'One of the best in the business' was how the Sunday Times described Michael Jayston in reviewing his ABC recording of John Le Carres The Night Manager (ABC 1036). As his latest opus, Alexander Kents Honour This Day (ABC 529), now features on the list, he talked to us about his career. Thanks to his acclaimed ABC recordings, Michael Jayston is often associated with the Cold War spy thrillers of John Le Carre, yet at heart the man is a romantic. Ask him to name his favourite TV role and he harks back to Mr Rochester in an early version of Jane Eyre because 'the character had wit, brooding sensitivity, and a romantic quality'. His stage choice - Dysart (this time a cynical romantic) in Peter Schaffers Equus - is chosen because it was 'lovely to play a complex character' as well as for its beautiful dialogue.
Clearly an actor who likes a challenge, he picks the role of Teddy in The Homecoming as his widescreen highlight. 'The discipline required to perform any of Pinters work is taxing,' he explains, 'but exhilarating when you get it right.'
The challenge of audio books is entirely different. 'I love working on different accents and characterisations,' he admits. 'It goes back to the basis of communication between actor/reader and audience, which is simply telling a story.'
His favourite audio recording is Le Carre's The Spy who Came in from the Cold. (ABC 500) 'To me this is the best of its genre - anti-heroic but with an underlying humanity and deep understanding of human nature in all its forms. His taste in books is eclectic - Shakespeare, Hemingway, Thurber, Spike Milligan, Graham Greene and Alan Bennett feature alongside Le Carre and P. D. James - but, like many of his colleagues, the novel hed really like to get his teeth into for audio is War and Peace.
The list of those hes enjoyed working with is long: Dames Peggy Ashcroft and Maggie Smith, Sorcha Cusack, Rowena Cooper, Peter Barkworth, Maureen Lipman, Leo McKern, Sir Alec Guinness, Maria Aitken, and Billie Whitelaw - plus, of course, his favourite actor, Ian Holm. In boxing parlance he is pound for pound one of the best actors in the world. Why he hasn't been knighted I cannot imagine.'
Future plans are fluid ('I'm waiting for the postman to bring some good news soon!'), but hes disturbed by the current trend towards 'too many productions, especially on television, which seem governed by the cheque book and viewing figures instead of talent. I hope this is rectified soon.' As far as unfulfilled ambitions go he confesses to being 'fairly content but ready for anything legal. I would like to be the oldest man to climb Everest, but I think I'll leave that to that lovely lunatic Brian Blessed!