, his adventures touring the country in a long-running theatre production (“not always nice, being that far from home”) and his fond memories of Balamory (although, he says, had he known it would become so big, he would never have done it).
He is also temporarily distracted (again) and thoroughly impressed by the knowledge that former Balamory co-star Julie Wilson Nimmo has taken up wild swimming, in Scotland, in the winter. (“Really? I must ask her about that,” he marvels. “It’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to coming to Glasgow, being able to catch up with friends.”)
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However, the former Edinburgh student, who now lives in Wales with his wife Rachel and their five children, is an astute and intelligent comedian and writer.
His debut novel, History, has a lot to say about the hypocrisy of independent schools in Britain, for example; he can destroy your average, morally-bankrupt British politician with one, subtle putdown; and his outrage at the way things are playing out in this fractured country of ours usually neatly sums up what the rest of us are thinking.
Audiences are rooting for his character in The Lavender Hill Mob, he agrees.
“It’s lovely, fun stuff,” he says. “I do remember watching Ealing comedies when I was growing up. My parents probably had a VHS box-set in the 80s.
“I like acting, although it’s the thing you have least control over. I think I always planned to do lots of things. Stand up was what I was doing when Balamory happened. The whole thing was new, the channel was new….but it would be very ungracious not to be grateful for an opportunity like that.”
On the horizon is another TV show – all he will say is it is a “costume drama” – and he is hoping to continue his regular spot on fellow comic Frankie Boyle’s apocalyptic TV chat show, New World Order.
“I do love doing that show,” he says. “I missed the last series because I was touring, and I was very sad about that.
“Actually, that fourth-ever stand up show I did in Glasgow was compered by Frankie, and we have been friends for about 20 years. He really is very good and I’m extremely happy sitting giggling beside him."
He adds: “Other than that, I tend never to look too far into the future.”
The Lavender Hill Mob runs from January 30 to February 4 at the Theatre Royal.