Toby Williams brings Dr George Ryegold back to Fringe
Applying surgery to a subtle character creation
This article is from 2010.
For someone who has suffered crippling stage fright, it seems extraordinary that we have even heard of Dr George Ryegold. Having heard from his agent that a parting of the ways might have to come, Toby Williams (the actor behind the maverick medic) told her that while it may have seemed like he was less than busy, some stand-up gigs were coming his way. Convincing her of this falsehood, Williams quickly booked up an open mic slot, a debut that was less than impressive: but then again, he had managed to book himself onto a folk music bill.
‘It was absolutely dreadful,’ he recalls without a word of a fib. ‘I walked into this pub in King’s Cross and there was a girl on stage playing the harp; my legs nearly turned me around and took me out of there on their own.’ His second gig, on Malcolm Hardee’s Wibbley Wobbley boat, went no better, but he did meet some comedy friends and gained handy contacts. The acutely shy Williams was happy to be hiding within Ryegold, a subtly constructed surgeon whose florid descriptions of the delicate parts of the human body and the awful things that can go wrong with it led one critic to dub him ‘as sick as Jim Jefferies, but with the vocabulary of Stephen Fry’.
Initially, Williams believed that being George RyegoId would see him through this bedding-in period of his stand-up career, after which he would ‘grow some balls and be myself’. But he now seems happy to stay in the skin of the good doctor for a while longer.
How much of the darker elements of the conditions and afflictions he speaks of on stage come from his own life experiences? ‘From last year’s show, the pube net [don’t ask] really happened, though obviously exaggerated to fit in with the character. And once, I couldn’t walk for a short while but none of the doctors ever found out what happened there.’ Now firmly on his feet, Toby Williams and his comedy career are both in rude health.
Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, 7–30 Aug (not 16), 10pm, £9–£9.50 (£7.50–£8). Previews 4–6 Aug, £5.