The Man in the Rubber Mask: The Inside Smegging Story of Red Dwarf
Now with 43.17% more smeg!
As the title suggests The Man in the Rubber Mask documents Robert Llewellyn’s time portraying the character of Kryten in the phenomenally successful BBC sitcom Red Dwarf. The book was originally published in 1994 but has since been updated to include 43.17% more smeg and republished by Unbound in 2014.
The story begins in 1988 when Robert is approached by Paul Jackson, the executive producer on Red Dwarf about the possibility of “some sort of part in some sort of sitcom”, and after meeting with the production crew he had no idea what he was letting himself in for.
Robert recalls the long arduous hours spent in makeup before filming could even begin and the various trials and tribulations of wearing a latex foam face mask and all over bodysuit, especially on things like his inability to eat lunch while on set.
It was Series 3 of Red Dwarf before Kryten’s character fully entered the show as a regular member of the cast, and Robert’s book provides details and anecdotes of life backstage in the company of Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules and Hattie Hayridge, the newly recast Holly.
The Man in the Rubber Mask is inherently an autobiography which depicts Robert Llewellyn’s life throughout his Red Dwarf years, all the way from series 3 through to series 10.
Check out this Kryten clip from the season 4 episode Camille:
“Half a pint of watered-down lager and I’m performing a sad, comedy stripagram on a bar-room table before you can say ‘keep your dignity’.” – Robert Llewellyn on why he doesn’t drink much. (p4)
“It helped me if I went slightly mad.” – Robert Llewellyn on adjusting to wearing the rubber mask. (p86)
The Man In The Rubber Mask provides an Interesting insight into the life of actor and writer Robert Llewellyn, as well as some insider details on the production and filming of all [at that current moment in time] ten series of popular British sitcom Red Dwarf.
Personally, having picked up this book as a huge Red Dwarf fan, hoping for a goosey into the interior of all things Dwarf, I was somewhat disappointed. Robert does of course go into painstaking details of his time ‘under the mask’ as it were, and while all this is indeed interesting I would have expected there to be more humorous anecdotes, stories and backstage banter between the actors. But then maybe my personal expectations were just a little too high.
Although I mostly enjoyed this biography of Robert’s portrayal as Sanitation Droid Kryten, it tended to veer off at times into some uncharted and slightly boring territory that didn’t seem all that necessary.
My biggest peeve however, comes towards the end of the chapter concerning the filming of series 8, when Robert veers off course and begins a tale concerning ‘Black Thursday’ which apparently takes place during the filming of The Rimmer Song (Chapter 10, p260). The Rimmer song actually appeared in series 7 of Red Dwarf, during the episode Blue, which would presumably have been filmed a couple of years previously. Call me tetchy but I’m a stickler for details and this particular continuity error grates on my nerves like nails down a blackboard.
At 4 out of 5 stars I would still recommend The Man in the Rubber Mask for any diehard Dwarfer keen to further develop their knowledge of the show.