MICHAEL JAYSTON, one of the stars of that bewitching drama series, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is coming back to a new BBC-TV series called Flesh and Blood. We met in a pub near the Beeb's rehearsal rooms in West London, and I can tell you that an hour or so spent in his company can be a most enjoyable experience. Mr. Jayston leaves you with a very good impression- one of the Mike Yarwood kind. There's a touch of the Yarwoods about Jayston who proved himself to be a fine impressionist.
He reeled off a succession of them for me including Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Cliff Robertson, producer Sam Spiegel, and even Thora Hird who plays his grandmother in Flesh and Blood.
It's a talent he's long had, but kept it hidden until the time when he was appearing on stage with Olivier and Joan Plowright in "The Merchant of Venice".
"One day I was doing an impression of Gielgud when in walked the director, Jonathan Miller. He must have been impressed because he told Joan Plowright. I was in the lift with Joan and Olivier when she said to him, 'Michael can imitate Johnny Gielgud.' Olivier asked me to do it. So I did Gielgud reciting 'A Hard Day's Night'. I think they enjoyed it."
Despite many of the serious and dramatic roles with which he has been associated there's a yearning in Jayston to make people laugh.
He discovered this need in a strange way.
"My father died when I was a year old. Years later people would ask me what my father did for a living. I'd tell them he was dead. They'd look at me with a very sorrowful expression, so I'd then put on a funny act. It must have been something psychological because I didn't want them to feel sorry for me. That way I found I could make people laugh."
Mike is also a great practical joker. He'll ring somebody up in one of his disguised voices and have fun. He once sent a letter to Buckingham Palace and one to the House of Commons in which he wrote that the Royal Shakespeare Company would be going around doing readings for Borstals and Women's Institutes, and could they come along and entertain the Palace staff and the MP's in their holiday recess.
"I got a letter back from the Palace saying they didn't have the facilities. The Speaker of the House of Commons replied, 'We can accomodate.'
"The Chap who arranges such things for the RSC was away on holiday at the time, so his right hand man was going round the bend thinking that his boss had arranged it all without saying so before going away. But he fixed it for four actors to go along to a room to read to about 40 MP's"