Working with Mary, by Jenny Runacre
We have just released a great new interview with actress Mary Tamm, conducted by her friend and fellow actress Jenny Runacre. During the interview they talk a bit about their time working together. Here is some more about it, from Jenny’s point of view…
I first got to know Mary Tamm as a friend about 1976 when we were both cast in a film to be shot in Greece. The film was called ‘The Doubt’ and it was written and going to be directed by a Greek director, who shall be nameless at this point! The story was about two girls who were both having an affair with the same man – we were going to be paid in instalments and wereto spend at least 6 weeks filming in the sunshine in Greece. Christopher Plummer was going to be the star.
So, extremely excited and looking forward to filming we duly flew off and were put up in a delightful small hotel in Athens. It was end of May/early June – the best time to be in Greece – the weather was perfect and the city of Athens was buzzing. We met the small crew and began the shoot. Unfortunately filming did not go smoothly – we seemed to record endless sequences of me or Mary, either stuck in a lift, or great close-ups of us doing our make- up. There was absolutely no sign of Christopher Plummer, however we were constantly assured that he was on his way. We also had to inexplicably keep moving hotels!
We had received our first instalment of money and therefore weren’t too worried, but gradually the filming slowed down to almost non-existent levels and then it finally stopped. We were told that there would be a short ‘break’ in filming, so we decided to go off to the Greek Islands – named Mykonos – where we had a decidedly good time and totally forgot that we were even supposed to be filming! We spent all day swimming and sunbathing and most evenings eating and partying. However, eventually we began to realise that things were not right, so we made our way back to Athens to try and find out what was going on. We couldn’t find our director anywhere! The only person we could contact was a sort of administrative assistant that he had in tow, who didn’t seem to know what was going on either. We hung around for a few more days, not willing to accept that there was probably not going to be a film made that year, and then decided that enough was enough and we were going to go back to London. This presented us with another problem, because by this time the film money had run out and we were left with nothing to pay our final hotel bills with or our air tickets back home!
After a great deal of kerfuffle, we both managed to scrape enough money together to get back in one piece, without angry hotel managers chasing us for cash, and we arrived back in London sun-tanned, but broke.
The next time I worked with Mary was on a play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder called ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant’. It was to run at the New End Theatre in Hampstead and directed by Robert Walker (who subsequently made a name for himself as a TV director). The French actress Delphine Seyrig who had made the classic French movie ‘Last Summer in Marienbad’ and who had a great arty following, took the starring role. The summer that year was extremely hot, the New End Theatre is incredibly small and was packed out every night. The play got excellent reviews and the run was extended. We had David Hockney in the audience and other members of the art cognoscenti. We had a great time as usual, out every night in all the little restaurants in Hampstead and generally having a great time. Also in the cast was Angela Pleasance – Donald Pleasance’s daughter. She played the ‘maid’ and she had no lines whatsoever. Despite this, she managed to upstage us all every night by her wonderful facial expressions, all totally in character! Her Dad had taught her all he knew.
I became quite good friends with Delphine as she and I shared a dressing room. She was an ardent feminist and she asked me to go with her to visit the Refuge Centre in Chiswick that Erin Pizzey had set up for victims of domestic violence – Delphine wanted to set up a similar centre in Paris. I remember the visit being a sombre experience.
Someone had also given me a copy of the book Scum Manifesto written by Valerie Solanas (she was the woman who later made a murder attempt on Andy Warhol) which I hadn’t yet read and which was very difficult to get hold of. Delphine asked if she could borrow it and return the copy to me from Paris. I never got the book back and consequently have never read it! Strangely enough years later when I was practising a lot of yoga, a very prestigious yoga teacher came to London to conduct some special workshops. After I had attended a couple of these workshops – he said to me, ‘you don’t recognise me do you Jenny’ and he turned out to be the Assistant Stage Manager of the New End Theatre on the production of Petra Von Kant! We have been friends ever since.
Mary and I had an incredibly fun time on Petra Von Kant and after that became very firm friends and as you can hear in the interview, we are still friends now.