More about awards
Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:30:00 +0000
It is always gratifying to be awarded a plaudit or small statue in recognition of your work. Apparently. I have attended various awards ceremonies over the years, and I have always enjoyed seeing peers and friends receive accolades. Sharing in their joy is a real privilege, and it must be so comforting to know ones' efforts are not without reward. I have never kicked anyone in the shin.

When I was in BAFTA, I attended their bashes, and was very confident of walking away with 'Best Voiceover for a Documentary on Dietary Difficulties encountered by North American Vegan Inuits'. But alas, Jarvis got it. In fact, the whole evening was just people opening envelopes and saying 'Martin Jarvis'. Later, I approached Jarvis as he loaded another pallet of trophies into his hired transit van, and in a civil but firm voice, I asked him if it wasn't a little bit selfish. I have to say, as a golden voice, his reply was not as civilised as one would expect. Could this really be the same voice whose dulcet tones voiced Winnie the Pooh, Agatha Christie and the Observer Book Of Collectable Jars? The potty mouthed outburst was a tour de force of swearing, encompassing my parentage, toilet habits and unsavoury activities with a mule. I left him to it, his endorsements of my resemblance in his opinion to the expulsion of urine, ringing in my ears.

Jarvis aside, it is notoriously difficult to know what to do when you get nominated for an award. I myself am pleased my peers know me well enough to realise that gongs and plaudits mean little to me, and thus usually don't bother adding my name to the lists. It was in 1976 I got nominated for my portrayal of Glyn, the lonely washing machine in the Bold advertisment. This was a task, even for an actor of my abilities, and I studied white goods for a good while to understand them, to get into how it felt to be a washing machine with combined tumble dryer function. One day I even went so far as stuffing dirty clothes into my mouth.

In those days, there was a store called Rumbelows. This hallowed premises boasted electrical items of all hues and designs. Ovens, fridges, freezers, toasters, pedal bins and, of course of most interest to me, washing machines. Having been ejected from the launderette for... reasons, I decided the best thing to do was consult someone who knew about these machines. I spent a whole morning talking to a salesman about the display models. Their benefits and drawbacks. After three hours or so he had started to get a little short with me. I think the crux came when I asked 'do they ever feel depressed? Trapped in a relationship of master and slave, getting older, ambitions unfulfilled and dreams crumbling like oats in the wind'. 'Do you want to buy one or not, Sir?' he (in my opinion rudely) asked. Trapped by my own plan, and realising he stood between myself and the exit, I said 'Certainly I do. Sign me up, my good man'. When he went to the desk to get the papers I vaulted for the door, moving cat like past the waffle grills and weaving my way – with I have to say a degree of skill – past the open grills. But this salesman was fast. He got me via a complex vault over a toaster display and blocked my exodus. The deal was evidently on, or as he put it 'you're having the bloody thing, mate. I don't care'. We filled out the paperwork but my piste da resistance was a cash on delivery arrangement to a false name and address. I was allowed to leave the store.

It was sometime later that lovely Jon Pertwee cornered me in a BBC bar and demanded to know why he had received two washing machines, a tumble dryer and a device for heating crumpets. Apparently, having confided my deeds to Mollie Sugden, she had no sooner gleaned my information than she had rung the illustrious scarecrow and spilled the beans. Sugden was expert in extracting information. She could have been in the CIA or similar, such was her prowess. She broke you down, although she did later regret her gift when she got John Inman to explain exactly why he had quite so many hamsters.

Pertwee was aggrieved that day. Let me tell you there is nothing like an angry Pertwee. Once his wrath was invoked, there was no power on Earth which could quell his rage. Words were exchanged. Temperatures were escalated. And finally....

I seem have have strayed from my subject matter somewhat, and will return to my diatribe about awards. I just think in closing this little diversion I should thank the good people of the NHS for their prompt and professional work, and the reassurances that the hair should grow back.

Anyway, my main intention was to give you an idea of what it is like to be nominated for an award. Obviously, you will need to have a speech. The speech can be as long as you wish it to be, but be advised the record was set by Kenneth Brannagh, who managed four months. I do know several performers who were there all the way through, and I visit them as often as their Doctors will feel it beneficial.

Below is a table of things to mention and areas to stay away from

Don't Mention
Gratitude to cast and crew
The cast and crew sex orgy
Special praise for director and producer
That thing each told you about the other
Praise for the genre
You had no interest in this. Still none.
How it sheds new light on the issue
The issue is boring
Wonderful place it was made
Don't mention the diarrhea

Your longevity and ambition to get this award
About bloody time
Your fellow members' good taste
At last
The defeated other candidates are graceful
Take it. Suck it up. Suck it up good.
Thank all your friends and tutors and family
Never mention how they wanted you to be a minicab driver instead.

One of the main things about accepting an award is the procedure upon announcement. Firstly, there is the surprised look. It is vital to have a genuinely surprised look. Remember, this is a pleasant surprise, and therefore horrified, terrified and receiving bad news expressions are not suitable. Think about something pleasant. Perhaps a joyful moment as a child. A first triumph in your academic life. Jarvis being swallowed by a dinosaur.

Then comes the table greet. This is something that should be handled with care. You should turn to your fellow attendees and laugh and smile and hug. Again, this should be as genuine as possible, and any acrimony or scores to settle should be briefly put to one side. This is the moment for a team victory, even though you are the person who gets the award and they pale into insignificance. Ignore for these few moments that at this moment, you could crush each and everyone of them under your boot as you would a loathsome worm. You are all equal. Even the one who thought it would be funny that day to put hot sauce in place of your tomato soup. Oh, he will pay. Do you hear me, Cocker? You will pay. But not now. No. Languish in your achievement with your brethren and hug and applaud each other. After all, revenge is a dish served cold.

Then comes the chair move and walk to the stage. This is a tricky one. The pushing out of the chair is a art form in itself. In my book, 'Chairs and how to pull them out' (Penguin 1997) I detail the procedure for this in detail, with comprehensive illustrations and formulae for all manner of seating furniture. Normally one will be sat on a straight backed chair with a small nod to lumbar support. It is best to use the hand furthest from the stage and push it back in time with the straightening of the knees. It may sound simple but it does require practice and I have seen many occasions where the chair is knocked clumsily by the awardee and flies into the face of some elderly doyen, somewhat overshadowing the reception of an award. Giving a speech while your fellow actors are trying to save the sight of a legend of theatre is not something I would wish on anyone else, drowned out as you are by shouting, screaming and the oncoming sirens of the Ambulance.

Navigating your way to the stage is another skill. One must have a firm sense of where to go, and pace is important. I like to pretend I am back in the Punjab, wending my way through traders and market sellers, ever wary of those who would pick my pockets as I journey past, or the rogues who would lure you into a darkened lane with ill-intent, promising much but in reality just undertaking not to cut your head off in exchange for money. This rarely happens during awards ceremonies but all the same I would avoid the 'Casualty' table if I were you.

One thing I do is go into the main hall before the awards ceremony. This can be tricky, as you could be mistaken for one of the set up staff, and be asked to move tables, chairs and cutlery. This sounds mundane but actually it's an excellent way of altering place mats so you get a little kick of of awkward seating. I never forget my first go at this, where I sat chuckling all evening, glancing over to the Last Of The Summer Wine table, with Sallis, Wilde, Owen and Pol Pott.
Maintaining a grip on reality.
Sat, 14 Oct 2017 11:59:00 +0000
I do enjoy a good reputation these days. Everyone knows the standard of my work and when they feel a part is not 'me' they don't bother to call me for an audition. Perhaps they feel that the cast will be awed and afeared to compete with the depth of my characterisation, thus striking them almost catatonic – unable to move or speak, standing there open mouthed and staring at the sheer realism of my portrayal. Like in Hulme that one time during a touring production of 'The Lady On The Bus'.

For those who don't know 'Lady' is a play about a group of people from all backgrounds, on a bus. There's a housewife, a miner, a financial advisor, a astronaut, a waiter and a Chinese emperor. While stuck in traffic they strike up a conversation. Suffice to say at the end of three hours lessons are learned, lives are changed, allegories are demonstrated and differences are levelled. The whole play is about the attitudes of different strata of sociological class, the perceptions and predispositions of ignorance and temporary roadworks.

I played Chuck Warrior, an ambitious financial advisor. Although not given a brief as such, when allocated the part, I made a list of things about 'Chuck'. This sort of exercise has brought me much plaudits over the years, and younger actors (under 60) should take note of this method, as it will yield fruit to the tree or bush of your performance.

  • Ambitious
  • Does financial advice
  • Wears brown shoes (I underlined this as VERY IMPORTANT)

With this list I was able to to deduce his attitude, his personality and what drives him. Everything from eye colour to how many PPI calls he got I deduced from this list. Using economic data, trend analysis, calculous and a book of Greek Mythology, I had the character pinned down and honed.

Just to be sure I had him, I rang up several insurance companies for a quote on an Audi GT as Mr Warrior, and was pleasantly surprised that I could get it for less than £600 with a £250 excess and windscreen cover. If I could fool the good workers at Direct Line, the Apollo Theatre in Hulme would be a cinch!

It is at this point I must proffer a cursory warning. Be aware that portraying someone is entirely different from becoming them. I once appeared in 'These Woolen Balls', a play about the 1960s' Womens' Institute, and such was my acting even I was convinced I was actually the role I was playing and thus spent six months of my life post-play as a Mrs Bellingham. Since then. On my dressing room mirror I insist that I have a picture of myself with the words 'This is you' written under the face. It is very important that you remember you are an actor and you are not the person who people see in films/tv/walk-in bath commercials. I also like, during a run, to have people mention my name in conversation thus enforcing reality. Preferably in conversation with myself, although some prefer to do it in other dressing rooms and dark areas of the performance space which is fine. Often they will point, which is also helpful in keeping one remaining grounded.

If they don't address me in the way I wish, I mention my name in every other sentence. (eg: “yes, I will have a coffee. Two sugars, Tarquin” or “Mmmmm, this really is delicious meringue, Miranda. Did you make it yourself Tarquin?” or “How dare you! I am Tarquin McPhereson”.

All being told I reigned supreme as Mr Warrior, though there was a brief time when I was questioned for forging and submitting a driving licence to the insurance company for a car I didn't own, and obtaining insurance with false details with intent. I am still in dispute that the Police were entitled to arrest me on stage but thankfully the audience thought it part of the play and applauded loudly. Apart from that the show went swimmingly, and went on a tour of the North West, albeit without me as I was awaiting trial.