‘Greek’ play out of Italy

Look at YouTube and you’ll see that the funeral of Eduardo De Filippo was almost like a Pope had died, says Oliver Cotton.

“He was absolutely a national figure in Italy”, says Oliver who is appearing alongside Ian McKellen and Michael Pennington in De Filippo’s The Syndicate, a dark comedy about the Italian underworld which receives its premiere in a new version by Mike Poulton in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre (until August 20).

“He was an actor himself and he writes in great detail. It’s very good for actors because he brings out those individual tiny moments, though obviously we are doing it in translation, and it is obviously difficult to translate idiom. There are certain things in a language which just can’t be translated.”

But Oliver is confident the power of the writing will come across in this production, directed by Sean Mathias.

“I am playing a baker who has a huge feud with his son. The passions in it are almost quite Greek. It’s like a Greek play. It’s very much to do with hatred and familial disputes at quite a deep level. There is a lot of implied violence in the lines. My character is possessed really with his feelings about his son. He is out of control and the son likewise about me.”

For Oliver, it’s a return to Chichester where two years ago he played the Rev Jim Casy in The Grapes Of Wrath in the main house: “It was a huge undertaking. It was an epic. People got a lot out of it.

“But this is completely different now. I don’t know what you would say it was like - Alan Ayckbourn or Chekhov, but obviously you can’t start comparing with other authors. It is so different. I had read a couple of his other plays before.”