Starring in a stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett may add to PAUL DARROW's cult following; but nothing will ever match his role as the sexy, cynical one in Blake’s 7. Words: Catriona Craig
Paul Darrow has the strangest kind of fame. He would be the first to admit that he isn't really a household name. He doesn't run with the BAFI‘A crowd or have his living room photographed by Hal/0!. But how many British actors can claim to have their own international fan club'.’ How many receive letters from places like Sarajevo or Michigan. simply directed to ‘lingland".’
Yet the man who sprang to fame and cult status playing Avon — the coolest character in Blake's 7 — takes it all in his stride. This isn‘t to say he‘s complacent. Rather he's found a way to deal with all the weirdness that sci-fi celebrity brings with total suavity and politeness. ‘l’d never knock Blake's 7. It’s been amazing for me.‘ he growls in the throaty voice that made Avon a sex symbol. ‘l‘ve been all over the world with this show.’
He‘s here to talk about his current project. Guards! Guards-f. the first professional stage adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel. Darrow plays the Discworld- weary cop Captain Vimes in this fantastical. knock- about blend of pantomime and detective thriller. But with Pratchett himself also enjoying cult status. it is hard to avoid discussing Blake's 7. Darrow admits that in casting him as Vimes the producers bring the two obsessions together. Moreover. with a new radio show to celebrate its twentieth birthday. 1998 is an important year for the 70s sci-f1 hit.
For the uninitiated. Blake's 7 was born in the pre-
'l'd never knock Blake’s 7. It’s been amazing for me. I've been all over the world with it.’
Pratchett job: Paul Darrow and friend in Guards! Guards!
Thatcher years. It is the story of a band of futuristic renegades. who escape the forces of the l’ederation. a totalitarian regime led by Servalan. the most power- hungry woman in the lfniverse. The fact that most episodes were shot either in a cheap spaceship set or in a lonely chalk pit in the early hours of the morning has never dented their appeal. Two decades on. the kinky costumes. squeaky computer voices and eccentric characters are as popular as ever. and the show is shooting up the ratings in Eastern Europe with a brand new audience whose members have no idea how old it is.
Darrow is in an expansive mood. He has just won £20 on the horses. which he accepts with appreciative. Sinden-esque gurgles. How did he acquire his trademark. gravelly voice‘.’ ‘By smoking too many cigarettesl' he replies. ‘Actually I was kept back a year at RADA because of my voice. It was very light and pedantic. l was trying to be Sir Larry. but not very well.‘ Later. he studied old Burt Lancaster movies to pick up the film- star's vocal tricks
Something of a [mu vivaur. Darrow is looking forward to trying some Scottish restaurants when Guards! Guards! comes north on tour. But there is a half-written novel at home awaiting attention. It is his third. the first two being a B/aka's 7 novelisation and an adaptation of The liya. a computer game on which he collaborated with the rock band Queen. Will writing eventually take over from the acting‘.’ There‘s a momentary inner struggle. ‘I get fed up with touring sometimes. but the fans seem to like it and it’s great fun.‘ he reflects. adjusting his Captain Vimes tunic. The actor inside him wins and he gives a sly grin. ‘While it continues to be fun. I'll do it.’
Guards! Guards! is at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 1-Sat 6 Jun. The anniversary Blake’s 7 radio series, The Sevenfold Crown, is available on BBC cassette. Paul Darrow's fanclub website can be accessed on httpzllmembers.aol.com/avonpds
The Future of Scottish Theatre - in one column!
LAST SATURDAY, the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) held a conference in Glasgow. The theme was no less than The Future Of Scottish Theatre. With 200 delegates from all sectors, some diversity of agendas was expected; equally predictable was the agreement that Scottish theatre needed more money. Murmurs of dissent and sparks of friction came as no surprise; but nor did the civility shown by all parties to the SAC’s much-maligned director Seona Reid.
What is remarkable is that a result was achieved. At the end of the day, six priorities were agreed: 1) to lobby the Scottish parliament on the importance of the arts; 2) to set up an action group for young people's theatre; 3) to promote diversity in Scottish theatre; 4) to integrate playwrights, theatres and communities; 5) to have the SAC’s drama panel elected, not appointed; and 6) to increase funding for theatre as a national resource. Delegates departed exhausted but rolling up their sleeves.
AS FOOTBALL TAKES the world's stage, the Old Firm is at war over a revival of The Celtic Story ten years
i after its first performance. The
wrangle centres on updates added by co-writers Dave Anderson and David MacLennan. Celtic's David Kells has written to the producer, requesting assurances that events from the past decade will not be included. The show is sponsored by former board- member Brian Dempsey, who is part of a consortium trying to take control of the club. It seems Fergus McCann fears the rewrites will give Dempsey’s version of events, kicking him and lock Brown into touch. The Celtic Story is due to play at the Pavilion, Glasgow, Wed 29 Jul-Sat 29 Aug.
FOUL-MOUTHED SCOTS comic Jerry Sadowitz has been out-cussed. While performing at the Criterion Theatre in London, poor Jerry was harangued by three obscenity-hurling Everton fans who, it seems, had imbibed too much refreshment. Fortunately the troublemakers were escorted from the building, leaving Jerry to continue his act without further interruption. Cursing's no' nice, though, eh Jerry?
Jerry Sadowitz swearing a bit thin
28 May — 11 Jun 1998 THE U8T57