The dreadful news of Mary Tamm's death amazed me. I had no idea she was ill. We got on terribly well and I admired her wit and style and warmth. We used to meet at different Who conventions and sometimes had time for a little chat. I remember meeting her at Heathrow in the 1st class section: her section, of course. She was flicking through a magazine and sipping a beer: the epitome of cool style.
When we first worked together her tales of her background (she's from Estonia) kept me very amused. I think they spoke Estonian at home. She used to do an impression of her aunt, I think, who had been an opera singer. She had a marvellous trick of rapid asides which often had nothing to do with the main story but which convulsed us. I tried to copy this trick behind her back but it eluded me as most tricks have eluded me all my life. And that she is dead seems incredible.
Fate is capricious and quite indifferent to our fears. Lovely girls: Elisabeth Sladen, Caroline John and now Mary Tamm: all dead. And here am I closing in on eighty and all I've had was whooping cough! It's not fair, is it? Actually, I also have a creaky knee. And probably a creaky brain.
I never met Mary’s daughter and hardly ever met Marcus, her husband. But I send them from the bottom of my old heart sincere condolences. To have known her consoles me a little: poor darling Mary, poor us.
I am working on a very exciting new project with Big Finish which is nothing to do with Doctor Who! All will be revealed later this year. At the same time I am making eight new Who stories with Big Finish and a number of guest stars such as Gareth Thomas, Jessica Martin, Neil Stuke, Ann Bell, Chase Masterson, and Geoffrey Beevers as The Master.
A Christmas Carol
BBC AudioGo have booked me to record Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol very soon and I'm working extremely hard on the wonderfully rich text. I do several hours a day and enjoy discovering new layers of meaning. It's a piece I know well as I have performed it live on several occasions. When we lived in Kent I performed it in two local churches and at Gad's Hill where Dickens lived near Rochester. I also read an excerpt on a Christmas television programme which my wife Sue directed. As soon as I know when the new BBC recording will be available from AudioGo, I will let you know.
me with gold
© Graham Lee
I have also been influenced by the Olympics and trying to speed up on short distances. The hundred metres is my chosen discipline. I train three or four times a day with my dog, Poppy. My times are improving too: by the second session I'm clocking three minutes two seconds.
Larry on the podium
© Sue Jerrard
Since I last posted a newsletter, we have been given a lamb. His name is Larry. He’s as tame and friendly as Poppy who is very jealous if I show Larry any affection, particularly if I give him some food. Larry would happily come for walks with Poppy and me but Poppy wouldn’t allow it.
A few weeks ago, a small theatre company called Kill the Beast staged a theatrical version of my book: “The Boy Who Kicked Pigs” at the Lowry Studio Theatre in Salford, Manchester, just opposite the new headquarters of the BBC. Sue caught a plane at the crack of dawn and went to see the Saturday matinee. She wasn’t sure what to expect because, like me, she wondered how a small theatre company could stage my story - which has a cast of hundreds, and includes a motorway pile-up with coachloads of people. It’s not as if they had the resources Danny Boyle had for the Olympic Opening Ceremony! Kill the Beast uses a cast of four.
Here they are as Robert Caligari's neighbours (© Peter Marsh / Darkling Images):
We also wondered how they would manage to make my tale of evil horror funny, as I intended it to be. Sue said that on both counts they were surprisingly successful. The 4 actors each played many parts, and the hectic change from character to character added to the comedy. Sue thought they managed to capture the spirit of my book and that David Cumming who plays Robert Caligari is compelling to watch despite his character being a really nasty piece of work.
Here is Robert Caligari (centre) at the doctor's (© Peter Marsh / Darkling Images)
The theatre version was written by director Clem Garrity with the help of the rest of the company who improvised and generated the material to make it work on stage. The structure of their play differs to some extent from the story as I told it, but all the main elements were there.
In the play, the piggy bank talks to Robert Caligari: an interesting device though not necessarily one I’d agree with, but I have not seen how it works on stage, so I can’t be sure.
Here is Robert Caligari fighting with his sister, Nerys over Trevor, her piggy bank. (© Peter Marsh / Darkling Images)
Inevitably, the transition from the narrated story told by me, to a piece of theatre must involve some dramatic devices. I wish Kill the Beast luck with it. I’m told by Clem Garrity that they hope to take the play to next summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Links to reviews and a clip on YouTube
Wishing you all a happy summer from Tom, Poppy and Larry!
Picture © Sue Jerrard