The collected interviews of Jim Mulligan

Bob Peck on playing The Father in Edward Bond's "Tuesday"

[Edward] would always try and get us to make decisions and make the exploration for ourselves. His very last resort would be to tell us what the meaning of something was.

The Father in Tuesday was played by Bob Peck who had acted in several Bond plays over the past twenty years, and played Lear for two years at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, The Barbican and on a continental tour.

When Edward asked me to play The Father in Tuesday I wanted to do it for him, to work with him, because of the quality and challenge of the writing and because it was for schools. Edward had a very clear idea of what The Father would look like and encouraged me to act in ways for TV that I have guarded against in the past. He wanted a heightened performance, you might say, a theatre performance. In the past, when I’ve worked on Edward’s plays, rehearsals would break down because we found the language impenetrable. We simply didn’t know what the characters were trying to say or achieve. In a way I think he tries to make the characters say the unexpected. That doesn’t mean he makes the characters inconsistent but it means you can never make assumptions about any characters or their attitudes. They are shifting second by second and it makes you listen with complete attention. You can never drift off, either as an actor or as the audience.

When we were rehearsing Tuesday he would always try and get us to make decisions and make the exploration for ourselves. His very last resort would be to tell us what the meaning of something was.

The Father in Tuesday is a real character but he is not someone you would meet on the street. He is a sort of distillation of a lot of people. To understand the character I try to bring my experience to bear. I am a father and I recognise a lot of the man in myself. It’s not just possessiveness – ‘this is my house’ – it’s the temptation to use physical means and crude authority to get your offspring to do what you want instead of having a reasoned debate with them, treating them as equals, as human beings. This authoritarianism is very strong in parents and I think it is something this father has fallen prey to. It’s the essence of his relationship with his daughter and in the play he’s made to realise it’s a sterile and dead relationship and without it he is virtually dead. He’s a walking corpse. All he has is his house.

It is a hard part to rehearse and play. We had more rehearsal before going into the studio for this than any other TV play I have done and when we got into the studio we worked for twelve hours a day for over a week. They were very long days and it is very intense material: a man is held at the point of a gun by a young soldier he thinks is deranged, is made to go through a kind of mental torture and is shot at by his daughter. It is very highly charged and draining. When we were not actually on the set recording, I would spend most of the time going over what was coming up, re-rehearsing in my head, rehearsing with the other actors or discussing with Edward what we should do. We would record a section of the play and then Edward would come down and give notes and try to move further on with an examination of the text. Even to the last take it was still work in progress.

Bob Peck was born in Leeds on 23rd August 1945. He was an English stage, television, and film actor who came to acting relatively late in life. Shortly before doing Tuesday he had played in Jurassic Park. He died of cancer on 4th April 1999 aged fifty-three years.