An alumnus of the very talented Cambridge Footlights team of the early 1980s, Christopher Luscombe is a wise interpreter of the eccentricities and obsessions of British comedy (how little, in essence, these have changed since the 16th century).
His first job was as a pantomime dame, understudying Terry Scott. He joined the RSC in 1991, the same year as his Cambridge contemporaries Hugh Bonneville and Sam Mendes. He effortlessly brought to life Valentine in Twelfth Night (Griff Rhys Jones, RST); Francis, the reluctant drawer ('Anon, anon, sir'), along with three other minor roles—Davy/Feeble/Travers—in the two parts of Henry IV (Adrian Noble, RST); and Dapper in Mendes's The Alchemist (Swan). On the transfer to London (1992) he added Pedro de Terreros in Richard Nelson's Columbus and the Discovery of Japan (John Caird, Barbican), and Vasya in Ostrovsky's Artists and Admirers (Phyllida Lloyd, Pit). The next six years belonged to the difficult art of Shakespearean comedy: Launcelot Gobbo in David Thacker's modern dress The Merchant of Venice (RST, 1993, Barbican, 1994); Moth in Ian Judge's Edwardian, Oxbridge Love's Labour's Lost (RST, 1993, Barbican, 1994); Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing (Michael Boyd, RST, 1996-97, Barbican, 1998); and Abraham Slender in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Judge, RST, 1996-97, Barbican, 1997-98).
Luscombe's achievement was to make
these fools accessible. His Gobbo had the right tone of
satirical cruelty, but was tenderly loyal to Kate
Duchęne's Jessica. He transformed the boy Moth into an
insufferably intelligent college chorister.
For the RSC's fringe festival Luscombe co-wrote with Bonneville, who also directed, the one-man show Half-Time, a satire on both theatrical and Cambridge life, in which Luscombe played all the characters, from the Master's wife to the decrepit porter (Buzz Goodbody Studio, 1992, Swan, 1997), and co-devised/directed, with Malcolm McKee, The Shakespeare Revue, an evening of sketches and songs (Swan, 1994). The Shakespeare Revue was revived in the Pit and later transferred to the Vaudeville in the West End (1995).
In the years since Luscombe has followed a second career as a skilled director of comedies: the premiere staging of Noël Coward's final play, Star Quality, in his own adaptation (Apollo, 2001); Somerset Maugham's Home and Beauty (Lyric, 2002); the musical Little Shop of Horrors (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2002-03); The Importance of Being Earnest (Theatre Royal, Bath, and UK Tour, 2004); Alan Ayckbourn's Things We Do For Love (Harrogate Theatre, 2004); Bernard Shaw's Candida (Oxford Stage Company, Tour, 2004); Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van (UK Tour, 2004); and Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (Richmond Theatre and UK Tour, 2005).