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Nicholas Briggs - A one-man army of Cybermen.
Cyberman bit parts
Tell us about the multiple role you have in this story.
I’m playing the Cybermen really.
There are a lot of people who get cyber-converted and they play their characters with the funny voice effect, but all the other Cybermen are me. Mainly it’s the Cyber-Controller who speaks in a big butch voice. Then my main other Cyberman is one I call the sore throat Cyberman. Everyone says he sounds like John Geilgud.
Once [your voice] goes through the pitch bending effect, which has two lower pitched voices of different pitches fighting with and harmonising with each other, the 'sore throat thing' sounds quite good. That’s my modest opinion of it anyway.
There are some other minor characters who we’re going to get some other actors to do at other recording sessions for other plays. This is how you save on cast you see, you nick people from other plays, and I may be playing one of those other characters when we record another play next week.
How important is it to have the electronic effect on the voice while you’re acting?
In order to do an effective alien voice where your voice is electronically treated it’s best to hear that electronic treatment while you’re doing it, for two reasons. One, once you hear how it’s going to sound its quite exciting and you go with it. You hear the deep voice and you think ‘Oh god, yes, I am a Cyberman!’
And the other thing is, with the clarity and the articulation of your performance, you can’t really gauge it unless you can hear how your voice is driving the voice effect. Not hearing the voice effect you might give what you think is a very clearly enunciated performance, and then in post production they’ll put an effect on it and you can’t understand a word of it.
Likewise with the Daleks. You have to hear the remodulation in order to do it because if you just started shouting into a microphone saying ‘exterminate’ without remodulation it’s just very embarrassing, but once you hear that noise you think ‘Yes, yes, I can do this.’
Do you have an irresistible urge to say really daft things and see how it sounds as a Cyberman?
Constantly, yes. I have a reputation in Big Finish as quite a stern but fair director but if ever I’m called upon to do acting I am the kind of actor who I hate. [To whom] I would say ‘Can we just stop with the messing around, I mean we’ve got stuff to do.’
I’ll just tell you [something] so you can judge how poorly behaved I am in a studio. In one scene I just had a line which was ‘Yes, commander’ and I had been told that that was the only line I had. As I came into the scene, I was saying ‘I just say yes commander’ and they’d already started running through the scene so I’d said [my line] in a really random place. So I just randomly kept saying ‘Yes commander’ all the way through the scene, which no one found amusing, they just found it very irritating. And in retrospect I’d like to apologise to all concerned.
Battle of the bawlers
With the full Cyber voice do you now feel you’re a match for Colin Baker’s Doctor in terms of shoutiness?
Well, I would of course say that Colin Baker’s Doctor is not just all about shouting. The good thing about Colin’s performance is that it has real angles on it. He has real peaks and troughs in the performance, he’s a very, very interesting actor to listen to.
One minute he’s like this [shouting], and then he’s suddenly having a little thought to himself, and then he’s being a bit sarky to someone. I just did a scene with Colin where I had to have a bit of an argument with him and at the end he looked through the glass at me and went, ‘Very good, very good,’ and I thought ‘Bless you Colin.’
The Daleks’ and the Cybermen’s voices are the real classics of Doctor Who but which are the voices do you think really sucked?
It depends how anal you want to be about this, [how much you want to be] about details. A voice that really offended me was the Sontaran in The Invasion of Time, when they turned up on Gallifrey.
In those days we didn’t know what was going to come next in Doctor Who, so as a teenager it was really exciting. So it was really exciting when the Sontarans turned up, and when he finally took [his mask] off he looked great. And then he started talking and he talked like that [puts on stupid, somewhat cockney, Sontaran voice] and I found that really offensive.