Martin Shaw gets 'angry' in Birmingham

He’s at the stage in his career where he gets to pick his own roles.

Martin Shaw gets 'angry' in Birmingham

Martin Shaw

Martin Shaw, the renowned actor who rose to fame playing Ray Doyle in ITV’s The Professionals, no longer auditions for roles. Having worked as an actor for 50 years, producers now call him to ask which roles he’d like to take.

His next work will be in Reginald Rose’s masterwork Twelve Angry Men, at Birmingham’s REP, from this evening to October 19.

He said: “I’ve got a 30-year friendship with Bill Kenwright and he called me to see what I wanted to do. He just asked which role I’d like to play and said he’d put together a show.

“Twelve Angry Men is a beautifully written play; it’s very softly and sensitively written.

“As an actor, the most important thing for me is the writing. A play is about the subtext, it’s about the thought proceses that appear between the lines. You need to know what the character is thinking, what moods and emotions inform the things they say.

“The play has been incredibly hard to learn because there are so many forensic details. But it is an ensemble piece. There are 12 people all pointing in the same direction and it’s a very interesting and important discussion about justice.”

Justice is, of course, close to Shaw’s heart. Two of his biggest TV roles have been The Chief Judge John Deed and Inspector George Gently.

He’s enjoyed playing those characters immensely.

“I loved the role of Deed. That was a very important show for everyone who was involved in it. We have an independent judiciary, thank God, and they are very learned people who have spent their lives thinking about justice and what it means to people. They are the only people who can hold the politicians’ to account. Political lives are very short and an outspoken judge like Deed is important.”

Shaw enjoys the seamless switch between TV and stage, enjoying both disciplines for different reasons.

“Both forms of acting have downsides and upsides. They are pretty much identical in preparation. The upside of theatre is that you get to repeat and repeat and repeat so you refine and refine and get closer and closer to the truth. The downside is the fatigue and also, sometimes, the fact that you don’t feel like doing it live. The upside of film work is that it’s often very spontaneous and realistic. People give very realistic accounts that are instinctive. That’s great. But once it’s gone, it’s gone – unlike theatre, you can’t go back and do it again. It’s often very rushed. However, for both, the approach is the same. You look for a simple truth.”

One group of people to whom Shaw would like to dispense instance justice are theatre-goers who fail to switch off their mobile phones.

“Audiences have changed a lot. There has been an increase in rudeness, though I think that’s true of society and not just audiences at theatres. It’s a particular problem now because we have the mobile phone thing. That thing will effectively kill a play, for the people in the auditorium as well as the actors.

“When a mobile rings, the suspension of disbelief is gone. It fractures everything. You change from being an actor playing a role to an indignant person who just wants to go and jam the offending item in the perpetrator’s…… Mobile phones are a bomb.”

Shaw is looking forward to playing Birmingham – audiences had just better make sure they switch their mobiles off being going to see him.

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