Do you get much input into the character of Dunning, or do the scripts arrive fully formed?
They’re basically fully-formed. Simon asked me to do a blog for him for the Scarifyers website, and asked me to explain how the character came about. It’s really rather spooky because the character is exactly the same as the very first character I ever played in my professional career back in 1968. I went on tour for my first professional job with a children’s theatre company, and I played this character in a play for 5 year olds called The Key. I played Mr Spectrum, who was in charge of the Rainbow Box, which the Rainbow Queen kept all her colours in. The rainbow had been smudged and all the colours were fading and all the kids had to try and get the colours back, so the Rainbow Queen could make the rainbow again. It was a lovely little interactive kids’ thing.
But Mr Spectrum was Dunning, this mad old professor, who was going, “The rainbow is melting, oh crumbs….” It was only when Simon asked me about it that I realised that’s where Dunning came from, something I created years ago and never used since. It came off the page as that.
Not a characterisation that could have been used for Davros…!
No, that would have been interesting. He’s a different bag of ferrets altogether. That’s what I love about these, you’re able to play different parts. Radio is phenomenally good for that because nobody knows what you look like.
I have to say it always has been. I grew up doing it – I started in rep, but started to do radio in the very early 1970s, and began doing The Archers. I was taken on board by one of the producers at Pebble Mill, who obviously saw something he liked in me, and I learned my craft at the microphone doing work there for many years.
I love theatre because it charges up the artistic reaction with the feedback from an audience, which you don’t get in studios, obviously. But radio for me, as an actor, seems to have the widest range of possibilities. For a start they can’t do anything to muck it up, because the focus can’t be pulled, or someone decides to edit you out or put somebody else in.
You’re creating it. It doesn’t matter what you look like: you can play anything, even at my age. If you can vocally do it, you can be anything from an 18 year old punk up to a 95 year old West Indian, which you could never do on stage, or film or television. It gives you a greater range of parts to go for.
And you’re creating that picture in sound, in the audience’s head. I always think it’s one person at the other end of the mike listening. You’re telling a story, weaving this soundscape which they become part of. The old adage always holds true: the pictures are better on radio.
On television and film there’s a lot of hanging around, followed by mad bursts of activity. You’re in the hands of so many other things, the technical considerations. If a take is technically okay but you want to go again, that’s the one that goes in the can unless you’re a superstar. Radio is a little more laid back and you can take things again. A lot of the actors I work with in radio are much more laid back. It’s a great way to earn a living.
Yes, Davros has returned – “Waterloo of the Daleks.” [the story’s original title – retitled The Curse of Davros for release] That will give you a clue where it’s set…
1815 or a train station…
Yes it could be either! It was lovely to hear that we’ve been allowed to do him again. We were prevented from doing any Davros audios by Cardiff when they were doing the previous series, when Davros actually appeared.
What hints can you drop?
Not much without giving a vast amount of it away. All I’ll say is that when I read it, I thought “This is rubbish, absolute rubbish. I don’t know what they’re doing with this…” until I got to part two. And then I went, “oh my God…”!
The Scarifyers can be ordered from www.cosmichobo.com.
Thanks to Simon Barnard for his assistance in setting up the interview, and to Terry Molloy for the time and the pictures.