Ex Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy takes to Islington stage

A FORMER Doctor Who will be practising his craft in Islington’s fringe theatre this winter – before jetting off to New Zealand to film for Peter Jackson’s mega-budget The Hobbit.

Sylvester McCoy, who played the Time Lord from 1987 to 1989, will be starring in the first ever stage adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s debut novel, Decline and Fall, at the historic Old Red Lion in St John Street, Finsbury.

The play opens on Tuesday. McCoy, who will lead a cast of seven, said: “It’s fascinating to do a brand new piece and see how it comes off the book and onto the stage.

“It’s exciting and dangerous. I like excitement and danger. It’s a whole new project that’s never been done before.”

The play, which has been adapted by the Red Lion’s new artistic director Henry Filloux-Bennett, tells the story of Paul Pennyfeather, a student at Oxford who is sent down for indecent behaviour – setting him on a downward spiral that within a year leads to the cells of a badly-run prison and an untimely grave.

McCoy says he was drawn to the project because of his fondness for Waugh. “I have always been a huge fan. He was one of the great comic writers of the 20th century and this book is so funny.

“His influence was just immense. People like John Cleese, Peter Cook and Michael Palin all read him as young men.

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“I’m playing an old drunk,” he added. “It’s not type-casting I assure you! He’s called Grimes. He’s grimy, he’s lovable and he’s got a passion for life. He’s a great character.”

After the show’s run finishes in January, the 67-year-old will soon be a world away from the small Islington theatre – when he begins filming for the upcoming adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, set to a be a monster blockbuster to rival the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

“That’s what I love about my job,” he said. “That’s why I do it. I like the infinite variety of it all. From playing a small theatre above a pub to a film that costs millions – I like it all.”

l Decline and Fall will be at the Old Red Lion from November 30 until January 8.