Peter Francis has a lot of sympathy with Captain Von Trapp, the character he plays in The Sound of Music. While the Captain has to deal with seven unruly children, Peter has a menagerie of ducks, geese, goats and 40 alpacas at his farm in Up Nately.
"They keep me busy," laughs the father-of-two, whose own two children are at university. "But there's no way I wanted to miss the chance to be in The Sound of Music."
In fact, it was the first musical Peter ever saw: "My parents took me to the film when I was about five years old, and I was completely entranced. I remember wanting to be Rolf, the post boy, who sings 'Sixteen Going On Seventeen.'"
That was in 1966, and Peter admits he's rather long-in-the-tooth to be Rolf now. Instead, he takes on the role of the stern patriarch played by Christopher Plummer in the film, who falls in love with Maria, the children's governess. In the BATS production, Laura Newborough has the Julie Andrews role.
"I'm six foot three and Laura is...slightly shorter!" smiles Peter. "But love triumphs, despite the height difference!"
Working with two teams of seven children is challenging. "Usually I get the gist of my lines first, paraphrase a fair bit in rehearsal and gradually work towards getting the words right. You can't do that with children. They're waiting for their exact cue! It's keeping me on my toes!"
'The Sound of Music' is the BATS debut for Peter and his real-life partner Joy, who plays one of the nuns. They met through amateur dramatics.
"I'm most looking toward to hearing the reaction of the audience to those wonderful songs," says Peter. "'Edelweiss', 'Climb Every Mountain', 'My Favourite Things' - they mean so much to people. It's going to be a great show."
The Sound of Music run from Wed 13th – Sat 23rd November at The Haymarket.