In Conversation With Tim Goodman: The Voice Of Bryant & May

Christopher Fowler
It seems extraordinary, but in all the time that Tim Goodman has been the voice of the Bryant & May audiobooks we've never talked about it, he and I. Now seemed a great time to chat a bit about his 'double career'. Christopher: You began in rep, Tim. Thinking about life on tour, how difficult was it to do different shows all the time? Do you think it's an important experience for actors? Tim: Rep has almost ceased to exist now, but I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to flex muscles, make mistakes, beyond the gaze of the 'big time'. I spent more than 3 years after drama school in almost continual work - the often desperate madhouse of 'weekly', the more leisurely but still intense pace of fortnightly, and the rather more grand and ambitious world of repertoire, where you rehearsed 3 or 4 plays, opening them one after another over a few weeks, then rotate them. Christopher: What did you mainly play? Tim: Almost all the major roles, the standard gradually improving, everything from Shakespeare to farce. Perhaps distance lends a little enchantment but all this is sadly unavailable to today's actors, most of whom usually do very little theatre these days; not from preference. Most wouldn't wish to be categorized as exclusively one or the other - it just happens. Soap stars, perhaps - I suspect some of them simply lack the confidence to expose themselves to onstage discipline and rigor! Christopher: I've always found theatre actors very different from film actors. Tim:
I've spent little time with exclusively film actors; worked with Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, a few others of that period - all entertaining company...
Christopher: You're very tall and square jawed - you seem to have been cast as figures of authority - is that how you saw your natural casting? Tim:
In my early and first career I was seen - I think - as a young leading man type, in some ways a disadvantage.
In the mid seventies I became somewhat discontented; pretty continuous work, mostly TV, a few exciting but ultimately frustrating big-time near misses, a sense of having little control I think. I had greatly enjoyed one or two opportunities to direct and tried to find more. By then I was married with two young daughters and a mortgage. I slid rapidly via workshops and part time teaching to Head of Drama at a well-known school for the performing arts - all in less than a year.
Christopher: Did you ever want to play James Bond? Tim:
I worked with Roger Moore on ' The Persuaders ' some years before he took the part on, but was out of it by the time my age suited. A good friend around the early 70's, Timothy Dalton, took it on of course, to cover the gap before Pierce Brosnan's contractual obligations freed him. I though he was rather good although perhaps wrong for the time. Perhaps Bond is a little like Shakespeare and should reflect the tastes and propensities of his age...
Christopher: How did you come to specialise in voice acting? Tim:
Somewhere along the line I became Artistic Head of the school and a fair number of students went on to achieve artistic success of one kind and another. Disinclined to become Mr Chips, I took early retirement at the end of the last century, working as a senior examiner in my field, and resuming acting on a rather more casual basis. Audio books began to come my way, after 'digging' a bit, in 2002.
You're probably more familiar with the Bryant & May books than anyone else apart from me and my editor. In listeners' eyes (or rather ears) you've became the voice of Bryant & May and now have a dedicated following, yet we've never spoken in the past. How has the series been for you?
Tim: Bryant and May have been a real source of enjoyment and a challenge over the years. What more could a semi retired actor ask for? The leading couple more or less established themselves at the start, but others have been less straightforward: their irascible boss became more nasal and drier, as you warmed to him and gave him a more sympathetic role to play. Christopher: Favourite characters? Tim: I have a soft spot for our tough, Kawasaki riding little Indian girl Meera, but found her voice a real problem; she's ended up more or less standard rough edge London. There have been a few mind boggling challenges - I distantly remember a scene between three Liverpudlian teenage girls - You just hope the listener's imagination will meet yours!
Christopher: I've just completed the twentieth Bryant & May novel, which brings a natural end to things (with a door left open of course). Has your approach to the voices changed across the books? Tim: No such sophistication as instant in-ear pronunciation for me, I'm afraid! The producer and I usually have a chat and discuss tricky instances when I'm doing my pre-production reading (out loud) at home. There are some good sources, although very occasionally we've had to make an informed guess! You have, over the years, introduced some wonderfully obscure words, as I feel sure you would admit. As an ex teacher I can sympathise with the urge.
Tim doesn't know yet that in the next book I'm hitting him with the most unpronounceable tongue-twister in the 20th Bryant & May canon. Let's see what he makes of that!


Sue (not verified) Fri, 04/12/2020 - 09:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Really pleased to read this as Tim Goodman is a superb reader and really brings Bryant and May to life. Love Arthur Bryant of course, but Janice Longbright is really good - not a huge accent or anything but you always know who it is, and it fits her character completely.
Will Oranges and Lemons be out on Audible in the forseeable future? It doesn't appear on Audible, but I see you can get a CD.
Keep up the good work (both author and reader)!

Vicki Matthews (not verified) Fri, 04/12/2020 - 09:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Please keep Bryant and May going - they're too good to stop!

David Ronaldson (not verified) Fri, 04/12/2020 - 12:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Interesting comment about the decline of Rep: my local theatre has almost given up on drama in favour of ancient bands from the 60s and looky-likeys of George Michael and Whitney Houston.

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 04/12/2020 - 18:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As Mr. Goodman says, tastes in theatre change over time. It is unfortunate that this time change is to eliminate theatre altogether. There are odd things that can happen to connect actor and audience. I went to a very strange production (City of Centuries? Can't remember the title for sure) which was presented in a post office basement. There was a young woman in the cast playing a character who appealed to me very much. When the character died I must have sighed loudly because the actress came up to me at the end wanting to know what had affected me. She seemed pleased that I regretted her character's death. Actors don't get that kind of instant feedback from film and surely it's useful. I haven't heard Bryant and May but I hope listeners' comments get back to Mr. Goodman.

Brian Evans (not verified) Sat, 05/12/2020 - 09:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It is a wonderful talent to be able to read a book aloud all way through, and be able to do all the voices of characters of both sexes. And to remember each voice as it comes up and to remember the voice you used. I have read all the B and M books and haven't heard the audiobooks, but have decided to give one a try. I have heard other audio books, and some of them have been done so well you actually feel you are listening to a play.

I am reminded of the great actor Maurice Denham who did a lot of the voices on "Much Binding in the Marsh" Each week they had a sketch when one of the stars-Richard Murdoch-each had a walk through the village, chatting to all the characters he used to meet and announce along the way. M Denham did all the voices. In one edition, live on air, R Murdoch played a joke on M Denham, and said: "And the next person I bumped into was Maurice Denham and I asked him how he was" The latter said it threw him completely: "For the life of me I couldn't think of what voice to do for me" Collapse of cast and audience.

Peter T (not verified) Sat, 05/12/2020 - 11:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Some local rep companies tried to be too arty. One we used to watch could make a nice production of 'The Ghost Train'. Then the director decided the company and its audience were ready for work of Brecht and Havel...

Keith Pitteway (not verified) Sun, 06/12/2020 - 08:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Being Blind my wife is a great consumer of Audio CD Books and was first recommended a Bryant & May book by her local library.
Fell in love with the wonderful way they were written and the incredible narration of the many character voices by Tim Goodman.
Over the many years Anna has had 1000's of audio books, from probably as many authors, and has found no one that even approaches the character portrayal work of Tim Goodman. Of course that portrayal is not possible without the imagination / research and writing skills of Christopher Fowler.
Perhaps there can be no better appraisal then to proudly say that we have every "Bryant & May" book adorning our book shelves - of course ALL in Audio CD format.!!
We are currently trying to track down "Oranges & Lemons" and heard whispers about "London Bridge is Falling Down" which is probably way in the future for us Audio CD collectors.
Keep up the Good Work - you are a fantastic pairing - the audio dimension adds so much.!!

Christopher Fowler Sun, 06/12/2020 - 08:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Keith, I'm trying to find out what has happened to the audiobook of 'Oranges & Lemons' but I'm fairly certain it's held up at the ports. Once such items were printed in Essex but now they come from Holland.

And on theatre: My friend Porl, who books shows into theatres, has a mantra; 'Three nights of the Nolan Sisters will buy you one performance of 'Hamlet'.'

Ben M (not verified) Sun, 06/12/2020 - 14:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've started listening to the Bryant & May Audio books with Wild Chamber. I feared that the voices of the characters which are in my head would be too much contrast to those of Mr Goodman's. I shouldn't have worried, these are all excellent and I'll be looking to listen to several others after this. Keep up the good work Mr Goodman, and you too, Mr Fowler!

michelle dempsey (not verified) Tue, 08/12/2020 - 22:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have listened to all and have all on audio on my phone. Mr Goodman's voice characterisation is fantastic especially Arthurs and Raymonds, I can't imagine anyone else doing their voices. I have been eagerly awaiting the recording of Oranges and Lemons but so far no word. I have bought the book but long for Mr Goodman's narration. I hope it will be soon, I have had to go back and re listen again to get my fix, especially during these strange times, as they cheer me up. Thank you for writing these amazing books Mr Fowler and thank you Mr Goodman for making them come alive.

Lauren C (not verified) Thu, 10/12/2020 - 23:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks for this interview - just last night I finished listening to "Full Dark House", which I'd read so long ago I'd forgotten many of the particulars. While in lockdown, it's a great pleasure to spend time with these old friends.

Wodge (not verified) Sat, 12/12/2020 - 21:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Tim is amazing and brings to life the fantastic characters and in that list of characters we have to include London itself ,the backdrop but always there. In my opinion Fowler, Bryant May and Goodman the best thing on Audible .

Des Burkinshaw (not verified) Thu, 17/12/2020 - 01:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have to say this, Chris...although I read all the books in hardback first, I usually wait a month and then have a listen too. Tim brings an extra 10% to what are always near-perfect books.
I discovered B&M through Audible - I was decorating and gave The Water Room a bash. How brilliant are Tim's reading? Well, I've listened to hundreds of books while editing for work and I've never heard any other reading so in tune with the written word.
I had a tiny taste of that my mum died in October. She thought John and Arthur were here friends and had listened to all of the books up to 5 times. I thought it would be lovely to write a short piece that had them and Maggie standing outside the cemetery - as if they had cone to say goodbye. Tim very kindly agreed to read it for us and I was astonished at how he understood my intention on pretty much every line.
Im just listening to Oranges & Lemons now and it's superb.
Thank you both for a peerless body of work.

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 17/12/2020 - 21:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have to decide a way to listen to these readings.