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OWEN TEALE: Belonging star on gruelling new role.

Byline: JOHN GILHEANEY

WHAT a difference a play makes!

Ex-Belonging star Owen Teale has gone from playing a leather-clad loverboy with a lust for his girlfriend's mam to a suicidal Russian burnt out at 35.

And he says his acclaimed new role, as dark and moody Ivanov at London's Royal National Theatre, has left him dying for a laugh - and a drink!

Award-winning Owen, 41, famously bared all in raunchy BBC Wales' drama Belonging, his modesty saved by a strategically placed teapot.

In Ivanov he bares his character's troubled soul with themes such as boredom, depression, loneliness and suicide in Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov's play. With eight shows a week and the play running until October 12, Owen, from Porthcawl, is in no doubt as to what he needs when he leaves the stage every night.

``A bloody big drink!'' he laughs.

``It takes its toll. But, at the end of the play, it seems that blowing the side of your head off is the most logical thing to do! I shouldn't laugh but it's heavy stuff.

``I'd love to do a good romantic comedy now. I did Ted and Alice with Dawn French earlier this year, I played her boyfriend, Barry and that was very enjoyable.

``My favourite genre is always the one I'm not doing. I'm dying to do some film-work. A light romantic comedy set in Wales so I could see all my friends would be nice after a role like this.

``Or, on second thoughts, maybe it would be nice to set it somewhere warmer like the Greek islands!''

Ivanov and Tom from Belonging may seem like a world apart but Owen, who called on the gloomier side of the Welsh personality to play the despairing Russian, says there are a few similarities.

``Tom was a bit lost, a bit of a loose character. Depression can be down to a chemical balance and Ivanov's moods range from hysteria to massive slumps. I don't think Tom was like that.

``But certainly he was a loner, quite happy in his own company though I don't think he was the type of guy to go off and shoot himself. Maybe when he gets older, what a scary thought!

``I do tap into the melancholy aspect of the Welsh character for Ivanov, you know that feeling of, `I just can't be bothered to even try'. My wife came to see me the other day and she said it was extraordinary. She said she had never seen me that angry, I think she got a new insight into me!

``But it's surprising how much laughter there is in the audience. There are some fantastic lines like, `I'm so bored I could take a run at a wall,' and `I remember you as an old woman thirty years ago'.''

But there are lighter roles in the pipeline.

``I've got a few things which are still in the planning stage and in November I'm going to appear in a production by Terry Hands at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, a revival of the Four Seasons by Arnold Wesker. I'm hoping for a few laughs in that!'' said Owen.

You can contact the Royal National Theatre box office on 020 7452 3000

MY NEW YORK AWARDS `OUTING'

WHEN Owen won a prestigious Tony award for his Broadway performance in A Doll's House in 1997 a mix-up over his wife's name led many to think he was gay!

``I was live on TV at the Radio City Hall in front of 6,000 people, Raquel Welch presented me with the award and it was all a bit much, I went blank. ``I began to thank my family and various people and then I concluded by saying I'd like to thank my partner, Silvestra.

``It's not a common name and because it sounds like Sylvesterpeople actually thought it was a coming out speech!

``The next day I was inundated with interview requests from gay magazines, it was hysterical.''

When he's not playing dark, despairing Russians Owen relaxes with Silvestra and son Ion, 17, and daughters Eliza, five and one-year-old Grace.

``Family is my relaxation away from the theatre, anything with the kids, going to the park, to the beach, real regular stuff.''

CAPTION(S):

GRIM: Teale as Ivanov dies every night in Chekhov's play; AS YOU BIKE IT: Teale as; Tom with Gwen Taylor in Belonging
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 29, 2002
Words:728
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