Iconic tale of wartime horror
F or more than a decade, Christopher Timothy was one of the best-known faces on television – the star of the hit vet series All Creatures Great And Small.
When that series came to an end he turned his hand, then famous for being up the rear end of a farm animal, to medicine of a different kind and took up a role in BBC series Doctors.
This month he will take on the role of Otto Frank in an award-winning adaptation of The Diary Of Anne Frank.
Anne's famous diary, which was first translated into English 60 years ago, charts two years of her life, from 1942-44.
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From a secret annex in a Dutch attic, Anne wrote about her hopes, fears, laughter and grief, as a Jew hiding from the Nazis.
Her personal account of hope, courage and survival has united and touched people worldwide. Yet Christopher says he knew little of the famous diarist before he joined the cast.
He says: "I knew Anne Frank existed – I knew she lived in a house in Amsterdam and that she kept a diary. I always thought she was Dutch, not German. I've been to Amsterdam filming but I didn't visit the house – I didn't make the connection."
When his agent told him about the part, which details such a horrendous point in history, he was attracted by the quality of the writing.
"I wonder if I would have had any qualms if I had been asked to play Hitler," he says. "I think if something is well written and a good part then I would be attracted to it. That is one of the great things about being an actor."
Despite Christopher's well- known television presence, his role in The Diary Of Anne Frank will be his ninth visit to the Theatre Royal.
He says: "I've done a lot of theatre and I really love it. The truth is that if a part is well written and I can work with actors that are better than me or more experienced then without question I will learn something and that is all I can ask.
"I don't care whether that part is in a field in Yorkshire or on stage. Although I would like to be on stage somewhere I can just stay put. There is a famous quote from a lady of the theatre, I can't remember who it was, who was a grand old lady, and she said: 'I used to be a tour de force and now I'm forced to tour'. That's not quite what I'm saying, but as one gets older touring does lose some of its glitter."
And at the ripe old age of 71, I ask whether it is harder to find casts with more experienced actors – at which he explodes into laughter.
"One of the joys of working with exciting, new, inexperienced actors is watching them, and I don't mean to be patronising when I say that.
"Occasionally I dare to be a help but some of the things they do are magical – they don't try to act, they just do it.
"I think about myself at that age and although it was a different era it took me years to learn that less is more in most instances. It's thrilling watching young actors make mistakes and then never make them again and it's thrilling to work with people who care."
The Diary Of Anne Frank is directed by Nikolai Foster, whose credits include a new production of the Broadway musical Annie, As You Like it, Flashdance, All The Fun Of The Fair, Hay Fever, and The Witches Of Eastwick.
Presented by the producers of last year's acclaimed production of To Kill A Mockingbird, this new production evokes all of the sentiments of the original diary live on stage, including material that had originally been censored by Otto Frank, marking the 60th anniversary of the diary's publication in English.