British actor Tim Marriott is possibly best known in Australia for his portrayal of Gavin Featherly in the popular sit-com The Brittas Empire. He is also becoming a regular in Adelaide for Fringe, bringing theatre work through his production company Smokescreen Productions.
Here again this year with two shows, Shell Shock and Mengele, Marriott took some time out from rehearsals to chat to Glam about his fascinating career.
“ I was an actor for 20 years and then fell out of love with it. So I got out and went into education. But always the bug was there. Then as I was approaching retirement age from teaching, I told [my daughter who is an agent] that I was thinking of going back. She said I should go back to the beginning, start all over again and do the Fringe. And I thought that was a brilliant idea!”
Both shows have previously been presented in Adelaide, at various stages of development, garnering critical acclaim and awards.
“The first time I performed Shell Shock was in Adelaide two years ago when it was embryonic. Two years on it’s the 75th anniversary of two things: the liberation of the holocaust camps, and the end of the Second World War. So I thought bringing both pieces back to Adelaide would be a nice thing to do. I’m really grateful to this lovely city for having kicked that off.”
The nature of the pieces means that they maintain a relevance in their themes, making for exciting and engaging theatre.
“When we started developing Mengele, Trump hadn’t happened, Brexit hadn’t happened. We kind of echo the past and the present by putting Mengele on stage and have him attempt to justify the unjustifiable. We expose how persuasive that kind of rhetoric can be.”
Marriott’s obvious compassion, and sensitivity to Holocaust survivors had its genesis at an early age.
“When I was about seven years old, I was sitting on the knee of one of my mum’s friends. The sleeve on this person’s arm rolled up and I saw a number. I asked my parents what that number meant, and they told me. And all I remember of my reaction was thinking ‘that’s not fair’. And I’ve been haunted by that for a long time.”
These two works also provide a thematic symmetry.
“Mengele you could say is a piece about what leads us into war. Shell Shock is a very contemporary piece about what happens afterwards. Here’s a guy who’s left the army after thirty years of service, and he thinks he’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with him, it’s just the rest of the world that’s got a problem. And in doing so we reveal what an overload of stress, anxiety and poor trauma management can do to somebody. But wrapped in humor. It’s taken me across the globe a couple of times, so it seems to work OK!”
Based on the diary of an ex-soldier, Shell Shock is about a wider issue than just service PTSD: it speaks to concerns around men’s mental health in general.
“Reading his story, I keep thinking ‘I’ve done that, and I’ve done that, but I’ve never talked about it because I’m a bloke and that’s not what blokes do’. And of course, that’s dangerous, because when you bottle things up, eventually they’re going to go bang. That’s why the tagline for the piece is now ‘It’s time to talk’. I think the way to buy people in is through humor. This guy’s incredible dark, bleak, military humor really comes across.”
This tour of Shell Shock will be supporting the great work of Legacy in South Australia and Broken Hill.
Both productions are at The Garage International at Adelaide Town Hall.
Mengele runs from 25th– 29th February and 3rd -7th & 9th -13th March. Click here for further information and to book tickets.
Shell Shock runs from 19th– 20th February. Click here for further information and to book tickets.