Christopher Colquhoun has made the transition from TV pin-up to camera-toting RSC member, writes Terry Grimley...
No sooner did the Royal Shakespeare Company launch its new production of The Comedy of Errors to rapturous applause and critical acclaim last month than it promptly vanished from the Stratford repertoire for three weeks.
So Christopher Colquhoun, who plays Antipholus of Ephesus, was searching for a last-minute break on the internet when I spoke to him a few days later.
"It's not as bizarre as it first seems," he said. "They open one show and as soon as that's open another one comes in. But actually the show did so well during previews I think it will definitely sell. And if the other show [As You Like It] does as well they won't lose out."
Christopher Colquhoun is one of those actors whose name you may not immediately recognise but whose face you probably will, thanks to his having played dodgy heart-throb medic Dr Simon Kaminski in three series of Casualty.
But the subject of our conversation was a sideline for which his enthusiasm has at times rivalled that for acting: photography. During rehearsals for The Comedy of Errors he combined the roles of actor and photographer and the result is a unique insider's view of the process.
"We were on stage tech-ing for three days, and technical rehearsals are pretty much that - they're not about performance. So I had my camera at the side of the stage and would grab it when I wasn't in a scene, occasionally getting in the way of the director or stage manager. I took a picture of them shouting at me.
"It's a little bit of a strange one for me, because all the ones I think are my best shots are the ones that the press office aren't interested in - and that's because they are shots that are straightforwardly of the show, rather than showing what goes on behind the scenes. One of the things I love about this show is that it's visually very strong - the visual imagery of it is what makes it."
The first time he properly picked up a camera was during his first stint with the RSC in 1993, when he was fresh out of drama school.
"It wasn't serious, though, and when I look at the work I did then I think Oh God, but it gave me a thrill to do it and it's certainly grown since then.
"I'm becoming week by week more serious about it, to the point where I've had low ebbs as an actor and I've thought b*****ks to this, I'm going to be a photographer. I seem to get a very positive feedback from it, though I'm sure that's partly because I'm not doing it professionally. There's as many fantastic photographers out there as there are fantastic actors. But I love it, and I'm very, very passionate about it."
Though the rehearsal photos might fall into the category of reportage, he is more drawn to the kind of fine art photography that might find its way into galleries.
"It's a very eclectic mix at the moment and professionals tell me it's very important to have a niche. Ultimately I want to have work in galleries and I'm trying to carve out my own little world.
"I'm interested in landscape photography, but when I take landscapes I try to affect them in some way or have a object you wouldn't expect to have in that landcape. I have a seres of self-portraits of me naked in various different places around the world - not necessarily in close-up, so you don't notice it at first and then, a bit like those 'Where's Wally?' drawings, you see this landscape and you say oh look, there's a person and oh, he's naked."
You might suppose that in taking photographs of his colleagues he would have enjoyed greater tolerance and trust than an outsider with a camera, but it didn't necessarily work like that.
"Without naming names, there are some people who are very shy in front of a camera. Some of them will say 'Take that camera out of my face, please'.
"One of the ironies of this business is that everyone assumes that because you're an actor you like being the centre of attention. Actually, myself and a lot of people I know in the business are the opposite of that and are shy and uncomfortable.
"Even though I know them, if they weren't doing anything they would say 'No, really, Chris, don't take a picture'."
* The Comedy of Errors returns to the Stratford repertoire on August 22 and runs until October. For more information on Christopher Colquhoun, see www.christophercolquhoun.co.uk