Tamara Hinchco with her husband, Tom Marshall

Tamara Hinchco: ‘Live in the Present with Passion!’

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YEREVAN / SAXMUNHAM, UK — British actress and playwright Tamara Hinchco was born in 1938. Between 1954 and 1956 she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London. From 1959 to 2002 she acted in 37 TV Series (“The Fast Show,” “Ruth Rendell Mysteries,” “The Bill,” “Screenplay,” “Joint Account,” “Blind Justice,” “Rockliffe’s Babies,” “Lizzie’s Pictures,” “Crown Court,” etc.), as well as in movies like “The Private Right” (1966) by Michael Papas, “Justine” (1976) by Stewart Mackinnon. She is also an author of plays, that have been staged in UK.

From her first marriage with TV director David Andrews Tamara has a daughter, Bronwen, and son, Rowan, and three grandchildren from them. For the past 48 years she has been married to stage and screen actor Tom Marshall, with whom she has a daughter, Lucin.

Dear Tamara, I first read about you in the July 9 1960 issue of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. It was a story about your successful participation in “Twentieth Century Theatre: The Price of Freedom” episode of the “BBC Sunday-Night Play.” After so many years I am interviewing you for the same newspaper, the Mirror-Spectator. Isn’t it symbolic?

Yes, Artsvi, it is symbolic. “The Price of Freedom” was a play by Troy Kennedy Martin, written for refugee year, and I played a Polish Jewish girl, who got separated from her love because she had contracted consumption. Troy and I teamed up three more times.

My next “meeting” with you was in a review of “Unman, Wittering and Zigo,”a TV episode of BBC 2’s “Theatre 625” series. Is there any role you separate in your career?

“Unman, Wittering and Zigo” was a famous story of three boarding school boys coming to a teacher’s house to murder his young wife, but she treated them as friends, offering them cigarettes and drink and they could not go through with it. I suppose the two parts I enjoyed playing the most in television was the Armenian girl Anna in “The Interrogator” again by Troy and playing the deformed girl in “The House of Bernarda Alba.” 

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You have been acting on television more than 60 years. If you compare the development in British TV film, what radical changes you see? Both negative and positive ones.

Well I was not on television all that time, the 1960s and early 1970s were very busy, but after that it was a few a year. I was involved with the theatre; new plays were being written at the time and I was also employed by The National Theatre for three years playing in modern and classical plays. I think acting and directing in filming has got so much better, but some of the plays in my time were more inventive.

Did being a British actress and having Cypriot-Armenian confine you to act mainly ethnic roles?

Well, that is a very good question, because I did play French, Polish, Armenian, but as I got older, I must have looked less foreign. Laurence Olivier turned me down for a part, that had been written especially for me and also the director was very keen for me to do it, but Olivier said my name was too exotic.

Very interesting. What play it was? And could you please tell more about your cooperation with Laurence Olivier?

The play was “The Workhouse Donkey” by John Arden and the part was Wellesley. The Theatre was part of the Chichester festival Theatre that Sir Laurence was running at the time early 1960s. John Arden dedicated the play to me and I did get to play it a few years later at Nottingham Playhouse. Stuart Burge directed. John Arden and his wife became lifelong friends and I am godmother to their eldest son. John died a few years ago, but his wife Margaretta is still alive.

You were born in Cyprus, to Armenian mother. Where does her family hail from?

My mother’s roots were in Armenia, my grandfather escaped the Genocide together with his brother. They were in their teens, my grandfather, Minas, ended up in Cyprus and his brother in Boston, in the US. My mother gave me a passion for stories, generosity and a certain amount of trouble. My mother’s name was Vartouhie Katchadourian, she was one of six children in family. Her eldest brother was Ardash. He was the deacon in St Sarkis church in London for many years. Her second brother, Katcho, had his own printing business. The third, Levon, was an architect, who made a life in New Jersey, in the US. Her sister, Sarah, stayed in Cyprus and looked after grandmother. The youngest sister was Anahid; she came to England to get married. My mother was born in Nicosia, Cyprus; I do not know the town in Armenia where her father came from, but she told me they were rich farmers.

After the war in 1945 I was seven and my father and grandfather had died so my mother took me to Cyprus to stay with her mother and two sisters. We sailed on a battle ship and we were there for a year, I attended an Armenian school at the end of the year I could speak and write in Armenian, I’m afraid the skill has gone but I can understand a little.

Please tell us about your play “The Sentence” on Armenian subject you co-wrote with Christina Balit. How it happened, that two British ladies who has Armenian mothers, unified and wrote that play?

Christina Balit married a friend of my husband, who is actor Thomas Marshall. Christina is a very successful book illustrator but she likes writing plays too, so we got together to write an Armenian story. During our research we came across the magazine Ararat and read many stories and we came up with the idea for “The Sentence.” 

“The Sentence” was staged at The Old Red Lion Theatre in 1996 with participation of British and British-Armenian actors like Vic Tablian, Adam Hussain, George Savvides, Nanar Vorperian. Among them there was also veteran actress from Armenia Jenia Nersisyan, acting as Mariam. It was unexpected to learn she acted in English in England. What did you think of Nersisyan’s acting?

Yes, some of the actors were only involved with the preliminary reading, which was at The Riverside Studios in a festival of play-readings produced by the Redgraves. The Armenian Centre introduced me to Jenia Nersisyan, and she was perfect casting for Mariam. I helped her with English pronunciation, and she was a total delight to work with.

Do you have other writings on Armenian subjects?

I have only written one play and one film script, “Jews Pass It On,” based on my experience at boarding convent school. It was not filmed, but an option was bought. At the moment I am writing stories for a memoir.

It will be very interesting to read your memoirs! My impression is you have been active in activities of London Centre for Armenian Information and Advice. How recognizable is the Armenian culture in such a huge cosmopolitan megapolis as London is?

That is a difficult question. Certainly, in Acton, where the Armenian Centre is located, Armenians are very well known owing to the many activities they are involved with. Generally, I would say people are more aware of Armenian news, and friends call me to ask for information. 

Have you ever been in Armenia or have you visited other Armenian communities of world?

We were to go to Armenia last year with my youngest daughter and a granddaughter but unfortunately the pandemic happened.

Based on your life and work experience, do you have a message for Armenian readers worldwide?

If anyone is interested in what an old Lady has to say, I think one cannot predict the future and one cannot erase the past, so live in the present with passion!

 

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