Lisa Martland writes… In a few weeks time, when the post-Christmas blues are kicking in, there will be an antidote in the shape of Monty Python’s Spamalot which is galloping back out on tour from January 2015, bringing the recent London production directed by Christopher Luscombe to theatres across the UK.
Dusting off his coconuts and preparing to team up with Joe Pasquale’s King Arthur will be TODD CARTY as Patsy, a role he has already played to much acclaim on tour and in the West End.
Carty first appeared on television in an advert for Woolworths at the age of four, but it was as Tucker Jenkins in the much-loved and groundbreaking BBC children’s TV dramas Grange Hill and Tucker’s Luck that he first made a big impression. His TV profile reached whole new heights though when he was cast as Mark Fowler in EastEnders, a character he portrayed for 13 years. Not long after he left the soap in 2003, the actor made his mark again as the psychopathic policeman Gabriel Kent in The Bill.
Oh, and there was that famous short but memorable stint in ITV1’s Dancing On Ice which Carty will never be allowed to forget.
However, aside from dabbling in movie directing (The Perfect Burger made with the Co-operative British Youth Film Academy in 2010), the stage has been Carty’s home in recent years, not least because of his association with the Eric Idle and John Du Prez musical Spamalot. (Musical theatre enthusiasts will be interested to hear that he made his stage debut as the young Lionel Bart in the musical Lionel! at the New London Theatre in 1977.)
The story goes that when you were about eight years old, you snuck in to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail at your local cinema in Harrow. What was the attraction?
I loved watching that film and the TV shows as a kid, Python really was the staple diet of comedy then. Often television from the 1970s seems a bit dated now, but they were such a strong team, such great writers and performers, and the sketches were so memorable. Their comedy has never been overtaken.
For me, it’s the silliness of it all. All these years later, Spamalot is still laughter therapy, not just for the audience, but for all the actors as well. Plus younger generations are discovering Monty Python for the first time.
You seem to get such a buzz from the reaction of a theatre audience. How does it compare to your many successful years in television?
I love the immediate reaction from a theatre audience. I come offstage feeling so good, and people in the audience go out with smiles on their faces too. I can’t believe I get to be so silly and am paid for it as well! On TV you can do the same scene 20 or 30 times, do your bit on the set, go home, and then a good six months could go by before you or anyone else sees what you’ve done. When you’ve finished on a film set, you often just jump in your car and go home. When you are doing a show, especially on tour, you get to hang around the theatre, maybe chat to people you are working with or to fans of the show at the stage door. And with Spamalot the age range of fans ranges from seven to 70.
What is the most fun about playing King Arthur’s trusty assistant Patsy?
One of the best things is knowing that you will be singing ‘Always Look On the Bright Side of Life’ every performance and that people are going to be singing along with it. As soon as they hear me say “cheer up sire, you know what they say”, the audience gets involved and the reaction is so nice.
You have worked alongside a number of different King Arthurs, are you looking forward to teaming up with Joe Pasquale?
Joe and I have met every now and then over the years and of course we appeared in the Dancing On Ice All Stars series together, and he is such a down to earth, great bloke. Each King Arthur brings their own flavour to the role and I know he’s going to be great – we’re going to have a lots of laughs.
How do you cope with touring and being away from your family?
You get used to it. It’s a very practical tip, but I think the most important thing is to find somewhere half decent to live. I am having to learn not to turn up in a city without anywhere to stay, I have promised myself to be more organised this time!
Are you enjoying the way your career is developing, moving away from so much TV and towards more theatre?
To use a football analogy, I have been part of some very special clubs. I have transferred from one to another, and have enjoyed all the banter along the way. I am very happy to have been part of all of them and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now with out them.
But after four decades mainly focusing on TV, it feels like a natural progression to move into theatre. As you get older you get to try on different hats and different opportunities come knocking. I’m going to be having a terrific time playing Abanazar in Aladdin for Jordan Productions at the Central Theatre in Chatham soon, and then straight after that I am off to Spamalot. It’s a lovely end to the year and a great beginning to 2015 too.
* Monty Python’s Spamalot begins its tour at the Opera House, Manchester, on 15 January 2015 (more details at www.spamalotontour.co.uk)
* Trivia question! Did anyone see Tucker’s Return – a musical stage version of the TV series Grange Hill – staged at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch in 1989? Todd Carty returned as a sports teacher!