Tom Bennett is fast becoming the best comedy actor in the country, having seriously impressed critics and audiences alike for his outstanding performance as Sir James Martin in Love & Friendship, co-starring Kate Beckinsale.
Bennett, who was a series regular on PhoneShop, appeared in Netflix’s Mascots and had a great supporting role in David Brent: Life on the Road, is now appearing in David Spicer’s Raising Martha playing at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, North London.
Directed by Michael Fentiman, Bennett is joined by a wonderful ensemble of British talent including Julian Bleach, Stephen Boxer, Joel Fry, Gwyneth Keyworth and Jeff Rawle.
Raising Martha tells us a hilarious, cautionary tale… Gerry and Roger’s mum has gone missing. Well, most of her has…
The unwitting victims of animal rights activists campaigning for the freedom of the family frog farm’s slimy inhabitants, the brothers must bring in the hapless Inspector Clout to establish the whereabouts of their long dead mother.
An absurdly funny comedy starring the finest comedy ensemble live on stage, Raising Martha tackles terrorism, animal rights and six-foot frogs to brilliant effect.
Tom Bennett talked us through the play and his past work, including his comedy heroes, his thoughts on the industry and his future projects.
Can you tell us about your new play Raising Martha, and the character that you play?
Raising Martha is a white knuckle ride of batshit crazy escapades! Frogs, drugs, rights, lust, love, murder, dissection, buried bones, mud, muck, weapons, semi nudity, lies and betrayal! If you can keep up with that you’re one of life’s big winners!
How did you first get involved with the project?
I’m mainly a TV boy so I always jump at the chance to do theatre as its a completely different beast & the super-combo of Anne Vosser, Michael Fentiman & Park Theatre was pretty tempting! Other than that it was just another one of many auditions that jobbing actors spend their days doing!
Having appeared on stage, film and TV, do you find the disciplines distinctly different in your approach? Do you have a favourite amongst the three?
No I love them all equally! I’m newest to film but even my film jobs have been relatively small scale and had more of a TV vibe to them. Low key & relaxed! That’s what I like most, low key and relaxed in all 3 disciplines!
Your role in Love & Friendship was truly sensational – you stole every scene as Sir James Martin! What are your memories of filming that movie, and getting such wonderful praise for your performance?
Love & Friendship has been an absolute game changer for me. I think it’s fair to say the response it’s had has taken everyone by surprise. We all knew it was good but the reactions have been incredible and yes I’ve had some pretty great reviews which is very humbling.
We’re a year down the line from its Sundance Premiere and it’s still very much at the forefront of my thoughts and comes up so often professionally….also I’m now mates with Lady Kate Beckinsale which ain’t bad either…
We feel like you were utterly robbed of a BAFTA nomination…
Tom “Bafta-snubbed” Bennett is my new stage name! I don’t mind at all – I never expected one, I’m truly very flattered people are upset on my behalf!
We also wanted to see more of your character Nigel Martin in David Brent: Life on the Road. What was that filming experience like?
Working with Ricky was a complete joy he’s a true pro. By the time he gets to set he’s on top of everything, knows exactly what he wants, wears so many hats but runs an incredibly fun ship. What’s not to love about standing next to one of your comic heroes playing one of the greatest comic creations of the last 20 years…and being allowed to laugh at him!
Any scope for David Brent and Nigel to return to our screens in the future?
You’d have to ask Ricky but needless to say I’d leap at the chance.
How hard was it to keep a straight face whilst filming PhoneShop, because that was a hilarious series! Do you have fond memories of your time there?
PhoneShop will always be one of the most loved, influential, pivotal, familial, fun, rewarding things I’ve ever done. We felt like a little family being allowed to do this incredible little piece that was so loved. We had a real sense of ownership of it because it was so heavily workshopped and improv’ed before we even came to film. They were 5 of the most magnificent years of my life.
You’ve worked with some amazing talent over the years – what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?
Be early, Learn the lines and don’t bump into the furniture! – my dad
What makes Tom Bennett laugh?
My daughter and You’ve Been Framed.
What are your favourite comedy performances of all time?
Too big a question but top of my head Fawlty, Brent, Tuffnell, Partridge, Marenghi, Spencer!
Many believe that we are in a golden age of TV, and that it’s overtaking Film. What do you think?
Could well be, we’ve entered the era of binge watching and certainly long form is the new hot thing. Netflix and Amazon are running things right now!
How has the industry changed since you started? Do you think it’s easier to get started now?
Yes it’s definitely changed in many ways but hopefully talent will always out! It’s definitely a lot easier to make your own stuff now than it was. If you’ve got an idea and some friends you can make it on an iPhone!
With movies now firmly on the CV, what’s next up for you?
I wouldn’t say they’re “firmly” on my CV but what’s next is whatever’s next. I just love working so it’s usually a case of what’s next as opposed to some kind of masterplan or goal.
Finally, why should people come to see Raising Martha at the Park Theatre?
Because it’s bonkers from start to finish…and you get to see me in Y-fronts!
Thanks for your time and best of luck for the future Tom, we are big fans of your work.
Thank you so much!
Raising Martha is playing now until 11th February at the Park Theatre.