BBC Four finds itself in a Tight Spot
Lift – Douglas Hodge plays Paul Sykes
Paul Sykes is a constantly exasperated, highly-strung middle-aged businessman with commitments. Prowling like an animal, he emits massive sighs and desperately tries to make contact with the outside world using all the devices he can think of: phone, blackberry, palm pilot, satellite navigation system, laptop, calculator...
Douglas laughs: "You'd never want to be trapped anywhere with Paul Sykes. He's on his way to give a presentation so already in a state of high anxiety when he gets into the lift. He's not very good at talking in public and his stress levels get higher and higher as he sees the minutes ticking by and his promotion opportunities slipping away.
"He's also a complete insomniac. You know that Paul's misery is self inflicted and if you step out of the house in the morning and you are completely impatient, you soon turn into a laughing stock.
"You know the sort – it starts with someone sighing very loudly in a dramatic way and then saying 'It's like living in a Third World Country' as they try to transmit just how amateurish everything around them is.
"I was delighted to be offered the part of Paul. The script was hilarious and the character really rang a bell. In fact all the people in the script are very familiar. It's very rare even in sitcoms that I ever laugh out loud, but this was absolutely fabulous."
But he admits that Lift was difficult to film: "It never for one minute dawned on me the misery that would be involved in standing in a small confined space with no time off whatsoever!
"Actually I became quite hysterical – I can't control it. The worst and most pathetic habit I have is laughing when I find myself funny, which is sad; but I suppose we either got more and more miserable stuck in this place, or we became like hyenas!"
The cast all cite the scene in which Douglas led a game of charades as the one that truly cracked them up. Douglas laughs: "That scene was particularly painful in that it went on and on – but I blame the rest of the cast entirely for the lack of professionalism!"