Christopher Fairbank talks A Christmas Carol

Christopher Fairbank as Scrooge. Pic: Comp
Christopher Fairbank as Scrooge. Pic: Comp
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CHRISTOPHER Fairbank has grown so fond of our fair city over the years that he says he would “marry Edinburgh if it was possible.”

He probably wasn’t feeling quite so loved-up after his first visit, mind.

That was in 1975, during a visit to the Festival, and he somehow managed to almost get himself arrested twice in the same day.

“I remember that visit,” laughs the veteran actor, whose film credits include Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Fifth Element. “I wasn’t exactly arrested but certainly came to the notice of the authorities twice in the one day.

“The first offence was kipping under a tea wagon in Princes Street Gardens – I was raked out of there by someone in uniform. Then, later that day, I was caught short, so to speak. I needed to relieve myself a little too close to the grave of Greyfriars Bobby. After a long lecture from a policeman, I was eventually told that, just this once, he would let me off with a caution. But on no account was I to do anything of the like ever again.”

Fairbank, perhaps best known for his role of Scouse scally Moxey in the hit TV comedy-drama series Auf Wiedersehen Pet, has returned to the city many times since that eventful first visit.

Having made his Capital stage debut in the Royal Lyceum’s production of Sam Shepard’s Curse Of The Starving Class in 2009, he returned to the Grindlay Street venue last year in The Lieutenant Of Inishmore.

On Thursday, he is back treading the boards at the Lycuem in Neil Duffield’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which runs until early January. He can’t wait.

“I can’t remember exactly when, but it was some time in the mid-80s I first went to the Lyceum. It was to see a friend do Volpone and I can remember thinking what a beautiful theatre it was.

“Its beauty just gets more and more so, each time I come back. It’s to die for. Aesthetically, I can’t think of a more beautiful space, but also, technically, from an actor’s point of view, it’s a dream. It lends itself to the entire gamut of performance. There are few spaces that really do encompass the entire gamut the way the Lyceum does.”

It goes without saying that Fairbank is pleased to be back at his favourite theatre, where he’ll be stepping into the role of the old humbug himself, Ebenezer Scrooge.

“I’ve not done any research in terms of looking what other people have done with the character, because I find it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by the way you’re forced into not doing what they did – even though what they did is absolutely brilliant and maybe should be used,” he says. “It just adds another complication that, frankly, I can do without.

“So I’m just employing the same process as with any character. You find out the heart and the soul of the person and the journey they have to go on in the context of the drama.”

According to the 60-year-old actor, the challenge with A Christmas Carol is getting the right balance between “tinsel and Christmas and children, and what is an extremely dark story”.

“The adaptation that we’re using – by Neil Duffield – is really well pitched in that respect,” he says. “You see Scrooge at his nastiest and by the end he’s completely reformed... reborn with a totally different attitude to life and people and everything therein. It’s just about striking the right balance.

“Children love to be scared, as long as they know it’s safe,” he adds. “And that is the underlined bit, really. As long as Scrooge shows his vulnerability – even when he’s at his nastiest – then I think children of all ages won’t be completely terrified and desperate to go home before the interval.”

Having starred in some of the biggest-grossing films of all time, Fairbank has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. So who impressed him the most?

“Now there’s a question!” he beams. “So many of them have blown me away. I think... oh, it’s impossible. Meryl Streep springs to mind as someone who I was a massive fan of before I had the chance to work with her and playing opposite her [in the film Plenty] was a joy. Halfway through it, I was so overawed that I was bending myself into all sorts of contorted shapes in apology and she just said, ‘It’s ok, don’t worry’. That was just wonderful... I went even weaker at the knees.

“Johnny Depp, who I worked with on Pirates of the Caribbean was absolutely sensational, too.

“He happens to be one of the biggest-grossing movie stars on the planet, but in his heart and soul he is an actor who is, in effect, just another actor in a scene.

That is just phenomenal, because a few of them – not many, but a few of them – do take that sort of extraordinary place that they’re put in, by their ability to generate millions of billions of revenue for the studios, and take advantage of that position once the camera is off them. Johnny certainly never did that, and that made him even greater in my eyes. That’s what it’s about.

“As Stanislavsky said, ‘there are no small parts, only small actors’.”

A Christmas Carol, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, Thursday - 4 January, various times, £14-£27.50, 0131-248 4848