As part of the Benjamin Britten centenary celebrations a concert next week will focus on the composer’s collaborations with WH Auden some of whose poems he set to music.
At Firth Hall on Tuesday the quintet Utter:Jazz will re-interpret Britten’s melodies and harmonies, with jazz and world music influences complemented by readings of WH Auden poetry by Roger Lloyd Pack.
The actor is best remembered as Trigger in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses which wouldn’t suggest a connection with poetry but there is.
“Only Fools was such a success that I was identified with Trigger and I wanted to establish that was just one string to my bow,” he says. “So, with my wife (a poet, Jehane Markham) I set up a production company to release recordings of me reading Keats, Coleridge and Blake.
“It was to break out from the straightjacket I felt I was in.
“I have always enjoyed poetry and I remember from the age of 10 or 12 at school learning poems by heart. I think the rhyme and rhythm of poetry and the structure of the words has helped me as an actor.” The actor has appeared as narrator at music concerts before such as The Ugly Duckling and worked with music and storytelling company Wonderful Beasts. “I have worked a lot with musicians.
“I like the dynamic of it,” he says.
Utter:Jazz’s Look Stranger is 12 vibrant re-imaginings of Benjamin Britten’s WH Auden settings with swing, samba, blues and grooves woven through the harmonic soundscapes of the originals with the poetry readings between the songs.
“I looked at the poems and thought some of them were difficult and a little too dense to read and Ruthie Calvert from Utter: Jazz took this on board and cast the net a little wider among Auden’s work,” says the actor.
“The thing I have to try and do is to get out of the way of the poems and not impose myself on them.”
Lloyd-Pack was at the Crucible Theatre in 2005 in the play, Blue Orange, and regrets that a prior commitment means that this will just be a flying visit so he will not be able to re-visit Sheffield haunts and especially the Peak District.
He has just completed a long stint in Richard III and Twelfth Night at the Globe and in the West End and was also in the movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
It all demonstrates his versatility. “I have managed a variety in my work and I like to do different stuff,” he says.
He was talking just after returning from the Canary Islands where he has been filming a pilot for a comedy series which suggest the man from Only Fools and Horses and The Vicar of Dibley is happy to return to what he once feared was a straightjacket.
Look, Stranger performed by Roger Lloyd Pack and the Utter: Jazz collective is at Sheffield University’s Firth Hall on Western Bank on Tuesday 15 October