Samaritan: Helping the distressed
When actor Ray Gardner takes off his make-up after playing fictitious characters, he usually participates in real-life drama as one of 17,000 volunteers with the Samaritans.
Now Ray, a Walton-on-Thames Mason, has played a key part in an award-winning Samaritans work-life CD-Rom, an interactive learning resource to help busy managers tackle the causes of stress in the workplace.
Ray plays the role of stressed-out Brian in the fictitious scenario played out on the CD-Rom. Luckily, Ray has not found himself in such a stressful situation in real life, but he did empathise with the character.
This fictitious scenario was commissioned by the Samaritans to highlight stress in the workplace in the CD-Rom which went on to win the IVCA (International Video Communications Association) Gold Award, the equivalent to a BAFTA in the corporate world.
Ray said: 'I know of people, friends and family, exactly like Brian, who have high powered jobs and find themselves in very stressful situations, both emotionally and mentally and yet have no one that they feel they can talk to in confidence – enter the Samaritans.
'They are recognised as the fourth emergency service, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, unlike the other emergency services, the Samaritans is run purely by volunteers.'
In the CD-Rom, Brian is a married man with two children. He has a demanding and stressful job as sales director to a successful team in a large corporation.
Until recently, he had a very good relationship with his team, but this is now rapidly deteriorating due to an affair Brian is having with a female member of his team. His colleagues are split between loyalty to their boss and the fact that the ‘lady’ concerned seems to be getting ‘preferential treatment’ at work.
So, who does Brian turn to for advice? The Samaritans.
A registered charity, the organisation was formed in 1953 and offers 24-hour confidential emotional support to anyone in emotional distress. The Samaritans aim to make emotional health a mainstream issue.
Their vision is for a society where fewer people commit suicide because they are able to share feelings of emotional stress openly without fear of being judged. Samaritans believe that offering people the opportunity to be listened to in confidence, and accepted without prejudice, can alleviate despair and suicidal feelings.
Although Ray is obviously pleased to receive a Gold Award for his acting skills, he is equally proud that it was for such a worthwhile organisation as the Samaritans, whom he supports both as an individual and as a Freemason.
Ray’s acting career began in 1979. He trained at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), winning the award for Best Actor. An extensive theatre career followed, including London West End roles in such shows as Arcadia, West Side Story and Billy Budd. Rep theatre work has included roles in Lucky Sods, Oklahoma!, Up’n’Under and Barefoot in the Park.
He has also had TV work in programmes such as Eastenders, Our Mutual Friend, Doctors, Bugs, Chernobyl and more. Ray won ‘The ITV Best Actor in a Commercial’ award for portraying a patriotic Englishman in the Blackcurrant Tango commercial, described as the ‘ad of the century’.
Ray’s voice has also been heard on countless radio commercials, including the official voice of Mastercard during the European Cup 2004. He has also worked in radio, acting in plays for the BBC, and has narrated various documentaries and corporate videos.
Ray is also a successful playwright, recently winning the Edinburgh Fringe Report ‘Best Play’ award, at the Edinburgh Festival, for his play Mrs. Lemon’s Lodger.
Currently, Ray is spearheading a campaign in New York City for an area of Greenwich Village to be officially known as ‘Little Britain’ (not the comedy show!).