Whatever gets you through

By Stephen Jewell

British comedian Toby Hadoke's Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf appears to be aimed at dedicated Doctor Who followers - from the days when it started to decline in the 1980s.

But just as Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch was about so much more than the author's love of Arsenal Football Club, Hadoke's one-man play uses the cult TV programme as a vehicle to explore deeper, more personal issues.

"You could swap that with stamp collecting or a love or music," he says.

"We all have something that gets us through the day and with me it's Doctor Who. It informs my perspective on all the other things that I talk about, but if you like Doctor Who that's an added bonus since you will know that I'm not making up all the references."

According to the 35-year-old actor-comedian, around half of the play's usual audience is composed of people "who might watch Doctor Who now and again" with diehard fans making up around 10-15 per cent.

However, with the phenomenal success of the more recent series starring David Tennant, there are few people who are not familiar with the time and space-spanning adventures of the last Time Lord.

"The show coincided brilliantly with the fact that Doctor Who has come back," says Hadoke, who first conceived it in 2005 just as David Tennant's predecessor Christopher Eccleston made his debut as the Doctor.

"When I first started writing it, I didn't know that Doctor Who would be as dominant as it is today. It had just come back and was looking like it would do okay but we didn't know it would spawn all the things that it has now. But I would still have done the show even if Doctor Who hadn't come back."

The play documents the beleaguered programme's gradual decline during the 1980s, when critics and BBC executives derided it before it was eventually cancelled in 1989.

"There were elements in the early show that were a clarion call for good television and the fact that they weren't making this thing that was clever, funny and witty," says Hadoke. "You had all these soap operas but there wasn't one corner where you could have good quality escapist fun that puts a smile on your face.

"It probably would have been quite an angry show if Doctor Who hadn't returned but the title would have been the same because that's true. Moths really did eat my Doctor Who scarf and I remember thinking that's a bittersweet title that will be good for something one day."

Doctor Who's earlier demise was a blow for Hadoke, who grew up in Shropshire but now lives in Manchester.

"I can't remember a time when it wasn't in my life. The show's about casting your mind back to your childhood.

"Most of my reference points come from Doctor Who. I have few memories of my maternal grandfather but I can remember my parents coming back from town with three Doctor Who books for my two brothers and me. It's been a constant thing and it's very useful because I can just leap off like there's a segment about me not fitting in at school."

With the series off the air, Hadoke resorted to buying bootleg copies of earlier seasons, many of which originated from Australia and New Zealand.

"This was before the days of sell-through videos. I used to go to a shop in Wolverhampton where you would perhaps take in eight blank videos and get three back with Doctor Who episodes of your choice on them and a lot of them had the ABC logo on them."

Consequently, he is looking forward to performing Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf in Auckland and Wellington. "I haven't travelled very much before," he says.

"So I'm delighted my profession has allowed me to go to America for the first time and now New Zealand."

After touring Canada later in the year, Hadoke will hang up his tattered scarf for good as he works on his next show, which is provisionally titled Everything I Know, I Have Learnt from Television. "It will still be media-related. There's a lot in Moths about the media and television and how it affects and annoys me. Television can be a force for good but in the wrong hands it can be really mutilated.

"I will take that as a starting point but it will be about more than that. This show was supposed to be a political broadcast for the Doctor Who Party, it wasn't meant to be an autobiographical piece. It was supposed to make people come out thinking, 'Doctor Who is great so why did they cancel it in the 1980s?' I didn't expect people to cry in the end but they do."


What: Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf - Comedy Festival
Where and when: Herald Theatre, May 18-23, 8.30pm

- NZ Herald

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