20 Jun Paterson Joseph: the Man who Fell to Mirth
Paterson Joseph by Simon.
For the part of The PuppyMaster in Episode 4 of STRANGENESS in SPACE, Pet Shock Boys, we needed someone who could play a giant French-speaking robot made from the parts of a crashed clockwork rocket designed by the 19th century French clock maker Achille Brocot (famed for his development of perpetual calendar mechanisms). Hmmmm… no big whoop then.
Paterson Joseph has something otherworldly about him. All the best actors have it; as if they are both in this world and out of it too; observers and participants at the same time. From Johnson in Peep Show to Holy Wayne in The Leftovers (claiming to have the power to heal people of their burdens) Paterson has the real power to move from cringeworthy corporate comedy (“don’t be alarmed Mark, it’s just Tai Chi”… Oh! An aside: Wouldn’t it be great to see Alan Johnson, David Brent, Colin Hunt, and Alan Partridge form a band for Comic Relief!)… to the complicated depths and emotionally draining The Leftovers (for me, one of the best and most deeply affecting dramas of recent times).
A brief warning… whilst Paterson’s appearance in STRANGENESS in SPACE is undoubtedly child friendly, the following clips do contain swearing and adult themes. here goes:
For the record, I’ve never seen Paterson in Casualty.
I’d had Paterson in mind for the part of the PuppyMaster from the beginning, and when Sophie said she’d worked with him once on a Big Finish Dr Who audio drama, well, we just had to ask.
We couldn’t hold out much hope. It takes yonks for agents to get back to you, particularly when you’re asking one of their clients to work on a crowdfunded project where everybody gets paid the same, and the agent’s percentage on that fee would, at best, buy them a Peep Show DVD (just the one series, not the box set).
A while went by; it seems to be true – In STRANGENESS in SPACE no one can hear an actor’s agent scream. And then Clare received an email. It was brief, to the point. “He’s in”.
If you’re unfamiliar with Paterson by name, you’re bound to know him by face. How about this for some edited highlights: Casualty, Neverwhere, Cold Feet, The Beach, Aeon Flux, Waking the Dead, Silent Witness, A Touch of Frost, William and Mary, Peep Show, Murphy’s Law, Sex Traffic, My Dad’s the Prime Minister, Green Wing, Dalziel and Pascoe, Dr Who (coming shockingly close to being the 11th Doctor until that guy in the fez turned up!), Rose and Maloney, Jericho, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Hyperdrive, Jekyll, Survivors, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Chop Socky Chooks, Death in Paradise, Hustle, Law & Order: UK, Babylon, The Leftovers, You Me and the Apocalypse, STRANGENESS in SPACE!
On the day of recording, Paterson arrived satchel over shoulder, and in his trademark Newsboy cap (or, should you prefer, Gatsby, Newsy, Baker Boy, Fisherman’s Cap, Poor Boy Cap, or – and I have no idea why – Lundberg Stetson).
He made me think of a late 18th century/ early 19th century style actor (perhaps Edmund Kean playing with his pet puma in his drawing-room?), roaming the earth, turning up here and doing his thing, moving on there and doing his other thing; wandering the globe, acting, carousing, eating, drinking, wearing hats. It’s how I like to think of him, and no doubt completely unfair; though when we met he was just about to head off for a spot of globe-trotting, starting in Chicago, performing in the highly acclaimed self-penned drama Sancho: An Act of Remembrance, based on the life of Ignatius Sancho, believed to be the first black man to cast a vote in England (and also, incidentally, a friend of David Garrick; so perhaps my 18th century mad actor stereotype is not too wide of the mark, and I use the term ‘mad actor’ in the most affectionate of ways).
And whilst he was with us Paterson also recorded a short piece about discovering Shakespeare as a schoolboy; all part of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary celebrations. As a teenager he auditioned for the National Youth theatre. Here he is, recounting that time to the guardian: “A friend of mine was applying. I hadn’t been very good academically but I knew I could act … I was just basically following him … I was sent to a teacher for help and she slid a copy of The Merchant of Venice across the table and said to find a speech in that … And that was it! I had never been taught Shakespeare, never really heard it said aloud, it was the first play I’d ever looked at, and I thought I should read it out loud … I was so inarticulate: I had such great thoughts and couldn’t quite speak them out loud, like a lot of kids. So I was quite quiet and a bit of a mumbler. This power that I had in my mouth suddenly was like fizzy sherbet – it suddenly felt like my mouth was moving in ways I didn’t know it could do. My tongue was having to do acrobatics. That was my first love – even though I didn’t get into the National Youth Theatre because I was painfully shy in my interview. But it helped me realise I could do this.”
It was the National Youth Theatre’s loss. Fizzy sherbert! It doesn’t sound too far removed from Coleridge’s take on Edmund Kean: “Seeing him act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning”.
I’m a bit of a goon when it comes to Shakespeare. Too many times I’ve seen actors try and help me understand those weird Elizabethan words with wild hand gestures and gurning faces. Watch Paterson, or rather listen. It’s lightning! It’s fizzy sherbert!
Perhaps I’m wrong about Paterson’s otherworldy nature. It seems Paterson is very much in this world, moving around everywhere, filling time and space with pieces of TV and theatre and film that will reach into all our lives; sometimes showing us things we never knew, enlightening us to universal truths, and making us laugh along the way.
But then again, perhaps he is the new Man who fell to Earth. After all (and how could I not love this?) in Numberwang he did play Simon from Space!
PostScript from Clare:
we’re publishing this today because it is Paterson’s Birthday… we wish him the happiest of days wherever he is trotting the globe today, and we doff our cyber caps to him for bringing a giant French-speaking robot made from the parts of a crashed clockwork rocket designed by the 19th century French clock maker Achille Brocot to life in a way no other could have achieved with such je ne sais quoi…. MERCI!
Don’t forget, you can hear Episode Four: Pet Shock Boys here