Monday, August 30, 2010

The Voice: Charles Simpson

Way back in 1990...20 years ago!.... an actor named Charles Simpson starred opposite actress Susannah Doyle in a 5-part, 15-minute each part radio drama, Breathing Underwater, by Bryony Lavery.

A wreck diver, Sennon Penenome,(Doyle) travels to a place called Northant at the behest of Professor Simon Murray (Simpson) to help him excavate a 16th century ship called the Elizabeth Mary. Because of the name, "Sennon", Murray doesn't realize his diver is a woman until she shows up at the boat with her gear. His first words are, "You won't do," which annoys Sennon. After a trial dive, Sennon decides she doesn't want to dive for him, and he decides he doesn't want her to dive for him. They tell each other simultaneously, which leads to a rather amusing scene.

Sennon can't get another dive job - and Murray can't get another diver. Worse, one of his academic rivals has found a ship of his own, and is excavating it (with the help of the diving Swedes, Knut and Sven Tollman, or as Sennon calls them, the root vegetables whom she taught how to dive.)

Desperate, Murray goes back to Sennon, who is still in Porthant, and asks her to dive for him. Sennon agrees.

Sennon is consumed with angst on the next dive, and indeed, subsequent dives, because her mother, a promiscuous woman (who isn't really sure who Sennon's father is) has told her that he drowned out in Porthant Bay, and Sennon suspects that it was a man called Renowndon, who's great, great, great, great grandfather died on the ship Murray wants her to hep excavate.

Finally, they both dive on the wreck, both angry with each other (there'd been a kiss, which Sennon had quickly regretted). They get separated. Murray surfaces (from 200 feet, in 10 minutes), tells the boat pilot to give him another tank, and goes back down. They finally find each other, and surface. They're all happy and kissy kissy at this point (although each thinks they have saved the other).

Sennon calls her mother and demands to know who her father really was, and is told that it isn't any of the men on the island, but some Greek sailor she met. Sennon then invites Murray out in a dinghy, and they have sex, and all is well.

So, the ending is rather corny, and the technical diving (as wreck diving is called when it is below 150 - 200 feet) is extremely suspect.

But, it was fun. And I liked Charles Simpson's portrayal of Simon Murray. Some of his exchanges with Sennon -- and Susannah Doyle's Sennon is a very "in your face" kind of girl - are great with their timing.

Now, I actually first heard this about four years or so ago, on BBC Radio 7. I did a cursory check for Charles Simpson at that time...but didn't really follow up on it. All I found was that he didn't have much of a presence on the IMDb.

After an absence of a year or so, I've started listening to it again, and redoubled my search to find more on Simpson. Finally found 2 things he's been in that my local library had. In each one, he just has a tiny role.

The screencaps below are from Touching Evil, starring Robson Green, a police drama in which Simpson plays the Coroner, Max. He's got three scenes.

I always wonder, when an actor whom I like doesn't seem to have had a big career, why that is. Of course in England, you can't really tell. He may spend most of his time acting on stage. And while American actors are covered pretty well in the IMDB, I'm not so sure British actors are. There may be more roles than the Imdb shows.

He's done a lot of radio, though...unfortunately only a couple of which are aired on BBC 7... Breathing Underwater (by Bryony Lavery) and Agatha Christie's Sad Cypress.

[Edited as of May 21, 2011. Charles Simpson hasn't been acting for the last 8 or so years because he has his own company, Garnett & Simpson, in which he and his colleagues provide communication coaching to businesspeople in the financial and legal sectors. Coo-el!]

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