ROBERT Powell could just save your life.
It’s a fact. After six years on the popular BBC drama the enduring actor knows a medical trick or two.
“I learned a great deal, CPR and stuff like that, because you’ve got to look like you know what you are doing,” says Robert, ahead of a Lyceum turn in Doctor In The House from Tuesday.
“Just as if you were a nurse at college, I was trained the same way. I wouldn’t want to do it, but I know how to do it.”
Of course, one stark irony is that quite often the pretend wards of Holby City look better equipped than most real hospitals these days.
“We did have some quite good kit,” Robert concedes with a laugh before revealing he was Holby’s Mark Williams “a lot longer” than intended.
“I was originally contracted for a year, which seemed to be a long time, the longest job I’ve ever had.
“I ended up staying for six years, but I stayed because up to the point that I left I was really enjoying it. They gave me terrific storylines.
“The character evolved and the nice thing is you sort of lead the writers instead of the writers leading you. They give you a start and then see where you’re taking the character and they follow.
“It meant the character was so open he could virtually do anything and it would not be considered to be out of character because he was a very broad character. It was lovely.
“But there was a change of personnel and I decided the change was not going to be to my taste, so I went.
“Holby served its purpose. I had a good time and it allowed me to develop a character over a long period, create a believable character, and we did that to good effect... the number of people who say they miss him. He was a sort of rock around which a lot of other stuff happened. Very human and fragile emotionally.”
For now, however, the actor that TV robbed the stage of for so long is back on the theatre circuit – even if he is playing another medical type.
In between times Robert went back into theatre at the deep end, tackling the big solo job that is Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, for four months.
“That’s a tough call as it’s virtually a two-hour monologue, eight shows a week,” he says.
So joining Joe Pasquale on rounds at St. Swithin’s Teaching Hospital in Richard Gordon’s medical comedy Doctor In The House comes as light relief.
“I wanted someone else to share the work and the burden of the narrative of this play is taken on by the rest of the cast. The part is perfect because I have four or five scenes as Sir Lancelot Spratt, but when he’s on he’s on, a very forceful character.
“But Phillip Langhorne who is playing Simon Sparrow only has about five minutes off the stage so he does all the work, which suits me down to the ground.”
Even so, we have to suggest Robert’s casting alongside the curious voice of Mr Pasquale seemed unlikely, perhaps.
“They said me and Jasper Carrot was an unlikely partnership and it turned into a very successful, very long lasting partnership of several years with The Detectives. Joe’s terrific, great fun to work with.”