English | Français | Español
First he was a screen heartthrob - then he turned into a comedy double act with Jasper Carrot.
Jayne Dawson talks to Robert Powell.
Actor Robert Powell, he of the sexy voice and attractively tortured manner, is nothing if not honest. No, he probably wouldn't still be working if it wasn't for the money, he says. There is other stuff he could be doing.
Other stuff like golfing and sailing and holidaying, stuff he really loves; but given that work is still necessary, Robert is currently on stage playing not one but two parts in an Alan Bennett comedy, the first time one actor has taken both roles.
He plays Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, two of the most notorious spies in recent history, in the play Single Spies which also stars former Bergerac actress Liza Goddard as none other than the Queen, and he is enjoying himself.
In vintage Alan Bennett style, the play is full of dialogue gems from the Leeds-born writer. The Queen tells Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures as well as a talent spotter for the KGB: I can understand it when portrait painters get me wrong, but some of them get the horse wrong too. That's unforgivable.
Robert plays Burgess in his Soviet-issue apartment in Moscow in the late 1950s where he is still clinging to everything English, and then, in the second act, he is Anthony Blunt - the spy in the palace.
In real life, Robert's own career is something of an enigma too. He is an actor with alpha male, leading man presence who never seemed to be all that interested in exploiting his undoubted charisma.
That line of work saw him play the composer Mahler and peaked with his portrayal of Jesus in the film Jesus of Nazareth, after which he declared I hope Jesus Christ will be the last in my line of sensitive young men for quite a while. and never played the type again.
The explanation, he says, is that he gets bored doing one thing I like to duck and dive, bob and weave, he said.
His next big role was in The Thirty Nine Steps, an action hero part designed to get him away from all sensitive personalities, but most people will remember him for famously turning up on television clowning around with his Brummie mate Jasper Carrot in The Detectives, which felt at the time a bit like watching the Queen take part in It's A Knockout.
The way Robert tells it, the switch was simple. He's a mate and I enjoyed it,he says.
The next most famous thing about Robert is his wife. He is married to Babs Lord who, when they met, was known to millions of Top of The Pops viewers as the blonde, smiley one everyone liked in the dance group Pan's People.
They married in 1975 before Robert disappeared for months on location making Jesus of Nazareth and have been together ever since.
Robert says: She is a great party girl and very easy going - but then she would have to be to put up with me.
Being a shy type, Robert was too nervous to ask Babs out for a date so he invited all the group to a restaurant and then contrived to sit next to her - within three months they were living together and were married a year later.
The couple have two children: Barney, who is a computer whizz kid, Robert says, and Kate, who is studying archaeology at Durham University.
Robert, who is now 57, says he is thankful that both are pursuing proper careers and that neither of them want to follow him into acting.
His own career began while still a law student at Manchester University . He says: I never had any intention of becoming a lawyer, I wanted to be an actor but I took the course to please my family.
He did some theatre in the early days and then his first major role was as Toby Wren in the cult TV series Doomwatch. He became a favourite with female viewers and there was much consternation when his character was killed off because Robert, beginning as he meant to go on, didn't want to get bogged down in just one role.
He returned to the stage about four years ago, and says the reason was that the just goes where the scripts are. After the 15 week tour is over Robert is planning a holiday.
He said: I have been working fairly hard since last August so I have earned a bit of time off.
Jayne Dawson, Yorkshire Post, February 26, 2002.
|FAQ | Home | Contact|