Australian Robert Lloyd is bringing his one man show to Edinburgh this month. Lloyd appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world, in 2013. He returns to the Scottish capital following sell-out appearances across Australia, New Zealand, and America. He spoke exclusively to Blogtor Who about his upcoming show ‘Who, Me’ which begins tonight in the Studio of the Gilded Balloon at the Rose Theatre.
Blogtor Who: You’re back in Edinburgh with a Doctor Who themed show. Tell us a little bit about it.
Robert Lloyd: Well, “Who, Me” is my second solo show. I first performed it back in 2011 for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. I had a sell-out season with a lot of support and a lot of great reviews. I took it to the Adelaide Fringe Festival and then on to the Comedy Festival. It was held over with even more sell-out shows.
I got a great opportunity to meet the Australian Doctor Who community from Melbourne and Adelaide and that really helped consolidate the show within the Australian Whovian community, which was really exciting.
I then took the rest of 2012 off to prepare for a massive tour, which was my first big tour of the show in 2013, where I took it all around Australia and I took it to New Zealand and I took it to Edinburgh for the first time, and that was incredible.
BlogtorWho: You were in Edinburgh during 2013 which was, of course, an exciting year for Doctor Who?
Robert Lloyd: I was in Edinburgh the month that Peter Capaldi was announced which was just a huge, exciting event. In the year of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who as well, it was a powerful experience.
BlogtorWho: How do you find the Edinburgh Fringe?
Robert Lloyd: Edinburgh is immense. It can really eat you up and swallow you unless you’re prepared. I heard a lot of stories beforehand and got myself very prepared and ready for the fact that it was going to be a hard slog, and it was. It was really difficult and hard but rewarding.
BlogtorWho: I imagine it is the type of experience which bonds performers together?
Robert Lloyd: There were three other Doctor Who shows on at the time and we all kind of hung out and supported each other, which was amazing. Peter Capaldi was announced while I was there so we had sort of like a big announcement party. We all gathered together and watched it together.
BlogtorWho: The Fringe Festival also brings you to the attention of lots of people
Robert Lloyd: I had people from Doctor Who actually come and see the show. Dan Starkey [Strax] came to see it, which was great because he was doing a play with a friend of mine. From then I’ve been noted by the BBC, so I’ve worked with them a couple of times. I worked with BBC America on a documentary called Earth Conquest [a documentary about the 2014 World Tour promoting ‘Deep Breath’]. They went from country to country, talking to the number one Whovian about how they express their passion for Doctor Who in an unusual, artistic and creative way. So I was picked to be the representative for Australia, which was amazing.
BlogtorWho: You’ve also been involved in a number of events for Doctor Who in Australia.
Robert Lloyd: Yes because of “Who, Me” I’ve been hired for the Doctor Who Festival, which was amazing, and also the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular and things like that.
BlogtorWho: Doctor Who was obviously away from our screens during 2016 so I imagine that allowed you to do other things?
Robert Lloyd: I was working on other projects but I had an opportunity to try the American fringe circuit and also the Canadian circuit. I’d always wanted to do the Canadian circuit before and I had an opportunity to take some time off my reality job and I applied for some Canadian and some American festivals to do “Who, Me” and I got in.
BlogtorWho: Which festivals did you take your show to?
Robert Lloyd: I’ve done Tampa International Fringe Festival and the Orlando Fringe Festival which I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’ve done Ottawa, Toronto and, just at the last minute, like literally the day of the deadlines being due, I was accepted back into the Edinburgh Fringe to do “Who, Me” again. This time it will be with Gilded Balloon which I’m very, very excited about.
To be recognised, to be picked up by Gilded Balloon is a big honour and I’m looking forward to being in their new venue, which is the Rose Theatre, the same venue that’s having Craig Ferguson, which is very exciting. I’m going to be in the same venue as another massive Doctor Who fan.
BlogtorWho: How would you describe your approach when writing ‘Who, Me’?
Robert Lloyd: It’s a show that I only really developed because I wanted to explore the good and bad about being obsessed with something. There’s a lot of press, either fans rallying around each other to show, “No, we’re legitimate. This is a good thing; we shouldn’t be made fun of.” Or, there’s the people making fun of them, that they’re just being introverts, never going out and being socially awkward. But I always thought that it’s never black or white like that. There’s always a grey area, especially being obsessed with something.
BlogtorWho: You present both sides during your show then?
Robert Lloyd: Yes, that’s what the shows about; a balanced argument of whether it’s a good thing or bad thing to be a fan. What are the positives and the negatives of being so obsessed with something?
BlogtorWho: How did you become obsessed, to use your term, with Doctor Who?
Robert Lloyd: I got into Doctor Who quite late. I’d always been aware of Doctor Who when I was a kid, but I never watched it as in the cliché of hiding behind the sofa and watching it as a child. It was always on officially in Australia, it was on our government TV station ABC but I was caught up with other things when I was a kid.
BlogtorWho: What things did catch your attention as a child?
Robert Lloyd: I was a huge Star Wars fan and I was a Sherlock Holmes fan.
BlogtorWho: But Doctor Who was still on your radar nonetheless?
Robert Lloyd: I could tell that there was something big about Doctor Who. I knew it had gone on for ages. I knew a lot of different actors played the role but I needed someone to explain it to me. I couldn’t just jump in and watch it. I needed someone to explain why there were different Doctors, why was this happening?
BlogtorWho: When did it all finally get explained to you?
Robert Lloyd: It wasn’t until my first year of university in 1996. I was 17. I had just moved out of home for the first time, I was doing an acting degree in a small country town called Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, Australia. On my third day there I met a guy from Sydney called Alexander Jones. Al was born in England and raised in Australia. He was a massive Doctor Who fan. He knew everything about Doctor Who and I thought, “This is my opportunity.” I said, “I’ve always wanted to get in with Doctor Who, tell me about it.”
One particular night Al was dealing with a very messy breakup. He was very depressed. He was sad, he was crying and so I thought the best way to take his mind off it was to talk about something he loved and something I was interested in. So we had a massive, all-night talk about Doctor Who. It went for five hours. He told me about the actors, about the behind-the-scenes stuff and I knew everything. From that moment I was hooked. So, I knew why the Doctor changed face. I knew who he was. I knew why he had different companions.
BlogtorWho: Who became your Doctor?
Robert Lloyd: Jon Pertwee is my Doctor. 1996 was a massive year for Doctor Who. It was the year the TV Movie came out, so that was really exciting. It was sadly also the year that Jon Pertwee passed away. I discovered Jon Pertwee as an actor, watched all the news clips and tributes to him. Then I got fascinated to find out more about him. Unlike any of the other Doctors before with his big white hair and his frilly shirts and wonderful velvet jackets. So everyone was aware of Tom Baker, being the icon at that time but I was really fascinated by the guy who led in before him.
BlogtorWho: Pertwee’s Third Doctor is unlike any others before or since really.
Robert Lloyd: Agreed. I went and started watching Jon Pertwee’s stories a couple of days after he passed away and I became a Third Doctor fanatic, so he’s my Doctor. I related to him. His Doctor is someone I really look up to and was very different to anything else that I’d seen.
BlogtorWho: You said you were doing an acting degree, did Pertwee provide some inspiration for that?
Robert Lloyd: As an actor, he was really interesting to watch. He was a comedian who took on the role specifically because he wanted to take it seriously. At that time I was 17. I was studying to be an actor but all my experience of doing acting at that time was doing over-the-top, big pantomime-type performances in high school. So I could relate to a comedian trying to be taken seriously, like Jon Pertwee, on many levels. He’s been my favourite Doctor ever since.
BlogtorWho: How were you embraced by Doctor Who fandom?
Robert Lloyd: When I met other Doctor Who fans around that time I was looked down upon. I was shunned and treated badly because all the Doctor Who fans in Australia at that time considered that you’re either a Doctor Who fan from when you’re a kid or if you get into it too late, you’re a gate-crasher. So that was pretty tough. I got into the politics of fandom very early.
BlogtorWho: Ah, yes, the politics of fandoms.
Robert Lloyd: Yeah, all fans are accepting but they should be as welcoming to everybody. Whether you’re a classic fan, a modern fan or just a Tennant fan or especially an American fan; a lot of them are just Matt Smith fans. So we have to be embracing of all. That’s what Doctor Who is all about.
BlogtorWho: Have you noticed any differences between the fans across the world? Any characteristics that you would say that were a little bit different?
Robert Lloyd: Australian and New Zealand fans especially, they’re the ones that go, “We’re the ones who got it first outside of England. We’re the ones who have to work harder for it.” Up until quite recently, we got the modern episodes quite late. Series 1, 2, 3 and 4 especially, we got about four or six months later. It wasn’t until Matt Smith that we started to get it the day after. Now it’s all being streamed live. Australia and New Zealand fans are very, very hardcore and very much a case of, “We had to work harder. It was harder for us to get stuff that you guys take for granted.”
BlogtorWho: UK fans certainly don’t have to work hard for new Doctor Who.
Robert Lloyd: I wish I could get to the point of being a fan where I’m quite blasé about it. But also there’s a little bit of arrogance, because you get, “Well, it’s ours. We created it. This is ours. This is our show. We know what we’re talking about, okay?”
BlogtorWho: How about the American fans?
Robert Lloyd: American fans are divided up into either the really fanatical ones or the older fans who saw it on PBS. They seem quite forgotten. They’re going, “Yeah, I was a fan.” And we have to go, “Yeah, we know you, we accept you, you’re okay.” So, “But I watched it on PBS, is that okay?” I go, “Of course that’s fine, that’s amazing!” And they had to work even harder than Australia or New Zealand, because they only got it from the Tom Baker era onwards, and they pretty much just repeated Tom Baker over and over again on PBS, and so they had to work hard to get other Doctors, either past or present.
BlogtorWho: Let’s not forget about the Canadians.
Robert Lloyd: Canadian fans are very passionate as well. Australia, New Zealand and Canada were the first three big countries that got it outside of the UK, so they have long histories of Doctor Who, right from the 1960’s. So those are big passionate support bases.
BlogtorWho: Recently we had the Doctor Who panel at San Diego Comic Con. You must’ve experienced?
Robert Lloyd: I went to a convention in 2014 in Chicago when I was doing the show over there and went to a sell-out forum. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were there. It was easily 5,000 fans in this massive theatre, packed out, just to see Matt and Karen talk for about two hours. It was incredible. There were a lot of kids in there, you know, under 10, in their early teens, all in fezzes, all in tweed jackets.
BlogtorWho: BBC America pushed the show very hard during the Matt Smith era. It clearly worked.
Robert Lloyd: It was really fascinating to see; it really captured a market there and can’t be denied. A lot of people look down upon certain eras, dismissing people with, “Oh, you only like Matt Smith,” or “You only like David Tennant.” If it connects with you in some way, shape or form, then it means it’s doing its job. If they only stay with that era I do get a little bit sorry and think, “Oh, you’re missing out on all this other stuff.” But it doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re just as passionate about the show as everybody else, whether you’ve watched it all your life, whether you watched all 13 incarnations or whether you just watch one.
BlogtorWho: No matter how much people have watched the show it has certainly built up quite a following in the US over recent years, which is great.
Robert Lloyd: Moffat’s era was the first major push into America. They pushed the Tennant era but the massive push was when BBC America relaunched and Doctor Who was the flagship. So they filmed a lot of scenes for ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ in America and of course, ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’. So they did have that connection, especially with the Matt Smith era.
BlogtorWho: Comic Con also had the sense of the end of that era.
Robert Lloyd: Comic Con was part of the farewell tour for Moffat to say, “Thanks America, this is what you’ve done for the show.”
BlogtorWho: We’ve also had the announcement of the Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker; the new era is beginning already.
Robert Lloyd: When they announced Peter Capaldi was the next Doctor, it was just announcing Capaldi. So when we had the live TV announcement Moffat wasn’t there. You had Bernard Cribbins, Peter Davison and a selection of BBC celebrities who didn’t really know why they were there. But with this we’re getting everything new. We’re getting a new showrunner, we’re getting a soft reboot, and we’re getting a new Doctor, a new companion and a new style.
BlogtorWho: It’s an exciting time.
Robert Lloyd: So this is everything new. It’s not just simply a case of this is a new Doctor. This is a new show.
BlogtorWho: Doctor Who isn’t everything that you do, what else occupies your time?
Robert Lloyd: Well with my year off I worked on getting a project up and running that I’ve been working on behind the scenes for about seven years. So my secondary big project is an improvised puppet show, called “The Mighty Little Puppet Show”. We premiered at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival and it did incredibly well. We came back to the comedy festival this year and we’ve done guest spots on TV.
If my Tennant looks start to fade and if Doctor Who, God forbid, goes on another hiatus like it did in the 80’s and the 90’s, that’s my insurance policy. It doesn’t rely on me looking like a certain person, or a fandom which can come and go as it pleases. This is something I can do well past when I’m old and grey and fat and cynical. I can stick on a puppet and improvise.
BlogtorWho: Your resemblance to David Tennant is a useful tool to promote your show I imagine?
Robert Lloyd: Yes, I use the Tennant publicity and images to draw the people in. I make it very clear when people come to see the show that I was a fan before Tennant though. So it’s always good to show people that, I use that as a way of getting people interested and then they find out I’m not just someone who has a passing resemblance to this one incarnation.
BlogtorWho: How about the day job?
Robert Lloyd: I work as a teacher. I’ve taken six months off work so I can travel around but the bills need to be paid and I need to have a roof over my head. This is the longest I’ve been away from Australia. I’ve got August to go and then I head home. I’ll be away from Australia for four months and then I go straight back into teaching in October.
BlogtorWho: What do you teach?
Robert Lloyd: High school drama.
BlogtorWho: Does Doctor Who come up in your lessons?
Robert Lloyd: I talk about the positive influences of Doctor Who and how I used Doctor Who to help me when I started teaching full time back in the noughties.
BlogtorWho: Any plans for future solo shows?
Robert Lloyd: “Who, Me” is the second show of a nerd trilogy. My first solo show was about Sherlock Holmes. The second was about Doctor Who so I did a third show to end off the trilogy called ‘The Heart Awakens’. It was about my first true nerd love; Star Wars. So at some point, over the next couple of years, I want to remount all three and do my nerd trilogy. Nerds love a good marathon.
BlogtorWho: Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were responsible for repackaging the Sherlock Holmes stories for a modern audience. Was that influential to your first solo show at all?
Robert Lloyd: I did my Sherlock Holmes show at Melbourne Fringe 2010. I opened the day before the first episode of Sherlock aired in the UK. We didn’t get the show in Australia until January 2011. So at this point in Australia, September 2010, Sherlock was just mentioned a little bit online and it was ages until it came out. And then when it hit Australia and America in 2011 that’s when it really became a phenomenon and this massive cultural event.
But it was really odd when I first started. When I did my Sherlock Holmes show, as Sherlock first started and it was just a little thing. It was a big hit in the UK, but the echoes hadn’t really reverberated to the rest of the world until the next year.
BlogtorWho: Any plans for Hobbits, DC or Marvel going on into your work?
Robert Lloyd: I’m a passing fan of the Tolkien universe and I love the films. I’ve read ‘The Hobbit’ and I’ve attempted to read ‘Lord of the Rings’ about three or four times but I’ve never got out of Hobbiton. I get further and further, you know closer to leaving Hobbiton but I just give up. I’ve got to try again.
I am a DC fan. I grew up with Batman as my big superhero when I was a kid. I’ve grown an interest in other superheroes like Green Lantern and I’ve also merged into Marvel as well. I’m a huge Daredevil fan. So I’ve got other little pockets of nerddom. I’m also a huge Muppets fan, so Jim Henson is one of my biggest inspirations and idols; hence my puppet show.
BlogtorWho: There are certainly plenty of avenues to explore in that nerddom.
Robert Lloyd: The great thing about fandom is you don’t really have to tie yourself down to one. A lot of people try and pigeon-hole you, in any industry, especially in the performing arts. Oh, you’re a singer? You’re a dancer? You’re an actor? And in nerddom we do it as well, you’re a Star Wars fan, you’re a Star Trek fan, you know, all that type of stuff. But you can just go, “I like it all.”
BlogtorWho: Thank you for talking to us and best of luck with ‘Who, Me’ in Edinburgh.
Robert Lloyd: Thanks. I’m running the entire month of August. I’m doing 26 shows in a row with no day off. I’m very excited.
You can catch the ‘Who, Me’ at the Gilded Ballroom at the Rose Theatre – Studio, Edinburgh between the 2nd and 28th August from 8:15 pm. Tickets for preview night cost £6 with show nights costing £10-12.
Tickets are available now from the Gilded Ballroom website.