By Tom Marshall of The Islington Gazette
The intimate stage of a small fringe theatre in the depths of Holloway may not have the glamour of a multi-billion pound movie franchise, but actor James Phelps isn’t complaining.
After making his name as Weasley twin Fred in all eight Harry Potters, the 26-year-old launched his theatrical career at the Pleasance Theatre this week.
He stars in a surreal tale about a tall, blond Catholic teenager with one very odd mission in life – to be Woody Allen.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s opening night, he said: “I’ve always wanted to do theatre but never got round to it.
“Now I’m doing my first show and I’m in the lead, although I’m surrounded by pros who have done it all before. I’m nervously excited.”
Phelps plays 18-year-old John O’Leary, who realises in a moment of epiphany that being the famously neurotic Jewish comedian and filmmaker is all he wants to do, despite the obvious barriers.
It comes as quite a shock to his mother when he switches faith, begins learning Yiddish and embarks on a stand-up career.
He said: “The best way to describe the play is ‘quirky’. There are a lot of jokes from different Woody Allen material and it’s a bit naughty as well in parts.
“My homework involved watching all his movies and trying to mirror his performances on stage.
“Getting the New York accent down was a challenge and I’ve had to learn some Yiddish.
“It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks, because it’s really funny on the page.
“We keep getting in trouble with the producer for laughing too much.”
Phelps was cast in Harry Potter at 14, alongside identical twin Oliver who played George Weasley.
He says he would not change anything about his decade as part of the most successful film series ever.
“I do miss it, but a lot of us in the cast still meet up quite a lot,” he said. “I still play cricket and golf with some of the guys. We don’t hang out on screen but we still meet up off screen.”
One thing he doesn’t miss is Fred Weasley’s ginger hair. He’s also relishing performing without his twin by his side.
“It’s been quite fun not working with him,” he said. “I mean that in a nice way! It’s fun playing the one character on its own.
“I’m sure my brother has been wanting to do something like this – maybe he can be my understudy.”
The Boy Who Was Woody Allen is at the Pleasance Theatre in Carpenters Mews, N7, from tonight until Saturday. From 7.30pm, tickets £10-£15, call box office on 020 7609 1800.