About me


It’s been about two months now since Robert Powell finished recording his new BBC-2 serial, the classic Jude the Obscure, so we thought we’d give him a ring and see what’s been up to since then, because he seems to have dropped temporarily out of sight.

Well, Powell fans, it seems that Robert has forsaken the TV screen for theatre right now, because the only appearance he’s made since completing Jude was a Sunday night production of a play called Pirates at the Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square.

Says Robert: “That’s the only occasion I’ve worked since mid-November. I suppose I did it mostly for prestige because I goy virtually no money for it. I worked solidly on reharsals for three weeks before the performance, and was paid two guineas in all!

“But when I have got money in the bank, it doesn’t interest me anyway – it’s only when I have none I start to become interested! I made money out of Doomwatch but didn’t save any – out of that I bought my car and a stereo, and the rest went on dining out and things like that, taking people out.”

Though Robert hasn’t been doing much acting, he hasn’t been idling his time away either.

“Oh, no, I haven’t been doing nothing. In fact I have an enormous amount to get through. For instance, there are friends to chase up – people I haven’t been able to see for a long time because I’ve been working. I’m also decorating my flat because it needs such a lot of doing to it.

“And I’m reading Hamlet, because this afternoon I go off to discuss the possibility of doing two plays for Prospect Productions, who are a touring company. One of the plays is Hamlet – I wouldn’t be playing Hamlet though – and the other is an 18th century play called Man of the world.

“I do prefer theatre as a medium because the actor is in charge. I am used to TV and film cameras, but the TV system is totally destructive to acting. There’s the time element – you’ve got to be finished by 10 o’clock, so whether something’s right or not it’s rushed through. The time element and the pressure are very damaging, I feel.

“The fact that theatre is live and immediate doesn’t worry me. I have confidence in that respect – but I’m never satisfied with anythings I’ve ever done for television. I see so many things that could have been different. I know what I was trying to do and it doesn’t always work out. But I suppose perhaps viewers wouldn’t notice. I get upset by most of the things I’ve done. In fact I loathe watching myself on television – yet I still do, so that I can analyse and learn.”

I asked Robert how pleased he was with the way Jude the Obscure has turned out.

“I’ve only seen a couple of the episodes – and it’s so hard to be objective about it. We’ll just have to wait and see what reaction it receives.”

Robert once said he wanted to direct eventually instead of act. I wondered if this is still his ambition, and why so many actors have directing as their goal.

“Well, I think the life of an actor, after a certain number of years, becomes rather futile. At first you have tons of drive and enthusiasm, but as one gets older just being an actor isn’t enough. You are so dependent upon other people and the whole business is very insecure. I don’t want the insecurity. I want to be in a position to employ other people, where I’m in command. That wouldn’t happen so much in directing – perhaps producing is more what I want to do.”

While Robert’s been having his ‘vacation’ he’s also been catching up on some football – a long-standing hobby. “I play for a South London league side and I’m supposed to be playing next Sunday. I started off playing for the Show Biz XI, with Dennis Waterman, a great mate of mine, and after a time we got together and were the founders of the team we now both play for. But we’re the only actors in the team.”

It’s obviously great to have some time off to do the many things Robert rarely gets time for, but I wondered how worried he would be if time went on and there was no sign of a suitable part turning up.

“Well, at the moment I have a large tax bill to pay, so I need to work for the money! But normally, even if I had plenty of money, I would indeed get worried if I weren’t acting. I’d be frustrated. It’s what I live for at the moment.

“I’m only 75 per cent a person when I’m not acting.” That might be so, but you sounded quite a hundred per cent to me, Robert!

Judith Wills

Fabulous 208, 6th February, 1971