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oh danny boy

From perennial That Guy From That Thing to bona fide household name, the past year has — being locked down aside — not been too bad at all for Daniel Mays. Next up: treading the boards at The Old Vic. Hamish MacBain meets him

The two goals aside, after which he was ‘jumping around the room like an absolute loon’, Daniel Mays has done a decent job of staying still in the make-up chair while watching England’s triumph over Germany. Now, though, like the rest of the country, he is ‘buzzing’. The plan was — is — for him to be shot entirely in the somewhat sombre, empty surrounds of The Old Vic auditorium, where he is busy rehearsing, opposite David Thewlis, for their upcoming production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. On any other evening, this set-up would be fine. But somehow, tonight, post-quarter-final qualification, it does not feel like enough.

An hour later, Mays has clambered on to the balcony of The Old Vic and is hanging, terrifyingly high, off its glowing red ‘Back Together’ sign. A drunken, post-football crowd quickly assembles below and, having identified him (‘It must have looked like I was scoping the place out’) are being led in a chant of, ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home’ that goes on for a while and eventually segues — not that any of its non-thespian participants probably notice — into ‘The Old Vic’s coming home’.

‘It was an insane photo shoot,’ Mays grins later, back in the sanctity of the building’s top floor rehearsal space. ‘What was funny was that in my ear was the buzzing from the actual lights, so I was either gonna fall to my death or get electrocuted by the sign; one of those two things.’ Health and safety, it is fair to say, were somewhat concerned. More accurately, in fact, health and safety were ‘going apeshit, really. But the actual ledge I was standing on was definitely secure because I only had one foot on it. I wasn’t going to put my full weight on it. Because then there would have been no Dumb Waiter... and no career for Danny Mays.’

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