The League of Gentleman has propelled actor Steve Pemberton to the forefront of the comedy stage, but it is as Dr Bessner, the Austrian doctor that Steve fine tuned his other skills:

“Playing an Austrian has been fun – but I was really conscious not to play it for laughs – even though people kept laughing! It helped that I speak German – I did German A’ Level – so at least I knew the rhythms the speech required.”

Dr Bessner is holidaying on the Nile and instantly becomes embroiled in the case:

“Despite his medical expertise, it becomes obvious he has an eye for the ladies – and almost immediately he spots Cornelia (played by Daisy Donovan).”

But it is Dr Bessner’s appearance that Steve had to deal with – he had his hair shaved off specifically for the role:

“It felt quite liberating – I would never have had the courage to do it in real life. My three-year-old son’s reaction was the funniest – he said ‘Urgh! Take it off Daddy!’ To begin with I resisted the idea – but this is a once in a lifetime job for me, so it seemed appropriate to embrace the whole look. I’m really glad I did now, because it’s certainly very striking.

“In this interpretation Dr Bessner has a scar – hinting that perhaps he was involved in a duel for example. Together with his little glasses and the period clothes I was really happy with my transformation.”

Despite the obvious differences between The League of Gentleman and Death on the Nile, Steve considers there are similar elements:

“Yes there are clear differences, but you are still creating a clearly defined character, and each of the characters in Death on the Nile is very specific. So in that respect it was perfect and a situation I felt really comfortable with. I’d worked with Andy Wilson, the director, before on Gormenghast, so I knew his vision was to make each character very individual.”


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