Big news: Tony Robinson has grown a moustache, and a pretty impressive one at that. Exciting as this is, the most thrilling part of the evening is hearing his distinctive voice in real life, soothing the nerves and triggering peaceful flashbacks to whiling away an afternoon watching Time Team.
Robinson first caught public attention in 1983 as Baldrick in Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder, but his abilities extend far beyond that of a bumbling manservant with a cunning plan. A dynamic and likeable character, his talk at Waterstones on his new autobiography is a highly agreeable way to spend a Friday evening.
A graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama, Robinson has some entertaining insights into the circles he has lived and worked in, referring to ‘Oxbridge comedy’, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and the like, and ‘public schoolboy’ actors.
Referring to these actors as “not the prettiest lot”, Robinson put forth a personal theory that they were forced to be the smartest, the quickest and the wittiest to avoid being bullied mercilessly as children, developing a competitive complex that lasted long into adulthood and resulted in the lightning-fast exchange of ‘Oxbridge comedy’.
It has to be said that it is always enjoyable to see notable celebrities having a dig at private school kids, especially as acting is so often a notoriously elitist field.
At the age of 70, Robinson is seriously energetic. He is unable to keep still; he leaps up every five minutes or so to emphasise his point or pace around, and even entertains the slight possibility of appearing on Strictly Come Dancing next year.
This physical energy resurfaces in his thoughts on politics and the disaster that is 2016, “the year of the barmy elections”. The world is changing so frequently, he says, that we have to be really “nimble on our feet” to go along with it. To him, this means working together, rather than as individuals.
Quoting Obama, he stresses the importance of figuring out a plan, and of organisation, as opposed to wasting energy moaning and coming to no conclusion.
Photo credit: Southbanksteve