Dean Nolan tells us about playing the role of Harold Steptoe in our touring production
Do you have you any memories of the TV series, Steptoe and Son?
Yes my parents are from London, so I grew up with Steptoe and have seen a lot of repeats of the series but when I knew about the job I did not watch an episode. However, I will look forward to watching them after we finish our tour.
How does it feel to play such an iconic character as Harold?
The best, it’s the toughest and most enjoyable role I have ever played. Harold has so many levels, and I hope we have discovered them all. I was slightly worried as everyone remembers Harry H Corbett and his delivery of certain catch phrases such as, “You Dirty Old Man”, so I was over the moon when director Emma Rice said we were doing our own version and set in Cornwall. This gave us an opportunity to make new decisions and create our own piece.
If you could describe Harold in five words, what would they be?
Dreamer, Friend, Selfish, Emotional and Scared
What preparation did you do before starting rehearsals?
Not too much. I like to always approach rehearsals as open minded as possible and I kept away from the TV series, and had a couple of reads of the script.
How does your character develop/change through the course of the play?
These two characters change status and power throughout the piece, but the show begins with Harold a 37 year old wanting to leave and make it on his own. He cannot get away and his Dad will try anything to stop him leaving. We then see in the second half, another attempt for a holiday, but once again, after the doctor’s advice, Harold cannot leave Albert on his own. However, by the end we see a change, when his Dad becomes the one living the young life again, going on a date. So, the tables suddenly change where it is Harold nagging his Dad like the father figure asking where has he been…Essentially, it is a tug of war throughout the piece but by the end not much has really changed, we just see their full story and how they are trapped in their own little world.
In the rehearsal room, how did you and Mike Shepherd explore the relationship between Albert and Harold?
We get on well and have a lot of banter. This was a real help in finding out how we could explore the relationship. We also played a badminton game called Cock Square to keep up some competitive spirit within us all.
Has playing Harold and being part of this production, presented new challenges to you as an actor at all?
Every role has its different challenges and this is a gem of a role to play. For me, it’s not often you find a part that goes through several different emotions within a short space of time and has such a variety of colour and shades. Also, the fact that there are only 3 of us in the cast means we have to keep our energy up and work on our stamina as we do throw a few moves in the show too!!
What lessons, if any, do you think we learn from the production as an audience?
What brilliant writing this is and how it still stands up now 50 years on and that it’s about a relationship between a father and son that a lot of us can relate to. It could be set anywhere, and that you can combine and play with lots of ideas of how to tell a story, such as memories, music or through the female character eyes this gives it colour and uses your imagination which Kneehigh always try and seem to succeed in doing so. Hope you enjoy the show.
Dean Nolan, Harold Steptoe