‘Sport and theatre go hand in hand’ - Bristol actor Joe Sims on playing a ‘nasty football manager’ in The Red Lion

The show will finally open at the Bristol Old Vic nearly two years after it was postponed due to the first Covid-19 lockdown

Joe Sims has come full circle as he makes his professional debut at the Bristol Old Vic in February.

Back in 1994, the actor and proud Bristol lad was part of the Old Vic’s Youth Theatre - but could never have imagined he’d be returning in 2022 having climbed his way to a successful acting career on both stage and screen.

Joe is best known for playing Nige Carter in ITV’s Broadchurch, and returns to another volatile role as he steps into the shoes of The Red Lion’s Jimmy Kidd, an ‘ambitious but nasty’ football manager vying to get his claws in a gifted young player.

Speaking to BristolWorld during a rehearsal break on Monday (January 4), Joe said: “When you look like this, unfortunately, you don't play the guy who gets the girl or the boy next door.

Following a city-wide call-out to find an aspiring local actor to play the role of emerging footballer ‘Jordan’, Thomas McGee joins Bristol legend Joe Sims (Broadchurch) and Bristol City icon and actor David Lloyd in Patrick Marber’s three-hander, exploring the passions and conflict that run deep in non-league, semi-pro football.

“You work a lot of nights on set, and you normally carry a shovel, because you're burying dead bodies.

“I have a lot of experience playing characters that, hopefully, I'm not too akin to in real life.

“But we've all got those dark parts of us and decisions to make each day.

“I feel like you need to find the truth in your character, so while Jimmy Kid is certainly a very morally conflicted man, I can sympathise with his plight to a certain degree.”

Originally due to open in March 2020, The Red Lion will finally have its press night at Bristol Old Vic nearly two years after it was postponed just hours before curtain-up due to the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown.

The play, written by Patrick Marber, explores the passions and conflict that run deep in non-league, semi-pro football.

Joe will be joined on stage by Bristol City icon and actor David Lloyd and Thomas McGee, who was discovered following a city-wide call-out to find an aspiring local actor to play the role of an emerging footballer.

Sport might be seen as an unusual medium for the stage, but Joe thinks the two go hand-in-hand.

Joe Sims as ‘nasty football manager’ Jimmy Kidd.

He said: “Tom Morris, the artistic director of the Old Vic, said that sport and culture are two lungs in the same body and I think that’s absolutely true.

“My theatre is Ashton Gate Stadium as well as the Bristol Old Vic. It’s where myself and 20,000 other people go and watch these boys do their business, and long may it continue. To me, that’s a theatrical spectacular.”

Furthermore, Joe, who is originally from Kingswood and now lives in Knowle, is hoping The Red Lion will beckon new faces to Bristol Old Vic.

He added: “The show is set in a dressing room and we never leave that dressing room. This is an environment people feel comfortable with.

“Anyone who's played at a relatively decent level, or amateur level even, will know what the dressing room scenario feels like, how the characters feel.

“For me, what’s important is we bring people into the theatre who might not necessarily think it’s for them.

“I’m a working class boy and I’m not interested in making theatre people don’t want to see. It doesn’t matter if you’re a welder or work down Greggs.

“If you like sport, action or the study of the human condition, this is the place for you. We cannot wait to share this show with the world.

“It’s 90 minutes of high octane action, you’ll leave buzzing and we’ll see you in the bar after.”

The Red Lion will run at the Bristol Old Vic from Thursday, February 3 until Saturday, February 19.