Birmingham Rep production of Woman In Mind, starring Andrew Wincott as Andy and Meg Fraser as Susan
Birmingham Rep production of Woman In Mind, starring Andrew Wincott as Andy and Meg Fraser as Susan
 

Actor Andrew Wincott is playing an imaginary ideal lover in an Alan Ayckbourn play.

But this is nothing new, as millions of listeners spend a few minutes a day conjuring him up in their minds.

The result is probably far from reality.

He plays gay red-headed farmer Adam Macy in The Archers, while Londoner Andrew has brown hair and a sort-of girlfriend in South America.

Only their voices are the same.

Andrew says: “Usually I can go about unrecognised, but sometimes there’s a glimmer of recognition when people hear my voice.

“It’s a danger when people meet me, having conjured up what Adam is like in their minds.

“Hopefully they are not too disappointed.”

In Ayckbourn’s play Woman In Mind, which opens at Birmingham Rep on Friday, Andrew plays Andy, fantasy husband to Susan (Meg Fraser).

“It opens with Susan lying on the lawn in her garden, having had a blow to the head,” explains Andrew.

“She’s actually married to a vicar but she’s not happy and is undergoing a breakdown.

“She retreats into a fantasy world where she’s married to me.

“We imagine that Susan has read a lot of romantic novels and watches period dramas, so I’m kind of modelled on someone like Mr Darcy.

“But then the fantasy turns on her, the two worlds collide and she loses control of the fantasy as the play goes on.

“The last scene is mayhem, a madcap farce which is hilarious at times but also desperately distressing.

“Ayckbourn very cleverly keeps the play balanced between light and dark – he says you can’t have one without the other.

“On the one hand it’s familiar Ayckbourn territory, poking fun at suburban middle class values.

“But it also has a dark side, when the audience realises that Susan is dying inside.

“Ayckbourn said that an audience can laugh for as long as they want, but they should be pulled up short at the end when they realise what’s happened to Susan.

“There are laughs, tragedy and pathos.”

Woman In Mind is a joint production with Dundee Rep, where the cast has been rehearsing.

That meant a quick return flight from Scotland to Birmingham when Andrew was needed for a recording of The Archers.

“I live in London but Birmingham is like a second home to me, I’m always coming up here to work.

“The Archers are very good at letting you do other work, but rehearsing in Dundee has presented a certain degree of logistical difficulty.

“I had to fly back one week, and when we finish in Dundee I will have to pack up and drive through the night to be at work at the Mailbox at 9am.

“Actually I feel a connection to The Archers because my mother grew up in Sibford Ferris, between Stratford-upon-Avon and Banbury.

“She went to the same school there as Godfrey Baseley who created The Archers.

“I imagine Sibford Ferris as being the basis for Ambridge. My mother even grew up on Home Farm.

“Then again, Ambridge is everyone’s ideal village.”

Andrew first joined The Archers back in 1991, when he played Danish organic agricultural student Thorkhil Jensen, who spent five months at Bridge Farm.

“I spoke with a Danish accent, and I remember one amazing episode when Jill’s killer bees escaped and I had to rescue Kylie.”

Then in 2003 he returned as Adam Macy, son of Jennifer Aldridge, who had been breeding goats in Kenya.

He was the soap’s first homosexual character and for a while he was the only gay in the village, until he fell in love with Ian Craig (Stephen Kennedy), the chef at Grey Gables.

They kissed in the strawberry polytunnel in 2004, then 20 months later became the first soap couple to enter into a gay civil partnership.

Both their fathers weren’t keen but finally relented and turned up for the ceremony.

There were negative posts from fans on Archers message boards, but Andrew says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I haven’t had any personal abuse,” he insists. “I feel that it’s been pretty well received – we are in the 21st century, after all.

“I’ve had the occasional letter from gay listeners saying how delighted they are with Adam and Ian’s relationship.

“They’ve been together 10 years now, which makes them the longest gay relationship in soap, and probably one of the longest relationships full stop!

“When they first met, we were talking about where the relationship could go, whether to split them up or carry on. I’m glad they had the civil partnership.

“Who knows what the future is for them? It has occurred to me that they could now get married.”

When he’s not on the radio, Andrew – who has a 21-year-old daughter from a previous relationship – is trying to conduct a very long-distance romance with a woman who lives in Colombia.

“My oldest friend lives in Bogota, so I visited South America last year and he introduced me to a beautiful lady.

“The status of our relationship is difficult, it’s very hard to sustain it when we’re so far apart.”

* Woman In Mind plays Birmingham Rep from June 13-28. For tickets, ring 0121 236 4455 or go to www.birmingham-rep.co.uk

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