About Martin Jarvis
An Interview with Martin Jarvis
More About Martin Jarvis
Martin Jarvis’ distinguished career ranges from acclaimed productions of Ayckbourn, Pinter, Wilde and Shakespeare in London to Murder, She Wrote and James Cameron’s Titanic in Hollywood. He is an accomplished reader of audiobooks and has read previous Dick Francis thrillers for Penguin Audiobooks (consequently being dubbed ‘The voice of Dick Francis’). In 1995 he received the British Talkies Award. He was awarded an OBE in 1999.
How did you first starting reading for audiobooks?
I gained my first experience in reading for the microphone in BBC radio on programmes such as A Book at Bedtime, and the Woman's Hour Serial. My first audiobook was for EMI - Where Eagles Dare, by Alastair Maclean - a good 'mind movie'.
Is it very different from playing a role?
No - it is playing a role. But not just one. And you have to be yourself as well. You really are the whole book - and, in a way, the writer too. It's more like directing and performing a movie - in full colour - in your head. The combined result of your imagination and that of the writer, projects, via the ear, to the screen in the listener's head.
Do you imagine a particular listener when you read?
Not really - just somebody who wants to hear a good story.
How do you keep track of all the different accents?
I try to keep a picture in my head of the various characters. If I can 'see' them clearly then I know how they should sound. And in seeing them, just like suddenly bumping into an aquaintance in the street, I remember quite a lot about them. But I need to have done plenty of homework first. I wouldn't like to have given the character of, say, Gordon a Scots accent, only to find on page 192 he hails from Dublin.
Which books do you most enjoy reading aloud?
I enjoy Dickens for his dramatic characterisation. Miss Haversham in Great Expectations was a challenge. Richmal Crompton's Just William stories are terrific fun to read. She has a humorous view of the world and how ludicrously we all tend to behave from time to time. William himself is a gigantic character who still goes strong as our warm hearted representative of "doin' good, ritin' rongs and pursuin' happiness". Dick Francis spins a good yarn and they are a pleasure to 'perform' as there are usually three or four characters - often from the racing fraternity - that require me to dip down pretty deep in the vocal barrel of reserves to come up with the appropriate 'juice'. Michael Frayn is a joy to read, both for his comedy and for his intensity. I have to say I also much enjoyed recording my autobiography Acting Strangely for BBC Worldwide Radio Collection and Chivers Audio. I was able to pay tribute, through characterisation, to many of my fellow actors, writers and directors - Gielgud, Richardson, Robert Duval, Pinter, Peter Hall, Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Badel. Judi Dench was a tricky one!
Which, of all the audio books you have recorded, is your favourite?
Almost impossible to say because the one I am doing at present is - for that length of time - the favourite - (Wilbur Smith's Men of Men for Macmillan.) But perhaps the most dramatic, intriguing and human, is A Night to Remember - The True Story of the Titanic. This is released by BBC Worldwide (and Audio Partners in the US) and, because of its extraordinary content, is a remarkable story to hear. So, yes, that's my favourite.
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