BWW Interviews: Alexander Hanson Of STEPHEN WARD!

As Keeler continues its run at the Charing Cross Theatre, Stephen Ward is preparing to open just up the road.

Alexander Hanson is taking the title role - and in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, Ward is presented as a much more sympathetic chap than the shadowy svengali that's entered into popular legend...

"He was a society osteopath - a very brilliant one - and he was always surrounded by a bevy of beautiful young girls. This was his passport to a different level of society," explains Hanson.

Two of those girls were Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler.

"When John Profumo lied in the House of Commons and then had to resign, this led to the downfall of a government already rocked by [double agent Kim] Philby's defection to the Soviet Union. There was a kneejerk reaction that they had to get this guy [Ward] - he was the fallguy, and they went at him hard.

"He's been portrayed as some sort of devil - there was even a figure of him in Blackpool's Chamber of Horrors - and certainly he was a flawed individual, but he's an interesting subject; like anybody, he was complex. He was aspirational, and a voyeur - he was very interested in orgies, not so much as a participant but he was fascinated by people.

"In terms of playing the character, I've been reading around it, but you can only play the script - and Christopher Hampton's script is fantastic, so elegant."

And what of the music?

"You've probably heard some of the tunes of the promo - there's some really, really nice stuff in there, with some great lyrics [by Don Black]. It really gets under your skin. Andrew is so brilliant at commercial writing - I've now done Aspects of Love for him, Sunset Boulevard for him, and [Jesus Christ] Superstar for him, and it just seeps into you."

This is Lloyd Webber's return to the West End with a new musical after the complicated and truncated life of Love Never Dies. "I never saw that," admits Hanson, "but I understand the music was good and the show as a whole was let down by some other elements. So as a result of that he's got a weapons-grade creative team in this time - Sir Richard Eyre is directing, Don Black has an Oscar, Christopher Hampton doesn't have enough cupboards for all his awards. This is the heaviest hitting team!"

It's at around this time that casts of new productions start to get excited about opening night, but Hanson has rather more complicated feelings. "I am excited, but I'm also intrigued. People will leave the theatre having had an interested, wonderful evening - and there'll be a generation who'll want to come and see the show because they remember the events. My mother was in her twenties when the Profumo Affair happened, and when she heard I was doing this show, she said, 'I remember all that! And you're playing Stephen Ward? He was horrible!' I just said to her, 'But you're just believing the line that the Denning Report [into the scandal] and the media were spinning!'

"I hope this show will start to correct a few false impressions."

Alexander Hanson stars in Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre from December 3.

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From This Author Carrie Dunn

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