“It’s a musical play,” he says. “I thought there would maybe be a couple of songs in it, but there are actually sixteen – and eight of them are sung by me!”
“I’ve had a favourable reaction to them though,” he says, mentioning the production’s preview performances and rehearsals. “And they add so much to the play – it’s a drama with songs, and they really help to open the story up.”
Wonderland, penned by Gyles Brandreth, is a two-handed production running at the Assembly. In it, Michael plays the part of Victorian author Lewis Carroll, opposite Flora Spencer-Longhurst playing Isa Bowman, Carroll’s young showgirl friend and protege.
“Carroll is everyone’s property,” says Michael, “but Gyles has written a very good play. It focuses on the relationship between the two – they used to holiday together in Eastbourne and played games together. Isa even dressed up as Alice Liddle, the real-life inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland.”
“There’s a lot of imaginative touches in the piece too, though Gyles has strived to keep it historically accurate.”
“Everyone behind the show is fantastically talented,” he says. “Flora is wonderful. She’s in her early 20s and has a beautiful voice. I’m sure her career’s about to take off.”
“Susannah Pearse, the composer is also amazing. She really should be working full-time at this, her music is so good.”
“And Iqbal Kahn the director has been wonderful – he’s worked hard at creating a good-humoured atmosphere for us all, and Wonderland’s been thoroughly enjoyable to work on.”
Michael’s no stranger to Edinburgh. Although he was last here towards the end of the nineties, he first visited the city in 1975, when he backed out of appearing at a Fringe show – by the wonderfully-named Golden Screw Collective – at the last minute.
Something about Edinburgh struck a chord with him however, and that same year he took a job behind the scenes at the King’s Theatre. From there, he went on to study at RADA, then onto major success in TV show’s such as Telford’s Change and movies like Truly, Madly, Deeply. Theatre is his first love, however, and he has appeared in countless stage productions over the years, in the UK and worldwide.
So, is he looking forward to returning to Edinburgh?
“Very much so,” he says, “and especially to such a prestigous venue as the Assembly. I’ll be here with my seven year-old daughter too, which will be wonderful. We’re planning on going to lots of children’s shows together.”
And what next for Michael, after the Fringe?
“I’d like to stay with Wonderland for as long as possible,” he says.
“I’m committed to the show and would like to see it go on to further success. We’ve pared it down to 90 minutes to fit into the acceptable length of a Fringe show, but it could so easily be extended.”
“Gyles has tapped into the current fascination for all things Victorian, and created a fantastic play.”
“It really deserves to go on and do well.”
You can find out more about Wonderland and order tickets on the Assembly website.