Gareth Thomas - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Report from a Dundee local paper, prior to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This is about Gareth rather than the play.

Actor Gareth Thomas admits to relishing the prospect of a role he can really get his teeth into. At the moment, he's certainly in the throes of one of the most powerful roles in modern theatre in the formidable shape of Big Daddy, the centre of a highly volatile and dysfunctional family at the heart of Tennessee William's classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

It's his first time at Dundee Rep but his family does have business links with the city, dating back to the late 50s and early 60s, when his father was managing director of Smith's of Dundee and of Blyth's and Grant's in Edinburgh.

Taking on the theatrical big boys holds no fears for Gareth, however.

"it's one of the biggest challenges I've looked at, yes. It's the sort of play you can do for three weeks and still be finding new things at the end of it. The film changed the format of the play quite a lot and Burl Ives, who played Big Daddy, was present in practically every scene. In the play, I only appear in the second act but it's powerful stuff."

Looking at the other major roles he has tackled - King Lear, Frank in Educating Rita twice, Orsino in Twelfth Night - It's easy to believe him when he says that, although sometimes actors have to take on roles purely to pay the bills, he will often go out of his way to take on a role he finds demanding.

"I love a challenge, whether it's a big role or one where I'm cast against type. Orsino wasn't an obvious one for me - I'm not the prettiest actor in the world - but I like that kind of unexpected side of working ona role."

In spite of his Welsh roots - or maybe because of those Celtic connections - he decided eights years ago to move to Scotland permanently and now lives in the Borders. "I was sick of London after 20 years - it's dirty and aggressive and I'd just had enough - and since I was born and brought up in the county, my wife and I started looking in Wales and then in Scotland, partly because my father had lived in Edinburgh for four years at one point."

"We settled in the Borders but, funnily enough, since I moved to Scotland I've only done four jobs [in Scotland]. I had met Kenny Ireland, the director of the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, while I was working on the series Sutherland's Law up here and I've done three plays for him. This one in Dundee is the fourth!"

Gareth is probably still best known for his role as Blake in the 70s' sci-fi drama Blake's Seven. The series has become one of the great television cult classics, still being shown on Cable TV and abroad, and Gareth has fond memories of it.

"We hoped it would make the kind of impression it did but I think it was so successful because it was finite - and because at that time, in th 70s, Dr Who was at its height and Star Trek wasn't that long on the go."

"We only did four years of Blake, so I suppose it's become a bit of aa collector's item.

"All the repeats haven't made us rich, though, in spite of what people might think about royalties!"

Gareth knows a good series when he sees it, too, and has appeared in episodes of Boon, London's Burning, The Avengers and Edward VII.

In spite of tacking many challenging parts, there is one ultimate ambition that remains.

"I'd love to play Othello on stage," he says. "it's a wonderful role, the supreme challenge as far as I'm concerned. I actually did the play with the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing the minor role of Montano and taking over when our Cassio broke his knee cap, but Othello himself is the one I want to do."

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Last updated on 30th of December 1997.