It's grumpy Mr Green!
Warren Mitchell admits that a touring play is tough on his 81-year-old bones but when you've flown Tiger Moths with Richard Burton in World War II, treading the boards is easy.
Mitchell, loved in Britain for his portrayal of Alf Garnett in Till Death Us Do Part, is appearing in Cardiff this week in the play Visiting Mr Green.
And he is hoping his hotel here provides better service than he has so far experienced to help him rest between performances.
"Touring is hard on a person of may age, particularly when British hotels all seem to be run by the staff of Fawlty Towers," said the Stoke Newington-born Londoner, now a naturalised Australian.
"The hardest thing about this role so far has been putting up with that because I'm quite good at my job."
In Visiting Mr Green, Mitchell plays Mr Green, an elderly American Jew who is run over by a young Jewish executive Ross Gardiner.
Found guilty of reckless driving, free-spirited gay man Ross is ordered to spend the next six months making weekly visits to Mr Green, a bitter widower with dated views.
What begins as an odd-couple comedy develops into a gripping drama and Mitchell, born Warren Misel, feels personal connections with the play.
"I was brought up in an orthodox Jewish household and many of the problems of the play arise from the narrow bigoted views that most orthodox religion suffers from," said the actor, who is of Russian Jewish descent.
Does he see any similarities between the characters of Green and Garnett, given their exclusionary views on life?
"Yes, a lot of similarities.
"I have the same legs, the same eyes and the same moustache as Alf Garnett," he said, with more than a touch of sarcasm.
Mitchell was abrupt with me but an actor of his calibre at his age is entitled to be tired of press interviews; after all, he started acting in the sepia days of the late 1940s, after being teamed with Hollywood legend Richard Burton in the RAF.
"We went up to Oxford Academy in April 1944 and were in the University Squadron that used to fly Tiger Moths from Cowley Airfield," he remembers.
"We were together about three years and we were never good friends but we were friends.
"He didn't say anything to me about acting at all that inspired me, but he did have an influence.
"Burton's real legacy to me was his affinity for rugby and he would have played for Wales had he not become a great actor.
"He was one of the great uncapped international quality players who were in the military teams.
"I remember they got Richard on This Is Your Life while he was in Vienna and he said some very complimentary things about me.
"He told the story about how he had offered to help me with my career but I refused and said 'I have to do it without pals'."
Mitchell grew bored of talking about Burton very quickly.
The day we spoke was his recovery day, a respite between matinee performances, and he was clearly weary.
Though cuttingly short, he is also a naturally concise speaker and admirably well-humoured with it.
"I am sorry if I've been short with you but this play is eight shows per week, and I do get tired," he said, displaying a grouchy charm.
"I have informed the RSPCA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Actors."
Visiting Mr Green is at The New Theatre, Cardiff, from tomorrow until Saturday. Tickets cost pounds 7-pounds 24 from 029 2087 8889.
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|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Dec 3, 2007|
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