An actor's life for Tim
PUBLISHED: 09:00 18 January 2019
Mark Dimmock 0044 7889775078
Actor Tim Marriott talks to Enjoy Sudbury More about life in the Brittas Empire and why he is on stage at Sudbury's Quay Theatre.
It’s now two decades since The Brittas Empire rose to conquer our TV screens.
The chaotic regime of hapless manager Gordon Brittas at Whitbury New Town leisure centre ran for seven series on BBC1 and actor Tim Marriott was one of a strong cast that included Chris Barrie and Pippa Haywood.
Tim , who is at Sudbury’s Quay Theatre in Shell Shock - The Diary of Tommy Atkins on January 25, played assistant Gavin and looks back on the anarchic sitcom fondly.
“We had a cast reunion in September and every single one of us turned up for it, including people who were only in one episode, which I think tells you all you need to know,” he said.
“It was a great show to work on, it was such fun, and there has been a bit of a campaign to bring back Brittas.
“After all, the central theme of it - about a know-all who refuses to listen to anybody else - isn’t exactly far-fetched when you look around the world today, is it?
“As for it coming back? Well, I think Chris Barrie himself would be up for it in principle but there’s an awful lot of people that need to sit down and talk first, but stranger things have happened so who knows?”
After Brittas finished in 1997 Tim found himself working increasingly in touring comedy theatre, something he stopped in 2000 to become director of drama at Eastbourne College.
“It wasn’t where I wanted to be,” he said.
“I was spending more and more time away from my family so when the opportunity came along for a different direction I took it and never regretted it.”
Tim did keep active in theatre through writing. His plays include Meeting Mary and Pete ‘n’ Me, which were staged in London in the mid-2000s, and between 2015 and 2017 he co-authored the award-winning play Mengele.
It is his adaptation of Shellshock which brings him to Sudbury.
Based on the memoirs of Gulf War veteran Neil Blower Watkins, it examines mental illness and post traumatic stress disorder.
It won a New York Fringe Encore Award and was named best solo show at the 2018 Adelaide Fringe before touring Australia in support of the Invictus Games.
The play has been praised for the way it examines stress, trauma or anxiety, and the production at the Quay Theatre will raise money for Help for Heroes.
Tim said he hoped the performance would raise awareness and help bring down barriers: “Even now there is still a stigma around mental health, which is just ridiculous knowing what we know now,” he said.
“We’re happy to talk about every ache and pain under the sun but as soon as it’s something to do with mental health then it’s a big fat no.”
Although dealing a serious subject, it also has a comic side and Tim said the British military sense of humour provided a rich seam on which to draw.
“Dark? The word doesn’t even come close.” he said.
“I’ll give you an example. In the Falklands War of 1982, HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile, Many sailors died, the ship was destroyed.
“As the survivors sat on the deck waiting to be evacuated they started singing ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ from Life of Brian. Now that truly is laughing in the face of adversity.”
Tim said he was enjoying his return to stagework after 17 years away.
“It’s nice to make up for lost time and to have an opportunity to get back to doing different things,” he said.
“Good theatre is about getting people thinking, and I would hope that I can say that is what I am doing now.”
Shell Shock - The Diary of Tommy Atkins is at the Quay Theatre on January 25. Bookings can be made via the theatre website or by ringing the box office on 01787 374745.