Mark Gatiss: Closure of Darlington Arts Centre is a ‘real loss’

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Mark Gatiss, best known for his role in “The League of Gentlemen”, gave a talk at Carmel College in Darlington on Friday, December 5th, 2014.

The 48-year-old, whose acting credits also includes “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock”, returned to the North East, having been born and raised in the area.

Hosted by The Northern Echo editor Peter Barron, the evening began with a video montage of Gatiss’ acting career in various film and television roles, before the man himself was welcomed on to the stage.

Gatiss opened by talking about the closure of the Arts Centre, which was shut down in 2012 after the Darlington Borough Council revealed that it could no longer pay the £500,000 a year subsidy. He said: “It’s a real loss but, when cuts start being made, arts and culture is often the first to go.”

The topic of conversation moved on to Gatiss’ childhood, in which he discussed his early life. This included his relationship with his father and brother, as well as his education at Heighington Primary School, Woodham Comprehensive School and Bretton Hall College.

It was at Bretton Hall College in Leeds where he met Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Jeremy Dyson, who later formed “The League of Gentlemen” through a love of comedy.

Having written a lot of “Doctor Who” stories as a child, Gatiss described being asked to write the script for the television programme as “the best thing”, with his acting role in the show being “the next best thing”.

Following an interval, the floor was opened up to questions from the audience, which largely consisted of Gatiss’ friends, family and fans.

When asked whether he would consider taking on the role of The Doctor, Gatiss said that the celebrity status and subsequent intrusion into his privacy was an “off-putting” factor, adding that he would be happy for the role to be taken over by a woman “if it was the right person”. He also expressed an interest in filming episode of Doctor Who in the North East.

Talking about the future of “Sherlock”, Gatiss said: “We all want to make lots more. We’re very happy to keep making them for as long as we can. The trouble is now everyone involved is so famous that getting them all together is really tough. We’re doing a special and then three more later on. We’ll carry on as long as we can.”

He added: “What is brilliant is starting with them much younger than they’re ever usually done. What would be brilliant is get to Benedict and Martin the same age as Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce and we would have grown up with them which would be lovely.”

In 2015, Mark Gatiss is set to play the role of Captain Mainwaring’s colonel in the “Dad’s Army” remake. Speaking about the film, he explained that “there’s not too much pressure for me because I’m not playing one of the platoon so I can get away with it”.

He continued: “I always used to think about Dad’s Army that the backdrop is the worst conflict in history, but what we’re doing in a very British way is managing to get through by having a laugh.

“It’s a lovely script and a fantastic cast, I think everyone involved loves the original. I was actually very sceptical when I first heard about it, but it’s being remade by people who love the original and want to do right by it.”

Organised by Darlington mayor Gerald Lee and Teesside University, the evening was held to raise funds in aid of Butterwick Hospice Children’s Unit and Phoenix House Recovery Unit, with thousands of pounds being raised for the charities.