About me
The man of mystery

Robert Powell has played a number of mysterious, memorable men. Richard Hannay, for example, not to mention Jesus of Nazareth. But in his latest role in Edward Taylor’s Murder by Misadventure, the character takes a back seat. “It’s one of those thrillers where the characters aren’t really relevant they’re just something to carry the plot,” he explains. “The play second fiddle to it, and it’s a real twisting, turning murder mystery. The people in it such surplus to the entertainment of the story.”

He plays writer Harold Kent in the play, penned by author of The Men from the Ministry and Dr Finlay’s Casebook, which also stars Liza Goddard, Hi-De-Hi’s David Griffin and Michael Kirk. Harold’s one half of a partnership of writers which has run its course as far as he, at least, is concerned.

With the help of his wife, played by old friend Liza, he concocts the perfect murder plot with the help of their latest jointly-written bestseller but as the investigation begins, things aren’t as straightforward as they seem. “It’s a bit of an understatement to say there’s a twist on the plot,” says Robert. “There are several very large twists! It is not like Hitchcock or Agatha Christie it’s one of these ‘new-fangled’ thrillers like Sleuth where nothing is quite what it seems and everything you watch is important. It requests a massive suspension of disbelief by the audience, which they don’t seem to mind!”

Like all good murder mysteries the truth is withheld until the last moment, which lets the audience get involved in figuring out ‘whodunnit’. “The audience have been very vociferous about it. You can hear them trying to guess during the interval, but they hardly ever get it right,” laughs Robert.

He’s best known for some classic films and TV serials, most notably The Thirty Nine Steps, Hannay and Jesus of Nazareth, but Robert’s got a newly discovered profile in touring theatre. “I’ve only just discovered the pleasure of touring with a thatre production in the past couple of years,” he explains. “We play to full houses all the time in provincial theatres. People seem to like to be able to see good plays and big names in their home town. I think audiences in London get a bit blas about famous people!”

He’s having a break over Christmas and then returning to the stage in a double bill by Alan  Bennett, Single Spies. But there’s still one ambition he wants to achieve on the screen. Though one generation will always think of Robert as a serious actor, the younger generation is more likely to remember him from his comedy role in five series of BBC comedy The Detectives alongside his old friend, Jasper Carrot and that’s something he’d like to do more of.

“I’ve done lots of serious films,” he says, “But one thing I’ve ever done is a full blown comedy film. I’d love it!”

Maybe 2002 will be Robert’s lucky year…

By Vienna Leigh, UK Newsquest Regional Press, November 29, 2001.