|The Memory of Water|
Watford Palace Theatre
15 September to 8 October 2005
Wednesday Mats: 2.30pm (28 Sep, 8 Oct)
Saturday Mats: 3.00pm (24 Sep, 1, 8 Oct)
Cast includes: Catherine Shipton (Duffy in Casualty), Jacquetta May (Silent Witness, EastEnders) Michelle Bunyan (Mary Seacole:The Real Angel of the Crimea) Gary Beadle (Absolutely Fabulous, Paul Truman in EastEnders), Robert Duncan (Gus in Drop the Dead Donkey, Casualty), Miranda Foster (Rosemary and Thyme)
On the eve of their mothers funeral, sisters Mary, Teresa and Catherine are reunited in the family home. As they try to come to terms with their mother’s death, heightened emotions, an over consumption of alcohol and turbulent relationships lead to a well kept family secret being revealed.
As Paul Truman in EastEnders, Gary Beadle tugged at all our heart strings when he left in the ubiquitous black cab, saying "make it quick" to his would-be assassain.
But his stint in the top-rated soap was just three years of a career spanning three decades.
|Gary Beadle with The Memory of Water cast|
Since his first professional job at the age of ten, Gary has worked extensively in film and TV. He was a regular in Making Out, has worked extensively on projects for the Comic Strip, The Lenny Henry Show and the cult show Operation Good Guys and has also appeared in several episodes of Absolutely Fabulous as Saffy’s father’s gay boyfriend.
There are also numerous theatre credits to his name including work at the Royal Court and in the US, and has appeared in a variety of films including White Mischief and Absolute Beginners.
He's now making a welcome return to the stage in the Watford Palace's first play of the new season, Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water, winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy 2000.
I caught up with him during rehearsals, where he told me all about his role in this award-winning comedy, why he killed Paul Truman off and his first big break at the tender age of seven - with the help of the Yellow Pages!
Can you tell us about the part you’re playing in The Memory of Water?
Gary: Well, the play is about three women who turn up to their mother's funeral and they've got to exorcise all sorts of ghosts and issues amongst themselves and towards the mother - who keeps coming back in the play.
I play a character called Mike who's the lover of one of the sisters, Mary. He's a doctor but a daytime TV boyish good looks kind of doctor, a bit of a celebrity. And of course he's married with children and a mortgage and a trip to Sainsburys every week but he and Mary have had this on going affair for about five years.
Then Mary thinks she's pregnant and it forces them to question the whole existence of the affair. This throws a whole new light on it.
He's a complex character but the sort of guy who keeps putting his foot in it. He's an educated guy, he's charming and engaging but at the same time can be a bit of a wet lettuce as far as women are concerned. He didn't go out of his way to have the perfect affair he just found himself with a woman who intellectually stimulated him and he found himself having his cake and eating it. But he's not a player as they say.
|Gary Beadle as Paul Truman in EastEnders|
He doesn't want to get out of the situation though. There's no reason to want to get out of it as they do give each other something that's missing in other parts of their lives.
But now, with the possibility of Mary being pregnant, their whole relationship is brought into question and there is an ultimatum as to whether he should stay with her or whether they should break up. You know he's going to have to make a decision at some point and part of the friction and the comedy is his faffing around and saying everything other than what needs to be said.
Does he still want to be married?
Gary: Maybe he would like to change what's happened but he can't - so he's married and that's the deal. Mike and Mary have been seeing each other for five years - no one's being hoodwinked here - it's on their terms, especially Mary's.
Before the thought of her being pregnant she was an independent woman, a doctor, and quite liked the idea of having this man who was just there for whatever she wanted and otherwise getting on with her life. She's not being hood winked, there's no deception or anything like that going on. She wants her cake and to eat it too but when the pregnancy comes into it she starts to think maybe she should be setting up a home. There's an ultimatum. We don't really get to the bottom of it but that's part of the comedy!
It sounds like you could have a whole play based on this relationship?
|"I didn't want to milk it!"|
|Gary Beadle on leaving EastEnders|
Gary: You could have a whole play based on ALL the relationships, that's what's so great about the show. It's character based. Everybody's relationship is explained and understood before we get to the crescendo of the play.
Would you say it's comedy?
Gary: I would say it's comedy drama but some people have a problem with that! They either want comedy scripts or drama scripts! But theatre can carry comedy drama more than anything else, so you have your moments of high tension, dramatic moments, moving, sentimental and reflective moments and then you have the comedy, the slapstick, the physical and the dark humour.
You may think you shouldn't be laughing at that [the dark humour] but every joke always has an element of truth whether you agree with or not, so that's played on.
Especially around funerals?
Gary: Yes - you can easily put your foot in it around funerals – it’s a natural reaction unless you’re immediately involved. If you're round the outside like the character I'm playing you can find yourself in the most awkward excruciating situation and whatever you say is not going to sound right. Out of that comes an awkwardness which you can make lots of jokes out of.
It’s just like life and about people’s lives after life’s passed on. There’s an uneasiness about the comedy which is very funny.
You, of course are very versatile, having done comedy and high drama. Which do you prefer?
Gary: That could be different every month! Right now I prefer theatre because I’ve been established in TV with the EastEnders' character Paul Truman that everybody knows about - which is fair enough. But as an actor, without sounding too selfish, you
kind of want to play lots of different parts whether it be comedy or dramatic. You try to play as many different characters as possible - that’s the whole reason why I, Gary Beadle, became an actor. It wasn’t just to play one part. If you’re going to play one part for all your life you might as well do a real, proper job, and be content with it.
I wanted to do this particular piece because it’s well written, with a great cast, great director, great venue and I wanted to exorcise any kind of misunderstandings that people might have had of me as an actor. The bottom line for me is that I love theatre, I love the liveness, the being on stage and just being open to criticism. You could just do reality TV and make a load of money but this to me is more reality than anything. This is live theatre. You’re on the firing line. And I like that!
|Gary Beadle with Charlie Brooks in EastEnders|
That’s why I didn’t have a problem leaving EastEnders and finalising the character. People thought I was mad but hopefully in the long run they’ll understand. I know for my sanity that I wanted to play loads of different parts and now I’ve been given a chance to play a part that to be honest I didn’t think I’d get in a million years!
In theatre you’ve got a rehearsal period where you can develop your character. I knew I could play this part but I couldn't give an immediate performance like I was used to doing in television auditions. But Joyce Branagh [the director] can see what you can do and if she thought I couldn’t play it, no matter how famous I was I wouldn’t be doing it.
That’s why I love theatre really – I love the whole evolution. In EastEnders you’re learning your lines and you can have no life. You just rely on instinctive performance which is nice but after a while you can find yourself picking up bad habits and I like to be tested, corrected and challenged – it’s self market research – it gives me an idea if I’m doing something right. I love the rehearsal process in theatre. When you’re on stage it doesn’t get any better but the whole build up in theatre is more exciting than TV.
So leaving EastEnders was a good decision?
Gary: Yeah – it was a decision that I’m happy with but I always knew I was going to leave. I always knew I was going to be there for three years from the day I accepted the job. It might sound a bit obnoxious but I’ve been acting longer than I was in EastEnders so I’ve experienced long term unemployment and not having money. I’m used to being a jobbing actor I don’t have a problem with it but with EastEnders you can rely on it and just stay there and take the money.
|Gary Beadle in Operation Good Guys|
I took it just like any other job – a short term contract but three years is the longest contract I’ve ever done! I knew I was leaving but I enjoyed it so much I stayed for three and a half years.
I was always, always going to be leaving but I knew that there’s a temptation to go back and I’m not one for going back – not to play the same part – so that’s why I executed the character. They asked me if I wanted to leave it open but I said I want
to kill him.
So you got a say in how your character left?
Gary: Yes- I certainly got a say with my character - I wanted to kill him!
I wish you hadn’t, it was so sad!
Gary: That was the whole idea – I wanted the tragedy to be tragic and remembered and I never wanted to be accused of staying there too long because that can happen. Essentially if you harbour any ambitions at EastEnders you can’t do anything else so you just live a life of frustrations - you either leave or you stay.
So it's not a difficult thing to shake off then?
Gary: No, I always knew it was coming so it was already conditioned in my mind. But I’m just speaking from my stupid selfish obnoxious point of view as an actor who just wants to be an actor. I wouldn’t have been able to do this play for a start and exercise my "talent" – if you want to call it that – in other ways. Much as I loved it and as much as I’m grateful for it I didn’t want to milk it! I think if you stay in one place too long you limit other parts you might play.
I embrace what I achieved with the character and I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. There's my profile obviously but the great thing is that it gives me a chance to talk to people who don’t normally listen to alternative ideas when it comes to going out.
People say to me in the street "oh I loved the character" so I say come and see the show at the Palace Theatre! And I’m talking to people who might not have gone to the theatre otherwise so hopefully, through EastEnders, I'll be involving people who might not normally go [to the theatre]. At each performance you hope that there’s someone there who’s there for the first time and you’re giving them some kind of experience they've never had, then that’s part of the buzz of theatre.
When did you know that you first wanted to be an actor?
Gary: You'll have to ask my big brother that! He wrote plays and put them on at youth clubs. One day we did a rendition of Bugsy Malone and we went through the phone book looking up the name of the director [of the film] Alan Parker. We rung every Alan
Parker in the book and eventually got through to his office and invited him! He couldn't come but his secretary came and saw us at this youth centre and really liked us. She told us that she thought we'd be really good at a place called Anna Scher Children's Theatre but there was a waiting list. She said that she would try and get us in and they fast tracked us through. I think she phoned up Anna and said there's these working class kids in south London and if we don't get them into acting now they could just go off the rails.
But it was my brother who did all the work - I just held the Yellow Pages!
|Gary Beadle in Operation Good Guys|
So my training started with Anna Scher Children's Theatre in Islington and she taught me everything - all the disciplines in acting - the text, the dialogue etc. She would get all these working class kids and get them to speak standard English and all different dialects but she'd never change who they were. She was really good and made you more personality led. Because of that you kind of learnt to think on your feet more, she was like my mentor. That's basically how it started.
I was 10 years old on my first professional job so I've been in the business 30 years now. I'm confident in what I do because it's all I can do to be honest with you. I've always had a purpose which is probably why I don't think something like - "this is the job that makes the most money so I'll stick with it as long as I can". I've always been conditioned to being unemployed - that's part of an actor's life.
So, walking away from EastEnders seemed the logical thing for me to do - ask me again 10 years from now and I may be ready to just settle because I'll be content with what I've done. But right now there's so many things I want to do, I can't stay in one place.
You have been acting for 30 years so is it really annoying when people just want to talk to you about EastEnders?
No, you've got to embrace it. If you don't you'll just be rubbed up the wrong way all the time. One in three or four people watch it and you can't get away from that and if you try to you're just out of touch with popular culture. You're a fool to yourself. I embrace the fact that everybody's going to know me from EastEnders. Part of my challenge is to change it. My quest is just to show I can do lots of different things. It's not about being famous all the time. It's very nice but I get more stimulated working and it doesn't matter what the job is.
But you really are dead in EastEnders?
I'm dead as far as I'm concerned. That's what I said. I don't see how I could possibly, possibly come back. It has been done before though - people have been deader than I have and come back - I'll admit that! But I don't know how. Somebody said to me the other day that I could have been on the witness protection programme. And I suppose that could happen and I could come back ten years from now. But as far as I'm concerned the character's dead and the whole reason I said that was because I didn't want any temptation to come back. If that temptation came and they could get me back some how - then we'll cross that bridge if we ever came to it - which I doubt. As far as I'm concerned he's a gonner!
I am very grateful to EastEnders but if I hold it as some kind of handicap and I don’t do this play with the passion that I feel, then none of it makes sense.
Listen to the full interview with Gary, where he talks about how he started acting, his latest role, Absolutely Fabulous, Operations Good Guys and of course, EastEnders.
Interview with Gary Beadle >
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