Currently, Mark Oxtoby is playing Strickland in the West End production of Back to the Future the Musical after originally playing the character at Manchester Opera House and, as cover Doc Brown, he made his debut in the role at the Adelphi Theatre press night. Other stage work for Mark has included playing Monsieur Andre in The Phantom of the Opera, being in the cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane and, in 1998, he was in South Pacific at the Crucible Theatre. With his company Clever Little Films (UK), which he runs with his wife Dawn (who he met in South Pacific), they have released a number of films and have been nominated for and won awards for their work, with their short film My Week with Maisy planning to go into production next year. Mark answers our questions about performing as Strickland in Back to the Future the Musical, covering the role of Doc Brown and his company Clever Little Films (UK).
You are currently performing as Strickland in Back to the Future the Musical in the West End, how is it playing him and how was it originally playing the role at the Manchester Opera House?
Only a few moments have changed in the West End show. The main difference between the West End and Manchester? I think, because Manchester was the World Premiere and also pre-pandemic, we had lots of fans from all over the world. So for the shows leading up to/and including press night, Strickland got booed a lot more! Ha! It’s a great role to play. He’s like a hawk! Nothing gets past Strickland!
Can you tell us what Doc Brown is like to cover and how was it playing him at the press night?
Having not been an understudy for quite a few years, it was a hard decision to accept the job, but ultimately I knew I could do the role justice and that I would get the chance to go on. I just never thought my first opportunity would be the West End press night! However, Doc Brown is an absolute gift of a role. He’s a mass of contained chaos, with ideas ticking away all the time, so it is a pretty demanding role and I’m constantly learning where I can pace myself a bit more. As opposed to press night, when it was like being fired out of a canon! Brilliant, amazing, an absolute gift, but totally bonkers. I remember most of the afternoon saying ‘It’ll be alright. No one will die. Well, maybe my career!’ Fortunately, that didn’t happen and I received some incredible reviews and comments.
What are you looking forward to for continuing the run at the Adelphi Theatre?
Well, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the future may hold! To keep telling this brilliant story, that is adored by so many people and especially to see the reactions of audience members and first-time theatregoers. I love that this show has the ability to introduce first-time theatregoers to a brand new form of entertainment! They don’t know what they’ve been missing! Your minds will be blown!
How was your time playing Monsieur Andre in The Phantom of the Opera?
I absolutely love The Phantom of the Opera. It has a really special place in my heart. That’s why I stayed for three years! Andre is a dream of a role and one of those parts when I first saw it, I knew I wanted to play one day. I had a great time and would definitely go back one day.
What was it like being part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane?
Charlie was a great show to be a part of. A huge show. But really enjoyable, because it meant I got to work with Peter Darling again. Our third time together. I also got to work with some really special friends, Ross Dawes, Paul J. Medford, Josefina Gabrielle, Myra Sands and Barry James, to name a few!
What are some of your stand-out highlights of your theatre career so far?
There are a few… but definitely South Pacific at the Crucible in Sheffield in 1998, because that’s where I met my wife Dawn Buckland. Press night for Back to the Future has to be in there, right?! And I think probably the day I was just casually having a chat with Kermit the Frog in between takes on the set of The Muppet Movie!
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
I loved She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre in the early 90s. That was a great show. And I love to watch plays and stand-up comedy whenever I can.
Can you tell us about your short film My Week with Maisy?
It revolves around the retired, middle-class Daily Mail-reading Mrs Foster, who is starting chemotherapy treatment. She is on her own, as she has fallen out with her son because he has moved in with his partner. She is forced to share the treatment room with nine-year-old ‘know it all’ called Maisy, who wants to grow up to be a lesbian. It couldn’t be worse for Mrs Foster. But through an unexpected friendship, it is a beautiful reminder to keep trying. Whatever your thoughts, prejudices or preconceived ideas, it is never too late to make a different choice, to learn, to change. I suppose My Week with Maisy is a call for hope, a reminder to never give up.
How does it feel being nominated for and winning awards for your work and what are your plans for the film?
It’s incredible to be recognised for all your hard work. And it does help people sit up a little and allow you through a few more doors. Regarding My Week with Maisy, it has plans to go into production next year, with the brilliant award-winning director Mika Simmons and the equally brilliant producer Jessica Parker. I can’t say too much at this stage, but it is all getting very exciting!
What can you say about Clever Little Films (UK) and about some of the other films you’ve been involved with including the multi-award-winning Blood Means Nothing?
Clever Little Films (UK) was set up by my wife and I to get creative, talented people together to tell short stories. To give creative folk a platform to share their amazing work. That’s what happened with Blood Means Nothing. It gave many of the cast and crew the opportunity to move forward onto bigger and better projects. Many collected awards along the way too! Sometimes you just need someone to give you a chance so you can show everyone what you are truly capable of. A little reminder that ‘we can do it’. That’s what it’s about.
Where does your love of acting, writing and directing come from and how did you start?
Well, I’ve always been a bit of a show off. But I started going to drama classes when I was about eight years old and was immediately hooked! Writing is just something that happened later in life. Directing is something I think I would like to do more of. But it is a lot of responsibility being a director. Much more than people know. But each one informs the other. Writing and directing makes me a better actor and vice versa.
Do you have a favourite aspect of working on stage and screen?
Apart from just ‘working’ I really love the creative process and the rehearsals. Many times, there is magic created in the rehearsal room. Sadly, some of it never sees the light of day. But for that moment, magic was still created.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Spending time with my wife and daughter. I like paddle-boarding and taking my dog for long country walks.
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