An Afternoon with Mark Gatiss, 16 November 2014:
This was the second time that Mark had done this to raise funds for the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. As Ian Hallard explained when he did the introduction, the last time two years ago (my report here) had been solely Sherlock-related but “in the intervening years Mark has found himself six whole new friends!” Mark explained that this would be “a little bit of chat and a lot of bollocks.”
This is just a summary of parts of the conversations with Mark’s guests: Sue Perkins, Andrew Scott, Amanda Abbington, Miranda Richardson, Derren Brown and Peter Capaldi.
[Please remember that these guests are all friends of Mark and therefore much of their conversation was typical of friends, with much fond straight-faced sarcasm and pretend-insults directed at each other.]
Mark’s first guest was Sue Perkins, co-host of The Great British Bake Off. He explained that, like last time, the public had been invited to send in questions for his guests but added that he had sneaked in some of his own and it was up to us to work out which was which.
Mark: “First question: are you a gay?(!)”
Sue: “On a spectrum of gay, I’d say I’m about 99 percent gay, yes!”
Mark: “Do you like food?”
Sue: “I like food, but now I’m pretty sponge-intolerant!” She said that people come up to her in the street to bring her cakes that they’ve baked especially for her. Some of them present these cakes in absolutely filthy Tupperware boxes and then want her to try the cakes there and then. She added that Bake Off has made her fatter, and “also drunker thanks to my association with Mary [Berry]” and that she receives things in the post “which may or may not be brownies.”
She talked about the amazing time she had filming the BBC series The Mekong River with Sue Perkins. Afterwards, she was asked about her most intense memory. “The disregard for human life,” she said. “Are we talking about Bake Off?” Mark asked.
Mark mentioned that since last year Sue has gone up four places on The Rainbow List (formerly known as the Pink List), from position 10 to position 6. He added, “I’m number 40,” then glared over the top of his glasses at the audience. Sue said, “I’m not sure we need a Pink List.” Mark added mock-plaintively, “I’ve tried to be more gay, but I still don’t go up on the list.”
Someone had sent in the age-old question: “How do you pronounce the word ‘scone’?”
Sue: “I say ‘sconn’. Mary says, ‘scoan’.”
Mark thought it was because Mary was posher, adding, “Really posh people don’t say, ‘yes’, they say [in a long drawn-out word], ‘ears’.”
Next on were Andrew Scott and Amanda Abbington, who were not only dressed similarly but who mirrored each other’s movements and actions all afternoon. If we didn’t already know their personal circumstances I think there would have been much gossip that they were an item!
Mark (reading one of the questions for Andrew): “If there was one song that was an anthem for your life, what would it be?”
Andrew: “Oh ... fuck!”
While he struggled to think of a song, Amanda suggested, “‘If I Could Talk To The Animals’?”
Mark: “Amanda’s doing a play, for the first time in thirty years.”
Amanda (indignantly): “Ten!”
Mark laughed when he saw the next question and read it out in a deliberately mock-angry tone: “Does Andrew feel that there is any point in continuing this ridiculous charade in denying that he will be in series 4 of Sherlock?” [I think he knows the person who sent in the question and knew she wasn’t really being belligerent.] Andrew cracked up laughing for a while but when Mark pressed him for an answer, asking him sternly, “Do you regret behaving in this way?” Andrew looked out into the audience and told them, “No!”
Mark (reading the next question): “Has coming out changed the sort of roles you’ve been offered ... Amanda?”
Amanda said that the creator of Mr Selfridge, the TV series in which she appears, had actually wanted her character Miss Mardle to be gay, but The Powers That Be at the BBC had said no.
Mark asked Andrew how he felt about the forthcoming ceramic figurine of himself. Andrew said he hadn’t known about it until now but was now feeling massively excited! Mark said he’d seen a maquette (a scale model) of his own figurine and had been rather concerned about how lined it was, making him look very old, but had been reassured that the lines would be smoothed out in the actual model.
Amanda bemoaned that she would never have one – Andrew promised to make her one from Plasticine.
Mark (reading the next question to Amanda): “What’s it like working with your one and only, Martin?”
Amanda: “It’s great! ... It’s harder living with him.”
She added that he comes to work every day very prepared.
Mark (sternly): “Which I’m very glad about.”
The group was asked their Christmas traditions. Amanda said that on Christmas Eve after the kids have gone to bed, she puts fake snow around the fireplace and leaves a footprint in the snow together with a note from Santa.
Sue said, “I do that too, [but] it’s much creepier when you don’t have children!”
Andrew looked plaintively at Amanda and asked, “Why do you write a note? Santa writes notes from Santa! Are you suggesting ...?” and he continued to wibble until Amanda reassured him that she only wrote the note because Santa was very busy and didn’t have time to leave one for every child.
Miranda Richardson was next on, and Mark said to her, “You played Ruth Ellis, one of my favourite murderers!”
Reading one of the questions to her, he said, “You’ve played nine different queens. Are you a royalist, and is there another one you’d like to play ... apart from me?”
Miranda said that she doesn’t mind always being identified as Queenie from Blackadder but added, “Have a look at the other stuff!”
Derren Brown then came on and Mark instantly asked him in a rough accent, “‘Do us a trick. Go on, do us a trick.’ [In his normal voice] Do you get that all the time?”
In reply to another question, Derren said that generally about 30% of people are susceptible to hypnotism. However, because the audience at his shows know what’s likely to happen and therefore are more easily suggestible, he can pretty much get anybody on stage and click his fingers ... He clicked his fingers as he spoke and Amanda and Andrew simultaneously slumped against each other and pretended to be unconscious!
Later, Mark said to him again, “Go on, do us a trick.”
Derren: “I can do dramatic transformation, hang on ...”
He went offstage and a few seconds later a rather bewildered-looking Peter Capaldi wandered on!
Mark (to Peter): “You dreamed about it all your life, and it was something you had always wanted to do, but how was it to play a drag queen in Prime Suspect?!”
Peter was asked how his life has changed since he started in Doctor Who. He said that it’s extraordinary and he is constantly greeted with smiles, but made the point that really these people are meeting the whole show and its history, and that every actor who has played the part has contributed to its success.
Mark read out a question asking whether Peter is aware of how much people love him. He continued reading: “You’re hot and sexy and you’re loved ...” He looked more closely at the question and said, “This question isn’t attributed ... Oh, it’s from me(!)”
Derren: “I thought I wasn’t supposed to attribute my name!”
Mark (completing the question): “... by women.”
Peter: “The only person I want to love me is my wife; and the only person I love is my wife.”
The audience: “Awwww!”
When asked how he has developed his character, particularly when some of the episodes and/or scenes are filmed out of order, he said that he doesn’t try to keep an overview of the character, and he definitely doesn’t want to know what’s going to happen to him in advance.
Asked about how much influence he had over the Doctor’s dress style, he said he wanted him to be quite elegant, but also wanted his style to be something that children could easily follow in the playground. This prompted another appreciative, “Awww!” from the audience.
Asked what he would do if he could re-design the TARDIS, Peter said, “Roundels. I’d bring back the sixties roundels.” He added that he would also like to make it more Bauhaus.
Mark pointed out how much criticism there had been of the recent episode Kill the Moon, with many people writing in to complain how impossible it was for the Moon to really be an egg and that the whole idea was nonsense. He continued, “The concept of a police box flying round in time and space, however ...! I’m surprised that Brian Cox hasn’t done a programme about it yet!”
After a break, questions were opened up to the audience.
When someone asked, “What was your most memorable interaction with a fan?” everyone on stage panicked! Amanda tried to crawl over the back of her chair, and Andrew pretended that he had to take an urgent phone call! Mark pointed to another member of the audience with his hand up, saying, “Man at the back!” He went on, however, to talk about a time when a family met him outside a theatre and told him that watching The League of Gentlemen had helped them through a difficult time. The daughter gravely handed him a note which he realised she didn’t want him to read immediately. He opened it later to find one word on it: “Pregnant.” He fretted about whether this was a good or a bad thing, but after a year the girl wrote to him saying, “I gave you the wrong note”!
Amanda was complimented on her glittery silver shoes.
Amanda: “Thanks to Mark for letting me borrow them!”
Someone asked, “What do you mostly like to read?”
Mark: “Mostly nudey magazines.”
This sent Andrew into a protracted bout of hysterics!
Everyone was asked for an item on their Bucket List.
Sue said she preferred keeping her options open.
Amanda: “To do the fourth series of Sherlock.”
Andrew said he’d like to do more painting and drawing.
After they had got off the point for a while, Mark turned to Derren and said, “Derren, Bucket?”
Derren replied indignantly, “Don’t use our pet names in public!” He continued that he prefers to enjoy what he’s doing now. He feels that a Bucket List is too much of a ‘vertical ladder’ where you’re possibly trying to achieve unachievable things. He prefers the idea of a ‘frog on a lily pad’. When you get bored of that lily pad, you move horizontally to another one.
Peter (when asked for his Bucket List item): “Not to regenerate for a while.”
Miranda said she liked the idea of revisiting stuff she has thought about doing before and this time asking, “Why not?”
Mark said that his life motto, which should be on a T-shirt, is, “Work hard, Be kind.”
Peter was asked which real-life character he would like the Doctor to meet. “Martin Luther King,” he said. “I don't see why the Doctor shouldn't be involved in the civil rights struggle. ‘Those Ku Klux Klan guys – what's going on there?’”
Mark said that he had once drunkenly pitched to Steven Moffat the idea of the Doctor landing in the middle of a desert on a starry night, coming out of the TARDIS and following the brightest star ...
He then joked that someone pitched an episode in which Paul McCartney had to be assassinated, all so that they could get in a line where the Brigadier said, “Chap with Wings – five rounds rapid”!
When asked, “What would you like for Christmas?” everyone looked completely blank. Amanda asked, “Do you mean a present or [making air quotes] ‘world peace’?!”
Mark was asked if he finds it hard to keep secrets in shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock. He said that in the TV industry you become congenital liars. He added that Steven Moffat has been coming in for some stick lately for lying about the Master coming back. He continued, “But how would it have been taken if he’d said, ‘Yeah, he’s coming back. And he’d gonna be played by a woman this time!’?”
[Before moving on to the final question which I wrote down, I should mention that there had been an earlier question asking about everyone’s favourite musical and Mark had answered in a high-pitched sing-song voice, “Carousel!” and had then used any excuse to say it again frequently throughout the afternoon.]
The team were asked, “In a word, describe your friendship with Mark.”
Andrew (high-pitched and sing-song): “Carousel!”
Derren: “Sexual.” (to which Mark replied, “Derren Bucket!”)
There’s another report here which fills in some of the gaps which I missed.