So far - so near
"Tribute to Arthur of the Britons and Oliver Tobias" - weekend 28./29. August 2010
a story in 5 Chapters - by rg

Brothers and something more - Chapter 1

Oliver Tobias reminds me of a lion, in the way he sits on  that dark leather sofa in the hotel lobby, deep in conversation with the musician  Craig Pruess. Sublime power and something seems always to simmer close beneath the  friendly surface.

I came all the way  from Munich for this weekend with the actor. The invitation read "Tribute to Arthur of The Britons and Oliver Tobias".

We are in Stroud, a small town in the vicinity of Bristol  in “The West Country“ as a local tells me. And I vaguely remember – hadn’t it said  “Arthur of the West” somewhere in this TV-series from the 70ies, in which Oliver  Tobias has portrayed “Arthur” so unforgetably?

And what an  Arthur he was – young, with long dark hair, perfectly 70s style. “A beautiful man, I’ve never seen a more beautiful one”, someone said to me at one point, and I?  -  I can’t decide. Something I never could. Not back when I was 14 years old and watched the series on German  TV network ZDF, and - let's say it like that - was pretty taken by him  (hey! I was 14!!!).

There were the scenes when he looked simply gorgeous – a girl’s  dream – but then there were the moments when his eyes turned small and suddenly appeared mean. Oh, and speaking of those eyes. Blue, which could in turn only be seen  under certain circumstances, but placed in this face strangely uneven.  And  then the distinctive chin. Do these assets make a beautiful face? I don’t know.  But at least they make a very characteristic, unmistakeable one.










By proof of actual promotion stills, that's so also today. Over 30 years have passed since  „Arthur“ and now at age 63 these facial features suit Oliver Tobias well enough. A soigné gentleman in his best years looks  at you, mildly, perhaps slightly ironically, he seems to watch the world with just that distance and maybe from slightly above.

So, I ought at least be able to recognize him, I think, standing here in the hotel entrance with Wendy van der Veen - who has  organized the whole event - to welcome Oliver and his  actor-brother Benedict (Freitag), who travelled with him.

And indeed he is easily recognizable, even though he doesn’t appear very soigné in this  moment, because what have he and his brother decided to do? Right! They came on their Ducati motor bikes! So, actually, they look more like two bikers on home leave in their  macho gear - a bit dangerous, a bit like wild beasts – but somehow this fits! 


Two wild animals...

First off of course we  approach the two wild animals with caution – you never know. But  once the first “Hellos” are exchanged, we realize that we don’t have to be  afraid. Both are used to handling adoring audiences, and Oliver begins immediately to tell about  his Ducati, a 30 year old collector’s bike which has accompanied him through  all ups and downs of his life so far. He doesn’t speak loud, and it isn’t  necessary: You simply listen when he is talking. While he is still patiently posing  on his bike for the photographers, his brother has already jumped from his machine, opened his jacket,  lighted a cigarillo and is now in search for a spot to park the bike.

Benedict Freitag is filled with nervous energy. He hardly  ever stays in one place for long; and it's true, there is always something to be done, some errand to be run, also for the older brother, to whom he looks up admiringly at one moment  whereas in the next he grins at him  in triumph because he has seen something first or knows it better. Oliver – every bit the big brother – is fine with that, only when the younger one is about to go too far, his blue eyes flash  briefly -  and Benedict has vanished already from the danger zone.

Benedict and Oliver are five years apart, a huge gap when you grow up. Oliver  was packed to a boarding school in England when he was ten years old and after that never really returned home to Switzerland. The parents are divorced. After the end  of his school years Oliver attended an acting school in London. Benedict remembers that in school holidays he also went to England as fast as he could. These were  the “Swinging Sixties” in London – who hasn’t heard about them? Carnaby Street,  Rolling Stones, The Who … it must have been a crazy time at a crazy place.


Here in the Bavarian  country side we could only dream about that. The far wide world was mainly one thing – very far away. But we could watch  it – on a TV screen, which was then a piece of furniture of nearly every living room.  Sometimes I ask myself, where would we be today without it? It was demonized often enough but it  is also true, that it was the window to the new time. The adults may have shaken their heads,  but we  took over the clothes, the music, the hair style  as if it were the most natural thing in the world – and  with it also the rebellion against the traditions, the boredom and the authoritarian  and carried these ideas into the farest away part of the remotest mountain village.





So the TV  series about a young Arthur, who judging by his looks could just as well have been a pop star, suited us just fine.  From the first episode on there was always someone who contradicted or fought him, from his own comrades like Kai and Llud to  his Celtic allies, and not to forget the hostile Saxons.

This Arthur didn’t  need a round table to prove that all were equal, because they were that anyway.  And I can’t remember in how many episodes Arthur had to use a trick or some clever  words or had to brandish his sword to make his opinion count. He was the leader - somehow that was clear, but not much else. “Arthur wanted to protect his people”, Oliver answered a question during a Q&A later that afternoon.

These were rough times,  and certainly not easy to live in”.

Also the Filming cannot have been always pleasant. Most scenes were shot on location, and the stunts were mostly done by the actors themselves. But both lead actors were young and fit, most of the extras were students who “all had long hair for real …” as Oliver remembers and you get the impression that this might also have been an adventure trip into a wild free world.

End of chapter 1

> forward to Chapter 2

pictures: background picture: by Wendy van der Veen, used with friendly permission
2 pictures of "Arthur of the Britons": screencaptures from DVD...
promotion still: from
2 pictures with motorbykes: by rg
back Home
last update 09.10.2010 +++ created by rg / 8.10.2010



> forward to Chapter 2