From Heath Pond plunges to playing Dr Watson
- Credit: End Productions
For 21 winters, Michael Roy Andrew has started his day with a dip in Hampstead's ponds.
Now the charismatic and chatty actor is "taking the plunge" playing Dr Watson Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
The Kentish Town resident stars in The Return of Sherlock Holmes at the Highgate theatre. It's set in 1894, three years after the great detective and his nemesis Moriarty have vanished over the Reichenbach Falls. Criminal gangs are on the rise and there's the baffling murder of socialite Ronald Adair. The need for a hero is greater than ever.
The Lancashire-born performer, who moved to Kentish Town in 1992, says: “I swim in the mornings - always. It gets me going and it’s something that’s become very much part of me. It’s so natural it’s like breathing. I do it every day apart from Sundays. I have to have one day off or else it feels like a job. A lot of people say it’s a thrill or has health benefits, but personally, it’s more of a spiritual thing. It's keeping in touch with nature when living in the middle of a city.”
Andrew features in the 2019 documentary Ponds and can be seen "primal screaming" in the final shot.
“Before the documentary came out, you used to see the same people at the ponds all the time, but now it's taken off countrywide, it's become quite fashionable which in a sense is quite annoying. It’s like everything, you think you have something exclusive then it isn’t so much anymore”.
He was initially apprehensive about taking on a role that's been played by countless actors - opposite his friend Nigel Miles-Thomas.
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"As an actor you have an impression of who you can and can’t play and I felt it was beyond me. Anyway, I took the plunge – no pun intended – and it’s turning out to be one of my favourite roles yet. I’ve done plenty of research, but I don’t want to be informed by another actor's interpretation, so I haven’t seen the BBC show with Martin Freeman.”
Andrew, who has previously acted with Miles-Thomas in Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein and The Elephant Man, was attracted to the role because of the relationship between Holmes and Watson.
"It’s like ‘how could this possibly work?’ They’re different in almost every aspect so that was intriguing. We all know that Watson has the human side and Holmes has been described as a cold fish without emotions – but like every cold fish, he needs to be tapped. Keeping the humanity and humour is key. I just hope it’s enjoyable and well received.”
The Return of Sherlock Holmes runs March 1-6. Visit upstairsatthegatehouse.ticketsolve.com for tickets.