The Actor Speaks: Paul Darrow

The Actor Speaks: Paul DarrowOrder this bookStory: Best known as the gravelly voice, stony face and acid wit of unscrupulous genius Kerr Avon from the cult favorite BBC SF series Blake’s 7, Paul Darrow talks about his career – both Blake-centric and otherwise – as well as reaching the age of 60, playing the role of Elvis Presley on stage, and performs several short dramatic scenes written especially for this presentation.

Review: Though it might seem, on the surface, to be a slightly silly idea to combine listener-submitted Q&A sessions with dramatic readings, this fourth entry in MJTV Productions’ The Actor Speaks CD series really, upon further reflection, gives you what you’d get from a really good convention appearance – except you can have that experience in your headphones rather than in a crowded convention center. As usual, Darrow is engaging and gracious when faced with the usual barrage of Blake’s 7-related questions, even though some of them have been asked before. (To give credit to the show’s producer and presenter, Mark Thompson, there did at least seem to be enough foresight to realize that the fans who would be this product’s target audience would be well-acquainted with the most frequently asked questions, so the Q&A material tends to venture further afield, or at least presents familiar questions with a twist.) As usual, Darrow demonstrates that he’s put an awful lot of thought into what made Avon tick – and what could continue to make him tick in any continuations of the story.

That leads us neatly to questions about Darrow’s detachment from the on-again, off-again revival project that has been mooted several times over the years, originally with Darrow’s endorsement and involvement until it became clear that the producers who had bought the rights to Blake’s 7 were more interested in parceling out those rights for such media as video games and animation. The question does come up, and again, it’s answered gracefully, but perhaps not as brutally specific as many fans would like. (As someone who’s increasingly convinced that the Andrew Sewell-led revival is never going to get off the ground at this point, I’m more than happy to hear the bulk of the interview material aimed more at classic Blake’s 7 and other productions than at what might have been.)

The dramatic readings are a bit of fun, moreso than I really thought they’d be. Three of the four pieces are Darrow solo, with minimal musical and sound effects embellishment; the most striking is “Sunset In The City”, written for Darrow by fantasy writer (and two-time Blake scriptwriter) Tanith Lee; it’s a Shakespearean-styled soliloquoy delivered by a 14th century king whose house has been betrayed from within. The fourth dramatic piece is a two-hander with Darrow and Peter Miles, set in the universe of the Kaldor City audio dramas. I’ll admit, I haven’t listened to those, despite strong Blake connections – Darrow as an Avon-esque assassin named Kaston Iago, and settings created by Blake script editor and writer Chris Boucher, based on both his Blake’s 7 creations and the Doctor Who story Robots Of Death – but this scene makes it tempting to delve into them. Darrow plays the part of an assassin who has gotten himself caught, but over the course of his interrogation, it becomes apparent that maybe he wanted to get caught – because his interrogator is the target. This is not an excerpt from any of the Kaldor City CDs, but rather a short play specially written for this release.

It’s very entertaining stuff, actually; other volumes in this series focus on Blake’s 7 stars such as Gareth Thomas and Jacqueline Pearce, so I believe MJTV has just gotten a repeat customer out of the deal.

Year: 2004
Authors: Paul Darrow, Tanith Lee, Alan Stevens, Fiona Moore, Mark J. Thompson
Publisher: MJTV
Total running time: 79:15