Discussion with Davros: An Afternoon with Terry Molly – Review – November 2019
By David Schuster, November 2019
Listening to Terry Molloy is a little like getting into conversation with someone interesting on the train or, given that his clothes have something of a Victorian air (pork pie hat, white collarless shirt, waistcoat and watch chain), perhaps at a folk festival. He’s had a tremendous variety of roles across stage, television and radio as diverse as The Archers, in which he’s taken the part of Mike Tucker ‘the Milkman from Hell’ for 45 years and Davros, the criminally insane creator of the Daleks, in the much-loved BBC television series Dr Who. It’s because of that latter role that he’s the focus of Who77’s latest ‘An Afternoon With…’ event.
Whilst people often have a favourite Doctor, there’s no doubt that Molloy is everyone’s favourite Davros, having made the role his own in three separate series: ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’, with Peter Davidson, the 5th Doctor, ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ alongside Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, the 6th and 7th Doctors respectively. However, this is much more than just a show for the dedicated ‘Whovians’ though, loyal as ever, they are here in numbers; it’s a full career retrospective, each section of which is preceded by a short and well observed introductory video.
“Humorous and engaging”
Molloy is an enthusiastic and engaging speaker, jumping back and forth across his many years in the entertainment industry, regaling us with humorous and engaging anecdotes. Chris Hoyle, Who77’s regular host, is experienced enough to gently steer the veteran actor through the highlights of his performances whilst allowing him space to tell his tales fully. From his time as Davros he recalls, “People assume that The Chariot (his affectionate name for the Dalek bottom half of his costume) was electrically powered. They forget that this is the BBC: It had a hole in the bottom, and I had to drag it around with my toes. I’ve got the strongest toes in the Business!”
Headrow House in Leeds is the ideal venue for these events, being large enough to accommodate the audience in its second-floor performance space, but sufficiently intimate that everyone feels close to the speaker. There’s a bar for the half time interval where you can enjoy a coffee or an alcoholic drink. I opt to combine both with a whiskey coffee, on the grounds that it’s a cold and miserable autumn day outside.
Appropriately for someone who has appeared regularly in The Archers since 1973, a good section of the afternoon is spent discussing this. Acting on radio, he believes, gives you more control over the performance than television, as there’s no camera work and very little editing between actor and audience. Also, he adds with a wry smile, age and appearance doesn’t matter. Though the fact that the audience can’t see you, coupled with the Producers’ cost conscious inventiveness has sometimes given rise to some strange situations.
“For the Cruel Sea,” he recalls, “I had to sound like I was reporting from the engine room of a ship. So, I found myself lying on the studio floor, with my head in a metal bin, speaking into a vacuum cleaner tube, connected to the microphone!” There are some secrets from The Archers’ sound effects too. Apparently, the sounds of lambing are simulated by squeezing yoghurt between the fingers, and the actual birth by dropping a wet towel onto a pile of old recording tape to create an authentic rustle of straw.
For someone with such a range of experience; television, radio, stage and most recently author of children’s books, Molloy is charmingly self-effacing, observing that he got many of his roles as a result of other actors being unavailable. “I’ve realised I can have any part I want. All I have to do is outlive everyone else”, he twinkles with a grin.