Gareth Thomas - The Actor Speaks

Reviewed by Joyce Bowen

THE ACTOR SPEAKS, Vol. 1--GARETH THOMAS audio CD is very entertaining and it makes me want to listen to my SOLDIERS OF LOVE audio CDs 3-6 which I haven't listened to yet. (So far, July 2000, SOL has only gotten up to CD 6 of the 10 part series.) I think EVERY Gareth Thomas fan should buy this CD. If you're not a Thomas fan, I really don't know how much you'd like the CD.

Basically, the CD is 75 minutes long. There are nice pictures of Gareth and Nicholas Courtney on the front and of the crew of the Vibrator on the back. (The Vibrator is the Liberator in the Blake's 7 parody called Jake's Heaven.) The CD is in 6 parts, two of which feature Gareth's writing. Nicholas Courtney does these two monologues which both involve monks in the middle-ages. If you've read Gareth's little short story Blythe Spirits, you'll be familiar with the type of story. These are sections 2 and 5 and take up 25 minutes total. Both stories come across as charming little fables and are enjoyable, but for me the rest of the CD is better.

At times in the review, I am actually quoting what is being said; however, I haven't used quotation marks because in my notes as I listened to the CD I didn't distinguish between what was verbatim and what I paraphrased. IF you haven't listen to the CD yet and enjoy discovering things on your own, perhaps you might want to lightly skip through my review as I do give some things away.

The first track is the most interesting one for me as it involves an interviewer talking to Gareth and to Mark Thompson. Mark produces SOLDIERS IN LOVE, the 10 part comedy sci-fi series that Gareth acts in, Gareth portraying three characters so far. This 15 minute track involves Gareth's views on Roj Blake which are slightly different from Mark's. Gareth does see Blake as both a freedom fighter and, also, someone who was becoming a fanatic by the end of second season.

He talks about what he imagines might have been Blake's background. Gareth has some rather different ideas about Blake's family, and he, also, talks about his own father briefly. Basically, Gareth sees Blake as the youngest child of an academic upper class family. Blake's parents were intellectual pacifists who opposed the Federation and one day were eliminated. Blake, being the youngest, was then taken and raised by the Federation in an institution. He lost track then of his older brother and sister.

Gareth thinks Blake is a very intelligent man who came to violence out of necessity. He sees a lot of controlled and intelligent anger in Blake. Gareth does comment that he doesn't understand why the memory erasure wasn't complete. In Gareth's opinion, an organization as powerful as the Federation should have done a better job ruining Blake's mind. [But, of course, if it had, then Blake would have been ruined as a rebel. ]

Gareth says Blake doesn't see the Liberator crew as Blake's substitute family, which is something that Mark sees. Gareth says Blake doesn't even see the crew as friends in the beginning, but by the time he tells Avon he has always trusted him, Blake definitely means it. And toward the end of this segment, Gareth says Blake is an instinctive leader.

Track 2 (10 minutes) is "Ruined Garden" and in this Nicholas Courtney plays a middle-ages monk in a silent order. Though the prose is deceptively simple and the story rather plain, I am wondering if Gareth is perhaps trying to raise larger philosophical questions, such as the purpose/nature of religion, or if his purpose is just to entertain. The basic plot is that the garden of the monks is ruined. It turns out to be a deer doing the deed which brings the monks to a dilemma since this is one of God's creatures. Courtney has a lovely voice and performs this piece very nicely.

Track 3 (20 minutes) has Gareth and Mark talking about both Blake's 7 and Soldiers of Love. Gareth in SOL plays the villain Nermal, the gay camp Welshman Hywel [pronounced Howell] who's an unsung hero, and the computer ANET in the sendup of Blake's 7 that appears in SOL which is a Galactovision TV series called Jake's Heaven. ANET is the Zen character in Jake's Heaven. This chat is really informative and Gareth throws in several tidbits about projects he's done recently. He mentions the music video he did [ Belle and Sebastian's "Legal Man"] and the new TV sitcom that he's done [ Baddiel's Syndrome]. It was his first TV acting job with a live audience.

Both Mark and Gareth agree that the best thing about SOL and B7 is the characters are important. Blake says he thinks B7 is popular because it was finite. Then he does mention that only Avon does survive and that's there's a future film being discussed now with Avon. He's in favor of the film. Both men emphasize that SOL is a comedy and great fun to do and that everyone is thoroughly enjoying himself/herself.

Gareth does some Hywel. Gareth tells us that there's no connection between Hywel and Blake---as if we really needed to be told that! It turns out that Hywel really only started as a plot device to help explain things, but that everyone loved the character so much that Hywel has now become very important to the plot.

Thomas declares that audio is really the MOST restrictive medium around because one is limited to just the voice.

Track 4 (10 minutes) is Gareth doing a monologue as Hywel Hammond. The gay Welsh lilt is charming. I enjoyed this segment so much that I seriously began to regret having loaned my SOL CDs to a friend. I was impressed with Mark Thompson's writing of this segment, too. In this monologue which is just a joy to listen to because of the accent and phrasing, Hywel is dragged into a presentation of "This Is Your Life." It's a mockery and Hywel has lots of comments to make.

Being an ex-English teacher, I really got a huge kick out of the segment where Hywel's old English teacher appears on the program and Hywel comments on him--and not very fondly. He got a C- on his Roman orgy paper. Naturally, the time of the Roman orgies would be Hywel's favorite period of history.

Track 5 (15 minutes) is Gareth's second monk story called "Benedictine." Courtney does the monologue as expertly as he did the first one. This is after the stag incident and concerns the effect of Frankish mead upon the monastery. Evidentially, Frankish mead is much more powerful than the English mead the monks are used to. I can't really decide if this is just a simple tale to amuse or if Gareth wants to make some type of comment about the need for frivolous joy and beauty in life as opposed to piety and devotion. But, since I'm really much more interested in Gareth the actor than I am Gareth the writer, I'm not going to analyze it in any further depth.

The final segment, 6, is only five minutes long, and I really wanted it to be longer. I frankly could have enjoyed about 20 more minutes of this, if not more. It's "The Children of Nylon," an actual advert for Jake's Heaven that is really hilarious. For those of you not familiar with the SOL series (and that includes me), ANET (Gareth) in Jake's Heaven is a computer who gives his information like a Gregorian chant. And, I think Gareth's voice is lovely. Jake's Heaven is just total silliness. In this make-believe series within another make-believe series, the rebels are fighting against an army of cheap garment makers. One of the crises in the advert is that ANET has run out of dry cleaning fluid so it can't clean the crew's wardrobe. The characters are Jake, Jenny, Somerset ( Avon), Mr. Mansions (perhaps Vila), and IMAC (Orac). In this episode they are on Prime Gouda, the planet of cheese. Dolly, who will be the Cally character, hasn't arrived yet in the show. Somerset is an absolute riot as he spouts out proverbs which make no sense.

If you're a Gareth Thomas fan, there is no doubt that you should get this CD. I'd hope that any Blake's 7 fan would probably enjoy the CD simply because of the comments about Blake and the B7 parody.

Sold Out.

Last changed 06th of April 2005

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