Giggle Beats

Gavin Webster spreads his wings for Sky1 comedy Starlings

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North East comedian Gavin Webster may be better known for his confrontational style of stand up, but he recently revealed his versatility by spreading his wings into the world of acting.

The Newcastle funny man has earned himself a part in the forthcoming series of Starlings, screening on Sky1 in the spring.

The comedy drama, written by Steve Edge (Phoenix Nights, The Cup, Peep Show and Star Stories) and Matt King (Peep Show), has an embarrassment of comedy riches in the show.

Steve Coogan and Henry Normal’s Baby Cow produce the programme, while the series also features Lesley Sharp, Brendan Coyle and Rebecca Night. And with Webster now in the Starlings’ nest, the production team have another impressive feather in its cap.

Webster revealed he was cast for the part after meeting up with one of the writers, an old friend, on the set of BBC One children’s show, Walk on the Wildside.

“I know Steve Edge really well,” said Webster, who appears in three episodes of the show. “I’ve got a lot in common with him and he’s a good laugh. I was in Walk on the Wild Side with him. He asked if I’d like to play the role of this character and I said yes. It was as simple as that. There was no auditioning or biting my nails waiting for a call back.”

Webster has built up a reputation on the comedy circuit as a hard-hitting stand-up, pulling no punches when it comes to the social, political or cultural climate of the world. But has the former Bard of Blaydon changed direction; consigned his punk ethics to the waste basket of cultural history; become a luvvy and gone all respectable – now he has joined the thespian fraternity?

“Not really,” said Webster, chuckling at the thought. “I play a character called Martin. He’s a crazy Geordie loner who writes dark sadistic poetry on a creative writing course. So there you go, it’s art imitating my life; my integrity remains intact.

“I got to behave like a bloke who looks like he’s got a shady past. You know, like, where have you buried all the bodies, mate? Martin suggests disturbing writing styles and quotes poetry to the class of a dark sadistic nature. I had to do a lot of staring, nodding and laughing sarcastically, which is a particular skill of mine, as it happens.”

In the past, Webster has briefly dipped his toe into the world of television, with appearances on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, The Regionnaires and Does Doug Know. But his appearances in Starlings were the first tentative steps he has taken in a serious acting role.

The 43-year-old said it was an enjoyable experience, and admitted he would welcome further opportunities to act – although was modest about his theatrical ability and the range of roles he could play.

“I did a sketch show called, No Signal, on FX channel,” said Webster. “Is that acting? I don’t know. It was at Shepperton studios, which was exciting. But the experience on Starlings was very different to what I’m used too. There were very long days, waiting around and doing a scene, time and time and time again. But the catering was very nice.

“Who knows if there’ll be a third series or whether Martin will come back for it. But, if I was asked, I’d gladly do it again. It was great to make my acting debut and play a bloke like that: a sort of Andy McNab/ Alfred Hitchcock wannabe with a Geordie accent. I reckon I can only do quirky small parts in a sitcom. I can do comedy, but I’ll leave the proper acting to the proper actors.”

Series two of Starlings airs on Sky1 this spring.

Oh No, It’s Gavin Webster is at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre on Friday 4 October. Tickets are priced at £14, £12 and 2 for £20 for a limited period: