Martin Shaw, one of the UK’s best loved stars, leads the cast in Patrick Hamilton’s classic psychological thriller Gaslight, which comes to Peterborough New Theatre from October 21-26
Martin was catapulted to international stardom in the late seventies, thanks to The Professionals, launching a career that has hardly seen him out of the limelight since.
We caught up with Martin – best known to TV audiences for his title-roles in the decade long crime drama Inspector George Gently and Judge John Deed - as the Gaslight tour got under way last month.
Hi Martin. You’re leading the cast of Gaslight. What’s it about?
Well, it’s a thriller with some serious overtones. It’s a 1938 take on something that’s been going on throughout history, the coercive control of a partner by a man. Women have been fighting and subjected to this, throughout history. In this instance, the man, Jack Manningham, tries to convince his wife that she is mad in order to get rid of her and put her in an asylum. Jack’s wife, Bella, finds rescue in the form of retired Detective Rough, who learns all about the situation and steps in.
You’re playing that retired policeman, Detective Rough. What’s he like?
He’s a very interesting, compassionate character. He’s driven because he knows something about
Jack and is determined to solve a lifelong case in question. There are lots of threads running through the piece.
Why did you want to be part of this production?
I’d been looking for a play to do for some time, then this one came up. With the possibility of getting to work with Lucy Bailey, who is an extremely exciting director, it all came together.
What was it about working with Lucy that excited you?
I haven’t worked with Lucy before, but she has a reputation for being uncompromising, daring and putting a new shape on things. This is an old, Victorian-style, melodrama, but she’s added some rather spectacular effects. They’ve gone down brilliantly so far. We’ve had audiences cheering and
standing, so obviously it’s satisfying people on a very deep level.
Patrick Hamilton wrote Gaslight as a play, but there’s also an Oscar-winning film version. What does seeing it on stage bring to the experience?
Oh, you’re absolutely part of it. You’re right there in the atmosphere of it. And when I say atmosphere, I mean that word very accurately. You are in it. It’s an experience with real people rather than with a screen.
How do you feel about taking the production on tour?
I think it’s very important to tour. I think people in the so called provinces deserve as much excellence as anybody in London, perhaps more so, because they are often starved of it. I think it’s
part of our duty to tour as well as being simply a practical way to see what different audiences
respond to, and what they don’t.
You’ve worked with producer Bill Kenwright extensively over the years. What keeps you two collaborating?
I have! This is a partnership that’s been going for 36 years, so we know each other well by now. Originally, Bill was an actor and we were contemporaries. When he decided to become a producer, he staged a searing drama by Clifford Odets in 1983 called The Country Girl. I played Bernie Dodds. It was his first massive hit; people were queueing at the box office. That cemented a friendship. Ever since then, every couple of years or so we do a play, providing I’m available.
You started acting at school. What grabbed you about it?
I honestly don’t know. It’s something that I felt I knew how to do instinctively. It just comes to me.
Of all the creative things that are possible, this is the one that I seem to be able to do best. I started when I was 14 and I don’t know anything else. I’m just as passionate now as I was then, probably even more so.
You’ve built a career spanning more than 50 years. What have been the highlights?
The Roman Polanski Macbeth was definitely a highlight, because who wouldn’t want to work with one of the world’s greatest directors and play a leading role in a Shakespeare film. It doesn’t get any better than that.
And I waited many years to be able to play Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, which I did in 2006, so that also was a definite highlight.
Tickets for Gaslight are available from www.newtheatre-peterborough.com