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|My Wilde adventure
ROBERT POWELL ON HIS GLASGOW STAGE DEBUT, TOURING, AND THE AWFUL STATE OF BRITISH TV
Robert Powell, the epitome of the classic English leading man, is articulate, velvet-voiced and thoroughly charming.
Taking time out of rehearsals, for the play he is bringing to Glasgow this week, he is clearly busy but polite enough to agree to an interview, albeit a short one.
Ask him about the state of British telly, though, and he's off on a bit of a rant.
"Oh, it's terrible." he sighs. "It's terminal. It's just not terribly exciting at the moment, is it?
"I mean, if you've been doing it for a while, you need something that is a bit of a novelty, and there is nothing fresh, nothing remotely interesting out there."
He pauses, and concedes: "Well, to me at any rate. Perhaps other people would disagree, but I just find it all very dull. That's why most actors go back to the theatre. That's where all the good writing is."
Writing does not come much better than that of Oscar Wilde, and it is in his chilling masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Gray, that Robert will be appearing in Glasgow.
The celebrated fantasy, in a new adaptation by Trevor Baxter, is a full blooded tale of moral corruption, murder and suicide, telling of Dorian Gray's obsessive desire to remain young.
But when his wish - that his portrait could age instead of him - comes true, he is plunged into torment and misery.
Robert is starring alongside Simon Ward, of the TV drama Judge John Deed, and EastEnders actresses Elizabeth Power, who played Arthur Fowler's paramour, and Clare Wilkie, who played Sandra DeMarco.
This production marks a double first for Robert, who is probably best known for the 1977 Franco Zeffirelli epic Jesus of Nazareth.
It will be his debut performance in Glasgow, and the first time he has been in an Oscar Wilde play. His role is as Sir Henry Wooton.
"Dorian sells his soul to the devil, and Henry is basically the one to put him on that track." explains Robert.
"Wilde is enduringly popular, because he writes great stories. Dorian Gray is different from the comedies because while there is a lot of Wildean wit in it, it is essentially a very dark, psychological thriller."
Given his dislike of the current TV situation, it's no surprise Robert has spent the last few years working in theatre.
He starred in Sherlock Holmes - The Musical, which was at the Bristol Old Vic and then went on a national tour.
He also completed a tour of a two-hander with Susannah York called Double Double.
Most recently Robert played oppo-site Liza Goddard in Alan Benn-ett's Single Spies.
"Theatre is extremely hard work, much harder than television or film." he points out.
"It is the variety which is important to me. I've played Jesus, Merlin's father, Richard Hannay, and now Henry Wooton which can be a bad thing, as people don't know how to cast me.
"I tend not to plan too far in advance, either. This tour will take me to the end of the year, which I think is far enough. Then we'll see what happens next."
Ann Fotheringham, The Evening Times (Glasgow) August, 21, 2003
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