A copper once more...

A Judgment in Stone (C) Photographer Geraint Lewis (Chris Ellison & Ben Nealon)
A Judgment in Stone (C) Photographer Geraint Lewis (Chris Ellison & Ben Nealon)

Chris Ellison, who enjoyed a longstanding role as ITV’s DCI Frank Burnside in The Bill and the spin-off series Burnside, is a copper again, this time on stage.

He has joined the Classic Thriller Theatre Company for the last leg of their tour of A Judgement in Stone which concludes in Chris’ home town, Brighton for a date at the Theatre Royal from Monday to Saturday, November 27-December 2.

“It’s a psychological thriller. The best way to describe it would be intriguing. That’s the right word… intriguing.

“I am playing the detective superintendent who gets called up from London to investigate a crime that has just happened. I am joined by the local copper, played by Ben Nealon, who I really don’t know, and I don’t really know anything when I get there. But the entire family has been murdered, shot to death, and the story is about finding out who did it.

“But actually, the play is quite strange. The murders have already happened, but the family come back to life. We keep going back in time and go back through the past nine months before the murders. They go through all their summer holidays and their Christmas and their relationship with the housekeeper and their relationship with the gardener who is just out of prison on parole. Interspersed with that, you have got the real-time characters, me and Ben and the people that are still alive who are obviously suspects. I am playing a typical London policeman, a detective superintendent. He is old-school and hard-bitten. He just asks lots and lots of questions which is what policemen do, but he is dealing with some rather eccentric country folk that he doesn’t really have a lot of time for. He is a little bit impatient.”

For Chris, it’s a relatively-rare foray into the theatre: “I haven’t really done masses of theatre. I did Great Expectations in the West End three or four years ago. But my agent rang me. They offered me the role last year and asked would I be interested, but I wasn’t interested in doing such a long tour. I don’t know how they do it. They have been going for a year. I couldn’t do that. You go from place to place and you never settle and then you are moving on again. I think this is my limit, 13 weeks, with the last stop in Brighton which is my home town. I have lived there for 36 years. My dad came from Brighton. My sister lived in Brighton. We have always had links with Brighton.

“I am also a big fan of the football team. I have always followed Brighton & Hove Albion. They are doing fine at the moment. I am thrilled for everybody involved, but I never get the chance to see them. As soon as I finish this, my first port of call will be to go and see a game. The closest I can get is following the game on my phone during the Saturday matinee!”

So, no, Chris confesses he’s hardly the kind of actor who is going to stay in character the entire afternoon: “I am not a great theatre person really, but you hear a lot of actors saying how wonderful the theatre is, and it is just a lot of hypocrisy most of the time. I am an actor and I am doing a job for a living and this is what I do. I am being paid. It sounds mercenary, but that’s the truth. What people in the amateur dramatics forget, not that I have got anything against amateur dramatics, is that it is just a job. I hate listening to all that waffle about how wonderful everything is! But this is definitely a good play, and we all do the best job we can because we are professionals…”