ADE Edmondson in conversation about new stage comedy Vulcan 7

Where did the idea for Vulcan 7 first come from?

It occurred to me when I was sitting in a trailer doing Star Wars that getting dressed up in ridiculous costumes and sitting in a caravan all day is an odd way to make a living. The filming process is mainly getting ready, which usually involves a degree of discomfort and then waiting, waiting, waiting…

As you and Nigel have known each other for so long, did that make the writing process easier?

We hadn’t seen each other much for quite a while so the writing process was basically sitting down and bitching about all the badly-behaved actors we’d worked with over the years. It was fun. I like working collaboratively anyway – writing on your own you don’t hear anyone laugh (except the weird demon inside your head who’s usually laughing at you, not with you).

What’s been the key to such an enduring relationship? Did you ever imagine that you would still be working together, so many years later?

The key to all enduring relationships is tolerance and booze.

The play is set on a fantasy film set on an Icelandic mountain – how close to your real life experience are the characters and events that unfold?

I’ve been to Iceland. It’s a surreal place - there’s one spot where a huge, semi-frozen river disappears into a hole in the ground. And I’ve shared trailers on film sets: in leaner times I once shared a compact touring caravan with Richard Briers and Imelda Staunton – the use of the toilet becomes a bit like negotiating Brexit. I’ve also been dressed up as Prince Charles and waited in a caravan for 16 hours and then not been used at all. I have drawn on all these experiences.

How would you sum your character, Gary, up?

He’s a wannabe hellraiser. In a previous era he would have been Oliver Reed. But the modern era – especially since the #metoo movement – doesn’t allow for that kind of thing. And therein lies his problem. And anyway, as the play progresses, we discover his wild behaviour is just a front for deep unhappiness.

Are there any particular challenges for you about how he behaves over the course of the play? Do you relate to him?

I relate to his humanity and his predicament – but that doesn’t mean I am like him. Though I think there’s a little bit of Gary in every man.

You've worked extensively on both stage and screen. What do you most enjoy about doing theatre?

The best thing about doing a play is that once you’re on, you’re on. Filming is obviously cut up into tiny chunks, and generally filmed out of sequence. In the theatre, the story starts and you get to be that character for the next two hours – you go on the journey with him.

Vulcan 7 has moments of great, and occasionally surreal, humour, but is also very moving – is it difficult to strike that balance?

My favourite moment is a line about cooking a chicken when Gary is at his lowest ebb. It always gets a laugh, for which I am very grateful. There’s something very satisfying about getting that laugh when he is in such deep despair. I think laughter and tears are actually at the same, not opposite, end of the spectrum. The opposite is boredom.

Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

I’m dressed as an Orc-like monster, so the make-up is quite complicated and time consuming. And I’m not superstitious – I’m the one shouting ‘Macbeth’ and whistling backstage just to annoy everyone else.

Adrian Edmondson (Gary Savage) is well known for his role in TV sitcom Bottom which he wrote and starred in with Rik Mayall. Other television credits include Jonathan Creek, Blackadder and the BBC adaptation of War & Peace. On stage he has appeared in The Rocky Horror Show in the West End and Twelfth Night at the RSC. Film credits include Captain Peavey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Nigel Planer (Hugh Delavois) is an actor, comedian, novelist and playwright who has worked extensively in the West End with leading roles in original productions Evita, Chicago, We Will Rock You, Wicked, Hairspray, Feelgood and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for which he received an Olivier Award nomination. Other credits include the spoof actor character Nicholas Craig and Doctor Who: Live tour. He has been nominated for numerous awards and won the BRIT award for Best Comedy Record in 1984 for his appearance in The Young Ones.

  • Vulcan 7, Newcastle Theatre Royal, October 8-13. 7.30pm and matinees on Thursday at 2pm and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets from £14.50 on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7pm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at