The Crown star gets Fracked in Brighton!

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Harry Hadden-Paton, of Downton and The Crown fame, joins the cast as Fracked! Or: Please Don’t Use The F-Word goes out on tour after a successful debut in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre last summer.

It plays Theatre Royal Brighton from May 1-6.

“There are, I think, three of us who have joined the show,” says Harry. “It comes down to availability. I am in the middle of filming the second series of The Crown for Netflix, and they offered me this play. It is just a wonderful piece.”

Alistair Beaton’s provocative new comedy takes us to an idyllic English village threatened by an energy company intent on drilling for shale gas.

Anne Reid plays Elizabeth, a retired academic who finds herself transformed from obedient citizen to angry protestor. While her increasingly-grumpy husband (James Bolam) longs for the quiet life, Elizabeth soars to fame via social media.

Desperate to get planning permission, hard-nosed PR men team up with a corrupt local councillor to persuade the villagers that fracking is good. Elizabeth’s having none of it, and mounts the barricades.

“I am playing Joe, the PR guy,” Harry says. “He is a bit of a villain which is nice after playing good guys in Downton and The Crown.”

It is Harry’s first time on stage for nearly four years: “I did a long stretch of only doing plays.”

But then the screen roles stacked up, coinciding with having children: “I have got two children now, and doing theatre is a bit tricky when you are supporting a family. But this was just one of those parts that you can’t really say no to. He is a guy that likes to talk. He loves the sound of his own voice. He is very impressive intellectually. He is a bit like the ringmaster of the piece. It’s fun – a lot of fun.”

“Anne and James have had the benefit of an audience, and I guess that is useful. I am looking forward to getting it in front of an audience. You forget what is funny after three or four weeks’ rehearsals. Your mind goes blank and you need the audience to tell you where the jokes are.

“But it has been a while since they did the play, and there have been a lot of re-writes. If you are doing something again, you might as well make sure it is the best it can possibly be. They played with the structure and then decided it was fine. It is just little bits and pieces.”

As for Downton: “I loved it. It was a huge success. I was nothing to do with that! I was there. I was in the cast list. But they had all been doing it for five years before I turned up. They were all amazing. But I did feel ‘I am riding on your success’ – which is fine. I will take that! But I was a big fan, and it was amazing suddenly to be sitting around with Maggie (Smith), with Jim Carter pouring my wine! But it was wonderful. They could not have been more welcoming to me.”

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