Posts Tagged ‘Martin Jarvis’

Martin Jarvis (2009)

January 3, 2010

Martin Jarvis appeared in ‘The Web Planet’, ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ and ‘Vengeance on Varos’. Here, he talks about TV violence, Jon Pertwee getting his nose pulled by a child, and keeping his wings on for lunch:

I remember it took an awfully long time to get the make-up on and off during ‘The Web Planet’. Daphne Dare was the costume designer, and she said to me ‘Martin, would it be alright if we don’t take your wings off at lunchtime?’. I said it was fine, anything was fine, but at lunchtime I remember going to the canteen, which was two floors up in the lift (laughs) and having to get into the lift very quickly. That was with William Hartnell, who was ill a lot. He wasn’t there very often when we were rehearsing. And then I was having difficulty with my lines because it didn’t come too naturally to me to talk in that (high-pitched) voice, and he (Hartnell) would be standing there saying ‘Come on boy, learn your lines’. But he was great, very pleasant. There was one other very nice person it it, she played the voice of the spider in the web, her name was Kate Fleming. The reason I knew her was that she’d been the voice tutor at RADA, where I’d studied, and she had this absolutely wonderful voice, perfect for a spider in a web in ‘Doctor Who’.

Jon Pertwee was the Doctor when I played a character called Butler. I wanted to do ‘Doctor Who’, because the children said ‘Daddy, can you be in Doctor Who?’ as if I could wave a magic wand, and I managed to get the part of Butler. He had to be given a christian name, because they didn’t want people thinking he was the butler. Then I did Jeeves. You know this thing about mobile phones in audiences, it’s a great problem, this happened when we were at the Helen Hayes theatre on Broadway. It was a fidgety audience, it was Saturday night, that’s always a fidgety night, for some reason Saturday night is always a difficult performance for the audience, for the actors. And in a scene, there’d been a lot of coughing from the audience, and suddenly a mobile phone went off, and I heard John (playing Bertie Wooster) say to me ‘I say Jeeves, did I hear a cellphone?’, which got a huge laugh, and I heard myself say ‘I hardly think so, Sir, they haven’t been invented yet’. And the Saturday night fidgets stopped for that night.

I joined ‘Doctor Who’ for six episodes, playing a young, slightly villainous scientist who was the sidekick to an older, more manic scientist played by Peter Miles. Somebody brought their kid to the set, we were in the middle of filming, and he sees Jon Pertwee over there in his lovely velvet jacket with his mop of hair, and the kid goes (shouts and points) ‘There he is!’ and he ran over, ‘Aaaaaaaargh!’ and (grabbed Jon Pertwee’s nose). Jon was going ‘Get him off me!’. It broke the set up for about half an hour. But I have to say that Pertwee was a marvellous man to work with. He was great. And everybody brings their own thing to ‘Doctor Who’, this is the great thing, you had Bill’s slightly grumpy, professorial style, and Tom of course, wonderfully eccentric. And the dapper, fashionista Pertwee.

Then there was Colin Baker, who I joined for a very peculiar two-parter, which was a great script, ‘Vengeance on Varos’. It was a very Shakesperean script by Philip Martin, and I played this sort of Brutus character, a very Shakesperean character – was he a weak man, was he a strong man? This was in about 1984 or 1985, and it predicted what eventually happened in television. It was a parody, and the idea was that the people who watch television have the power, and you press the red button or the blue button and the governor is voted in or out, he’s in an electric chair, a torture chair, and there were questions asked in the House (of Commons) about this episode, and whether it was suitable fare for children. I don’t know if ‘Doctor Who’ is for children, I think it’s for everyone, but there was still a feeling that this was for children, it was on a Saturday night. And Jason Connery was also in the episode, and there was a part where he was going to be hung. There was a noose, and it was quite dangerous. I don’t think it’s ever been repeated. It’s on video, but I don’t think it’s ever been repeated, because the BBC were rapped on the knuckles for it. But it was a really good script, it was actually saying what a difficult society we’re entering, it was a brilliantly prophetic script. So that’s my contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ and I’m very grateful for it.

Nabil Shaban (2000)

August 31, 2009

Here are sections of two interviews with Nabil Shaban, Sil from ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Mindwarp’. The first part is ‘Doctor Who’-focused, and you can read the original here. The second part is from a Channel 4 documentary in which he talks about, among other things, his reasons for becoming an actor and his experience working with Derek Jarman.

“Ron Jones was searching for someone small to play Sil… he’d interviewed and auditioned many ‘dwarf” and ‘midget’ actors for the part but he wasn’t satisfied with any of them. Time was running out and rehearsals were scheduled to start within the month. Then Martin Jarvis, who had already been cast as the Governor of Varos asked if Sil had been found yet, and when he was told No, he said he knew of the ideal person. Apparently his wife had seen me in a TV show a few years previous, and reminded Martin that I could be what ‘Doctor Who’ was looking for. So as a result of Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis’ suggestion, I was invited to read a couple of scenes of Varos at an audition with Ron. At the end of the interview / audition, Ron offered me the part outright. However, I nearly didn’t make it to the interview because I got stopped by a traffic cop for carrying out an illegal motoring manouver, and because I insisted on arguing with the pug when I had no right to – I knew I was in the wrong but I don’t respect the law and I despise the pigs. He very near arrested me. However, I like to think that the ghost of William Hartnell was looking after me, as I was his biggest fan, and he planted a thought-form into the ‘Rozer’s brain and so I was allowed to continue.

“As a fan of ‘Doctor Who’ since its birth in 1963, I was extremely excited and nervous on the first day. By chance, I got into the lift with Patrick Troughton. Of course he had no idea who I was or what I was doing at the BBC, and I didn’t tell him. We just smiled at each other. I took teh coincidental encounter as a good omen. Because I was an inexperienced, untrained actor and disabled, I didn’t want to appear a dud, so I learnt all my lines before the first day. I assumed all the actors would have done anyway, well I then became embarrassed when I discovered I was the only actor to know the script word-perfect, so for the first few days I had to pretend not to know my lines, but Forbes Collins and Colin Baker saw through my ruse and Colin Baker announced that I was a swot and trying to win Brownie points from the teacher! Also, by the first day I had the Sil laugh off to a tee. I’m met a snake the week previous, and got my inspiration from watching it flick its tongue back and forth.

“I took up acting for several reasons. One, I wasn’t supposed to act. As a disabled person, it wasn’t expected of you, the best you could hope for was to be an accountant. Secondly, it’s a great form of escapism, being something that you’re not in your normal life. I’ve had the chance to playAyatollah Khameni, Haile Selassie, Jesus, Hamlet – a whole range of experiences which you wouldn’t normally be able to have. And thirdly, I like story-telling and being part of the story-telling process.

“I was able to get started as a professional actor as a result of setting up a theatre company for disabled actors. It was myself and an able-bodied guy named Richard Tomlinson set this up, round about 1979. It got going in 1980, we toured the States for a bit, went to Canada, and made a bit of a name for ourselves. We got press attention in Britain and attracted the attention of the Arena arts documentary makers at the BBC, and a combination of touring Canada and the Arena documentary allowed me to get seen. As a result, I was offered a few weeks’ stint as an actor on stage.

“The theatre I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed them for different reasons, so I wouldn’t say I enjoyed Jesus in ‘Godspell’ or Hamlet more, because they all enabled me to discover something in myself. I think it’s very hard for disabled actors and performes to get work, there’s still a lot of cliches within the arts industries and people tend to think of… for example, you get very few disabled people in leading roles, unless the script actually says ‘This person is disabled’, then they might get the role. I say ‘might’, because they might prefer to get an able-bodied person to ‘black up’, so to speak, and have that role. But generally because our culture’s very body-fascist, you’ve got to be beautiful, you’ve got to have a nicely-formed body, as a man or a woman, if you’re going to play a romantic lead, for example.

“In the case of ‘Wittgenstein’, it’s possible that Derek Jarman thought of me because we’d met before, when he was making ‘Caravaggio’. He was a very easy-going person, very open to suggestions, so I actually found it a joy working with him and it’s a great tragedy (that he died), there’s no-one to replace him.

“As a disabled person, there’s a lot to be achieved through the arts. Writing, acting, performing, it’s all about presenting mirrors of society, and the trouble for disabled people is that the mirror is one-sided, in other words we’re like vampires, the vampire’s not reflected in a mirror, and 99% of the time disabled people are not reflected in the mirrors that are presented to the people. And that’s perhaps one of the most important reasons for me being an actor”.