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Stripping down for stage role; performing arts His mam wanted him to be a bank manager, but now Llyr Evans is one of Wales' finest stage actors. However, as he prepares for his new challenging role, he tells Rachel Mainwaring that he often thinks he should get a "proper" job.

ACTOR Llyr Evans has just spent the morning in intense rehearsals wearing nothing but a pair of pants and a sack.

Ruthin-born Evans is starring in Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru's production of W S Jones' Bobi a Sami... a Dynion Eraill, (Bobi & Sami... and Other Men) which is about to tour venues throughout Wales.

And the intense nature of the work, by the late Welsh dramatist Wil Sam, means that Evans and fellow actors Sion Pritchard and Llion Williams are currently working hard to bring the play to the stage.

Evans, who starred in 1997 film Twin Town with his film star brother Rhys Ifans, says: "Rehearsing has been much more physical than I thought it would. It's the most exerting thing I have done for ages. I'm so stiff.

"The play is in two halves. We perform Bobi a Sami and also stage two of Samuel Beckett's plays - Acts Without Words and Meical, a brand-new monologue by Luned Emyr.

"I have to spend the first quarter of an hour trapped in a sack with nothing but my pants on. And I have to stay completely still for all that time which is something of an accomplishment.

"The plays are all about the frustration of the mind and the absurdness of it. In Bobi a Sami, myself and Sion play a couple of men who are enclosed in an institution, discussing whether the grass is greener on the other side and then discovering that it probably isn't."

The men have been rehearsing for several hours a day and Evans, who lives in North Wales with his girlfriend TV and radio presenter Lisa Gwilym, says it's necessary to put in the preparation for this sort of role.

"You start off by getting the script, then you meet the director and discuss how you think it should be portrayed and then it's into rehearsals. Sion and I know each other inside out so it's great to work on a project like this together.

"We're currently staying in a remote cottage in the middle of nowhere and I've got to admit I'm starting to get a bit of cabin fever. But I'm up for socialising, anything that helps the team ethic!"

Bilingual Evans has no preference whether he works in the Welsh or English language but, despite film and TV roles, he says nothing reaps more rewards for him as an actor than stage work.

"Stage work is much more rewarding, you get instant gratification whereas you can work on a TV show but not see the results for months. It's much more therapeutic on stage. Far more rewarding."

But, while Evans clearly loves his profession, he is the first to admit that months without work can be hugely worrying.

"At times it's despairing when you just think, 'God, what's going to happen next?' But I'm of the opinion that every cloud has a silver lining and something usually comes up.

"I do other work to keep myself busy, like voiceovers for cartoons, but there are quiet months where you are waiting for the next job to come."

And it is at times like that when Evans wonders if he should have taken the advice of his mum to "get a proper job" but he says his parents have been nothing but supportive of both himself and his elder brother, who shot to fame as the flatmate-from-hell Spike in Notting Hill.

"My mum and dad met at a Welsh language drama society in Birmingham when they were both into amateur dramatics and they have been nothing but supportive of our careers.

"My dad always says everything we do is brilliant, even if it isn't, and my mum is probably the one who is a bit more critical. She checks everything we do and if it hasn't got any swearing in it, she knows she can invite people from chapel to watch it.

"She wanted me to be a bank manager but I knew I wanted to act after doing school plays and stuff for Theatr Clwyd and they always supported that."

Evans actually failed his drama A-level at school but joined Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold 15 years ago and hasn't looked back since.

Now one of Wales' most renowned stage actors, he is looking forward to starring in WS Jones' play.

"This production has a very heavy workload. One play has no words, which means you have to really contort your face and body, and I also have a 20-minute monologue. Luckily I've never frozen on stage, or forgotten my lines, so touch wood, that'll never happen.

"But we're all really looking forward to it getting started in Carmarthen next week."

Now he has just got to get used to spending much of his time wearing nothing but his pants and a sack.

The tour will open at Y Llwyfan, Carmarthen, from February 11 to 13. It will also visit Galeri, Caernarfon, from February 17 to 20; Theatry Gromlech, Crymych, on February 24 & 25; Aberystwyth Arts Centre on February 28; The Welfare, Ystradgynlais, on March 3 & 4; Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on March 6 & 7; Memorial Hall, Cricieth, on March 10 & 11 and Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold, on March 13 & 14

CAPTION(S):

Llyr Evans as Bobi in Bobi a Sami, above, and with his brother Rhys Ifans in a scene from the film Twin Town, inset
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 6, 2009
Words:894
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