Hotel Babylon star Martin has appetite to return to Sheffield theatres

Martin Marquez as Labour whip Bob Mellish in This House
Martin Marquez as Labour whip Bob Mellish in This House
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The last time that actor Martin Marquez was on stage in Sheffield, he was in a gruesome play that involved him and another starving character eating a dead baby…

That was in the late Sarah Kane’s harrowing drama, Blasted, at the Crucible three years ago.

Martin, best known for his TV role as head barman Vin comedy drama Hotel Babylon, said: “I enjoyed that job because it was Sarah Kane and I’d worked with her and (previous Sheffield Theatres artistic director) Daniel Evans before.

“Sheffield is such a great theatre and city and to be doing it there was one of the highlights of my career, even though it meant doing all that.”

There was a bit of added pressure at the time, thanks to a TV star who has had a long association with Sheffield Theatres, Martin remembered.

“My family came up to see it and we were with Richard Wilson and I introduced him to my 15-year-old and 17-year-old daughters.

“He asked, ‘Are they coming to see it?’ and I said, ‘Do you think that’s a good idea?’ and he said, ‘Yes they should’, so I got them tickets and had to go through that whole thing of doing it in front of them. They didn’t say anything afterwards...”

Martin’s daughter Ramona starred in TV sitcom Outnumbered, one of three children running rings round their harassed parents.

Her dad said she’s concentrating on her A-levels at the moment and appearing in a school production, taking a step back from professional acting work.

Martin said has really been looking forward to coming back to Sheffield with this show, which is a funny political drama set in the Westminster corridors of power in 1974.

He plays Labour chief whip Bob Mellish, a well-known political figure at the time.

Martin said: “As soon as I mention to people that I’m doing This House about the Labour government, before I finish the sentence, they’re off.

“It’s a comedy! Most people that see it, even the younger generation, really enjoy it. It’s really fast moving, about the characters and how they interact, and the place.”

The whips are political enforcers, trying to get their party members to tow the line and vote the way their leaders want them to, at a point where no party has an overall majority, giving minority parties more power, in a situation that has parallels today.

The music of the time is also key to the show and an on-stage band play hit songs from David Bowie and the Sex Pistols.

The production has already had sell-out runs at the National Theatre in London and in the West End.

Originally the audience sat in the middle of the action in the House of Commons seats and there are still some seats on stage, said Martin.

He said of his character: “He was from Bermondsey in London and was a good, solid guy. In the play he’s portrayed as a bit of a geezer.

“He’s gone by the interval but I get to come back and sing a song! They wanted to show how that can happen in politics.”

This House is at Sheffield Lyceum from May 29 to June 2. Box office: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk