Rob Lloyd's trial of a Time Lord
Australian comedian and Doctor Who superfan Rob Lloyd is putting the show on trial. His stage show Who, Me examines his relationship with a show he’s loved for more than 20 years. Ahead of it coming to Eden Court, we sat down with him to talk about the show, his own start in showbiz, and just what the British sci-fi classic means to him
Hi Rob, thanks for speaking to me! Whereabouts are you reading these just now?
Currently I’m in the middle of Snowdonia, having a little mid-tour RnR. Today we went and took a little trip out to Portmeirion…which was awesome! Most people remember it from The Prisoner (and rightly so) but for me it will always be the location of the Tom Baker era forgotten classic The Masque of Mandragora.
You’re here taking your show Who, Me up to Inverness – have you ever been this far north before?
I have! Back in 2013 when I first presented Who, Me at the Edinburgh Fringe I took a couple of days after the Festival had finished to tour around the Highlands with a tour group. We went up William Wallace’s monument, I got to take a dip in Loch Ness and we spent a couple of hours in Inverness...so I’m happy to be coming back, if only for a little bit longer.
You’re taking the show tour around the UK! It’s the first time you’ve brought it to this country since 2013’s Edinburgh Fringe – how are you looking forward to taking Who, Me on tour around the country of the show’s birth? How has the tour been going so far?
I was lucky enough to present Who, Me at the Edinburgh Fringe last year as well! That’s how this tour came about, a couple of venue managers from around the UK came and saw the show last year and off the back of that season they booked me for this year. I’m so grateful and excited to be here. I’ve been wanting to tour this show to the UK since I premiered it all the way back in 2011. I always get a kick out of presenting to UK audiences how “your” show has affected little old me from the other side of the world.
The tour has been going great so far, three down and six to go. All the venues have been amazing and the crowds have been so warm and generous.
Looking at yourself – how did you yourself become a performer? What inspired you into comedy?
I guess I always wanted to be a performer. In year one [of school] we were asked to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up – I drew myself as a character within the Star Wars universe.
As I was growing up my brother and I always acted out and mouthed the words to our favourite movies. I remember re-enacting all the Oompa Loompa musical numbers from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in our living room. We also use to quote the entire movie The Sword in the Stone on long car trip – much to the bemusement of our very patient parents.
As for specifically getting into comedy, I guess it was Whose Line is it Anyway? That show inspired me to study improvisation. I don’t consider myself a stand up, I feel more comfortable describing myself as a comic actor and improviser.
So talk me through Who, Me – as a performer, how did you decide to create a show based around your great fandom love? How did you come up with the idea of putting the show on trial? It’s got a nice parallel with Trial of a Time Lord – is that intentional?
I never wanted to do a show about Doctor Who. I didn’t think my story of being a fan was that interesting. Plus for a long time in my career I never really did shows about my life. I always worked in improvisation or sketch groups where I was always playing other characters. I studied to be an actor. I knew how to be someone else on stage, but I didn’t know how to be me.
In 2010, it was my 10th anniversary of doing comedy and I decided it was time to challenge myself and do my first solo show. I figured I do it on something I was passionate about, so I chose Sherlock Holmes. With my director and collaborator Scott Gooding we created a one-man show where I recreated the first Holmes story A Study in Scarlet.
During rehearsals Scott would ask me about how I got into Holmes. The stories I told him ended up in the final show much to my protests but Scott assured me audience would get a kick out of hearing how I was drawn to a fictional character like Sherlock Holmes. And they did.
The show was a surprising successful, so this lead to us reteaming to focus on Doctor Who for my second solo show. The trial structure came about through rehearsals, when we realised the crux of the show was trying to decide whether Who had been a positive or negative influence over my life.
Oh – and the parallels with Trial of a Time Lord are very much intentional, as you will see when you see the show...
How have you approached this subject so close to your heart – and such a massive subject too, with almost 55 years of history behind it?
We started with my story and my connection with the show because that in itself is a little different to the usual Who fan story. You see I got into Doctor Who quite late – in 1996. This was during the hiatus era so there was only the McGann movie and novel adventures to keep us occupied, along with the gradual release of all the stories on VHS.
How do you take a show about a subject as nebulous as Doctor Who and make it accessible to folk beyond the fandom?
We realised while creating this show that everyone has something they are passionate about, it could be a sports team, a pop star and book franchise. We can all relate to the lengths that we go to for the things we love.
A big part of being a fan of anything is obviously its community. I know you’ve had kind words from folk involved with the show itself (Jo Grant and Terrence Dicks) but how have you found fellow Doctor Who enthusiasts have responded to this personal tale of your Who fandom?
The Doctor Who community has been incredible in every country I have toured the show. What people don’t realise is that Doctor Who was never meant to be just for kids. It was meant to be a family show, a show everyone could watch together. That still exists now, the best way to watch Doctor Who is with a group of people. It’s a real collective experience, and Doctor Who fans have carried that on since day one.
Who fans love to meet up, talk/argue about favourite stories and script editors. Who, Me is the only show where I go and meet the audience afterwards, sometimes I can be there chatting with the audience members for 30 mins to an hour after the show.
The conversation just flows, not just about Who but about their stories as well. I love hearing how other fans got into Doctor Who.
You’ve been performing Who, Me as a show for seven years now – has the production changed much over the years?
Little bits have. The overall show has stayed the same but certain jokes, references and moments have been edited, changed or removed. This is to keep the show current and relevant. When I started doing this show Matt Smith was the current Doctor.
During my 2013 Edfringe season Peter Capaldi was announced as the new Doctor.
Last year when Jodie Whittaker was announced I was just about to do the show at the Toronto Fringe Festival. I had to improvise some references to her in that show. The crowd loved it. In the end, that particular show was one of my favourite ever performances of Who, Me.
Over those seven years, Doctor Who has changed a lot too (such is the show’s nature of course), with another new era of the show about to begin and Jodie Whittaker taking up the role as the first female Doctor. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you think the show has developed and how it is continuing to develop after nearly 55 years!
Doctor Who is all about change. It wouldn’t have survived this long if it wasn’t for it’s ability to change the show’s genre, it’s location and even it’s leading performer. I am super pumped to see what Jodie Whittaker does with The Doctor. I haven’t been shy about defending it or discussing it online either.
Not only has the show been around for incredible advances in technology, science, politics, gender roles, sexuality, even down to the basics of how television is made and indeed consumed, but it has advanced with the times as well. It has always been a perfect reflection of the era it is from – like how all good science fiction should be.
Of all Doctor Who’s history, of its TV shows old and new, and Big Finish dramas, and fan films, its good episodes and bad episodes and everything in between, what personally is the one shining thing about it that has kept you so enthralled by it throughout your life?
The Doctor is a fantastic role model. The Doctor has inspired me in so many different ways. The Doctor’s compassion, moral compass, strength of character, hatred of violence, intelligence, wit and ability to improvise has kept me going through some of the show’s darkest times but more importantly through some rather dark times for me too.
In the end The Doctor has always pushed me to be a better person.
Final, and painfully obvious, question: who would you say is YOUR Doctor, and why?
Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor is my all time favourite Doctor. For the reasons why...come see the show!
Rob Lloyd brings Who, Me to Eden Court on Sunday night at 8pm, tickets cost £16.