Janie Dee & Rupert Wickham

Published in The Stage, October ’11

Rupert Wickham and Janie Dee last tread the boards together in 1993 during a production of Romeo and Juliet at Regents Park Open Air Theatre, where they met and fell in love. Now husband and wife, they will finally appear on stage together again later this month as Elyot Chase and Amanda Prynne – a couple with the ultimate love hate relationship – in Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

What are you enjoying most about the comedy?

JD: The perception of the way we behave is so wittily observed. Noel Coward really understood the games that people play. His script is just delicious.

RW: It is written simply, beautifully succinct and perfectly phrased. It is also such a modern play with social commentary, almost by accident, about people’s unrealistic expectations of happiness. That’s a pertinent theme in modern culture.

What is it like acting alongside your spouse?

JD: It gives us a chance to play together, instead of just going home and doing the dishes. There are advantages – snuggling up on a sofa is easy, there is no frisson. The disadvantages are that I work differently. I don’t learn my lines until I understand why I am saying them. He learns his lines very easily.

RW: It has its moments. We’ve left our children in London and we are with each other 24 hours playing a couple who are constantly bickering. But it is wonderful.

Do you rehearse together at home?

JD: We’ve gone through lines while cooking supper. We would often do that at home – I would say can you look at my lines, while stirring the pasta.

RW: We do rattle off lines together but we have to resist the temptation to not only do that.

What sparked your love of theatre?

JD: Many things. Hearing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Seeing a neighbour do an amateur production of the Taming of the Shrew. At home it was hard at times and turning myself into somebody else was an escape. Also my mum and dad loved the theatre. They would take us to London and we would watch shows from up in the gods.

RW: My grandmother was an actress, and my parents and sister. I did a degree in History and German before drama school, so I was in my mid-twenties by the time I started in the business. This was from seeing what the lifestyle was like and thinking ‘is there something else I can do’? I think it is something that people have genetically in them.

How do you unwind?

JD: I like wild swimming. I like being with my children, Matilda and Alfie, they are very bright and interesting people. I like having reflexology because it is a great way of relaxing.

RW: My daughter is getting very good at dinghy sailing and I love to do that with her. My son has just started playing golf which is great – he will be better than me in five years. I like swimming; I’m a member of the Serpentine Club.

Private Lives is at Notting Playhouse from 7-22 October.