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Interview: Tom Rosenthal


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If fans of Tom Rosenthal wonder whether his on-screen comedy translates to his daily life, wonder no longer. A wide grin is plastered across the young man’s face, making witty jokes as he enters and takes his seat in front of us as if he was born to entertain.

Image Credit: Shaun Webb

As Rosenthal takes to the stage alongside many of Britain’s young comedic starlets for Simon Callow’s direction of Christopher Hampton’s original classic The Philanthropist, the comedy icon stresses that the play – although highly comedic – has wider appeal.

“I think at this moment in time we all feel a little bit lost politically. There’s been all this talk in the media about an out of touch elite bubble, and his is a play poking fun at that.

"Even though it was written in the 70s, it feels amongst a background of political turmoil, which our play also is. It just says a lot of stuff that’s quite interesting about our time, whilst also having – in my opinion – some good jokes and a funny comedic performance.”

A well as casting alongside talents such as Charlotte Ritchie, Lily Cole and Matt Berry, Rosenthal will star alongside former on-screen partner Simon Bird as best friend Donald. Best remembered for their double act on Friday Night Dinner, it’s certainly a partnership that Rosenthal hopes can blossom on stage in The Philanthropist.

“We’ve been playing best friends in this and I guess in Friday Night Dinner, we’re brothers, so it’s a slightly different relationship but it’s not a million miles away because we’re brothers that get on pretty well.

"The director, Simon Callow, has kind of forced us, made us try and make our relationship as like our real-life relationship as possible, which is kind of hard because a lot of the text is quite wordy and can be slightly alienating for someone who is as ineloquent as me in real life.

"He’s a very, very intelligent, nice guy, Simon Bird. I do like him a lot and he tolerates me as well so it is nice to be working with him. You know four months is a long time, so maybe we’ll fall out.”

It was Hampton’s brilliant script that first attracted Rosenthal to the role - a script which stood out amongst other on-stage alternatives.

“I’ve auditioned for a few plays recently and not massively liked them. I don’t know whatever the reason for that is. But this play really blew me away actually and I had to read it twice before the audition because I was so keen to get a full grasp of it, and even at audition I didn’t have a full grasp of how clever it is.

“At times, it’s being dramatically effective but then also intellectually effective as well as just having a base level of comedy. I really like comedy and this made me laugh, gutturally, like proper, proper laughs.

"I also knew that Matt Berry might be doing it so when I read his part in the voice of Matt Berry I thought this is going to be so funny, which it is.”

Rosenthal still maintains the grin and comedic aura displayed throughout as our meeting comes to a close. Exciting times ahead for a man who is clearly enthusiastic and passionate for Christopher Hampton's show, but also in entertaining people.

“It’s a good night out. If you can get a cheap ticket, come along.”

Christopher Hampton’s The Philanthropist, directed by Simon Callow is at The Trafalgar Studios from 3rd April until 22nd July. Tickets:  / 0844 871 7632

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