SHERLOCK HOLMES DVD

posted: February 28th, 2015

Thanks to the success of the BFI Out Of The Unknown DVD Box Set for which John Kelly and (to a lesser extent) I supplied the majority of the extra material, we have been asked to provide a similar service on the forthcoming release of the Douglas Wilmer series of Sherlock Holmes (click on the title and you’ll be directed to the purchase page from the BFI, not Amazon). Asked and budgeted for two commentaries John has done his usual magic and provided five, all of which I have moderated. The line-ups for these are:

The Illustrious Client
Peter Sasdy (director)

51znWiOx1mL._SY300_The Devil’s Foot
Douglas Wilmer (Holmes)

The Red Headed-League
David Andrews (Vincent Spaulding), Trevor Martin (Duncan Ross)

Charles Augustus Milverton
Douglas Wilmer (Holmes)

The Abbey Grange (existing 20 minutes only)
Peter Cregeen (director)

Douglas Wilmer and his wife Anne were courteous enough to welcome us into their home and Mr Wilmer – at 95 – was on fine form, though his relationship with the show was not the easiest. We hosted the other gentlemen at Shepherd’s Bush and it was fantastic to be reunited with Out Of The Unknown alumni Messrs Cregeen and Sasdy (my “moderation” of the latter’s commentary comes to the sum total of about two and a half sentences I think!). David Andrews and Trevor Martin hadn’t seen each other since the episode was made but got on like a house on fire and are great company throughout. It’s another terrific package and the set benefits from reconstructions of the missing portions of the two incomplete episodes – episodes which have never been released commercially until now. The soundtrack exists for one, and the other features a special Story So Far… performed by Mr Wilmer. The set will be released at the end of March 2015 and the extras were turned out in record time. Thanks to ultra-keen exec Sam Dunn of the BFI and John Kelly as ever for going above and beyond. And my old mucker Peter Crocker has tarted up the pictures too!

David Andrews and Trevor Martin reacquaint themselves with each other - and The Red-Headed League - after fifty years.

David Andrews and Trevor Martin reacquaint themselves with each other – and The Red-Headed League – after fifty years.

Toby Hadoke and Peter Sasdy.

Director Peter Sasdy worked with 4 different Sherlocks.

PSORIASIS BLOG – Sensitive Skin

posted: February 28th, 2015

PSORIASIS BLOG – Sensitive Skin

The mental health side effects of psoriasis can be quite profound, but treatment is there if you want it. Talk to your GP about it. The post below is extremely anecdotal and subjective because psoriasis treatment is so bespoke. I share it not because I am drawn to the idea of bearing some of my inner frailties because actually the opposite is true. In fact, it scares me a bit – part of me wants to post this but not Tweet about it because then no-one would come here and read it. But that would be to miss the point rather, wouldn’t it? So here you go, have a butcher’s at this. There is more about these issues at the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper website. There is much useful information there.

I have been discharged!

I have been seeing the derma-psychologist Dr Mizara for over four years. I was introduced to her when I was hospitalised with a painful and widespread outbreak of psoriasis after a throat infection. I was on immunosuppressants at the time so instead of a standard flare up I was knocked for six: psoriasis was Chris Gayle and my emotional and physical make up were the hapless and ill-equipped Zimbabwean World Cup cricket XI. Physically I was in a parlous state but mentally I was smacked straight out of the ground. Prior to that I had been doing so well: the medication had meant I’d been bump and crack and flake free for the first time since I was about 20. No pain, no ointments – my surface was flat and my sheets were clean.

(Alright – I’ll stop the cricket analogy now in case you decide to stick your bat into my crease).

See, actual cricket is more painful than the tortuous analogy I used. But only just.

See, actual cricket is more painful than the tortuous analogy I used. But only just.

I have always been rather dubious of psychoanalysis – not because I judged those who underwent it: whatever helps you, of course. Actually, I am lying. I did judge people. I judge people who share their medical and emotional woes on the internet too. I know! What a hypocrite. I don’t want to be one of those comfortable, middle class people who nods earnestly and bangs on about my councillor helping me through the latest hardships undergone by a relatively healthy white man with a home, a loving family and every episode of Doctor Who on DVD. Pass the bloody tissues.

And you know, I don’t have mental problems. Everybody who knows me would say that I’m a fairly jolly chap – yes, I get grumpy about ridiculous little things but only on stage or in dressing rooms and to hilarious (and sometimes “quite funny – three stars”) effect.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to see Dr Mizara. I’d never been very good in drama classes at that “opening up” stuff. You know, when we have to tap into our emotions and cry about something that happened to us. I’ve cried on stage, sure, found it easy, but crucially, because I was pretending to be someone else. I’m not one for bearing my soul in public (well, unless it is hidden behind the conceit of stand-up comedy – and perhaps we don’t need to get too complicated to work out the implications of that).

The first time I went we just talked – she was assessing me as I was getting acclimatised to the process. I was trying it out though – for it’d been suggested to me that it would help by a consultant whom I respect and I would give anything a go to control this scaly beast. If Dr McBride had told me to daub myself in marmalade and sing the Sailor’s Hornpipe on the roof of St Paul’s Cathedral every third Wednesday of the month I’d have had a crack. I have, in the past, spent a year taking Chinese medicine which is only marginally less ridiculous.

It’s difficult to describe Dr Mizara – considered without being distant, empathic without being touchy-feely, pragmatic without being cold. I guess the thing is, you don’t get to know your psychoanalyst : they’re doing a job, part of which is to know you. I decided early on that there’s no point in lying – a Doctor can’t fix you if you don’t tell them all of the symptoms. So of course when she asks that question “Anything else?” all those little niggles – things that have annoyed you, things that you feel guilty about, things that you don’t understand … come flying out. Total disclosure, even if it seems like it’s something irrelevant (which of course it isn’t).

That process alone has been extremely helpful. It’s a pattern of behaviour common in psoriasis patients – to bottle things up, to feel guilty about being angry about certain things because in the greater scheme they are minor. This is tied into the condition. It’s not life threatening nor is it cancer so we feel a bit burdensome complaining. The psychology of this condition is complex and it manifests itself into all other areas of our lives whether we realise it or not.

I’m my own harshest critic so it was always easy to deliver a litany of Things I’d Done wrong whenever I crossed the threshold of her small office on the first floor of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. And I invariably went out feeling clearer about things : better. On some occasions I simply unburdened myself – on others I had an insight into why I had felt certain things at certain times or why I had reacted to others (and they to me) in certain ways. I cried. I got angry. But largely I tried to work out how to get less upset by this thing, or how to respond better to that one. This may sound daft to you – maybe you don’t spend hours going over conversations you had the night before, trying to spot the moments where you’d given the nice person you were talking to a reason to hate you (they didn’t give any sign they’d hated you, of course, but they still might have done).  Maybe you don’t still get really upset about that stranger who said something cruel and thoughtless about the dry patches of skin on your face in 1996. Maybe you think doing that is a colossal waste of time and energy and a very silly thing to do.  And you’re right: good on you and carry on not doing it. That’s probably why you’ve never been sent to a psychologist and I have.

I had a terrible year in 2013 – you don’t need to know the exact reasons why. There’s a difference between sharing one’s experiences and doing a humiliating dance dressed only in your dirty laundry. Just take it from me, it was terrible. Worse than the ending of “Lost”. I was a burden then, I know: to friends, to family. And I was in a parlous state. I went to see Dr McBride after one horrible day and she called Dr Mizara immediately and I was given a last minute session with her (she kindly flexed her schedule to accommodate me). When you are at your lowest ebb you expect friends to tell you that you are worth something but you don’t really believe it. When a medical professional tells you this and gives you coping strategies and insights it enables you to take bigger and bolder steps when all you feel like doing is curling up into a ball or drinking all the whisky in England (which I’m aware is probably not the best stuff but weepers aren’t inclined to be choosers). I am indebted to some very good friends for getting me through this period: but without the commendable empathy of those practitioners at the Royal Free I think I would have leant on my long-suffering chums to an even greater and more tedious extent than I did (so Peter, Caimh, Shauno, Dig, Susie, Mum and the rest, I think Dr Mizara and the dermatology team should be top of your list of People You Owe A Drink To For Saving You From Even More Nights Of Repetition And Tears With A Lachrymose Doctor Who Fan).

"Please say that I've been a good dermatology out-patient."

“Please say that I’ve been a good dermatology out-patient.”

I have been seeing Dr Mizara less frequently recently. So much in my life has changed. I think when someone works so hard with you there is almost a childlike, puppy dog need to tell them what you have achieved – and in doing so you see how far you have come. “I’ve been going to the gym”, “I haven’t had a drink”, “I’ve written a play!” I’d pant, dropping each metaphorical ball at her feet and waiting to be told I was a good boy. I mean, just as needy but so much better than “Why does nobody love me?”.

Last Thursday’s appointment was a formality – just to see how I was doing. I hadn’t been in for a while. To coin the correct phrase, I have coping strategies in place, for many of those things that used to (and still do) give me grief. I have made progress. Life will still never be easy (it isn’t for anybody), but so long as I can continue to not fixate on the past, to look at things from other people’s perspective and realise that not everything they do is about me, to take less destructive paths, and essentially just chill the fuck out (OK, that last one is mine, but it’s pretty much the gist of it) then maybe I can make this journey tough life – the only one we get folks – a bit less of a perilous ride. It would be ridiculous to go to my grave having spent far more of my time worrying about the bad things that might happen (another psoriasis patient meme) than enjoying the good ones that do.

When she told me that I didn’t need to come back I was a little scared but the biggest emotion I felt was one of massive gratitude. I know it’s her job but what a profession to choose. It’s the equivalent of seeking out that maudlin git in the corner of the pub who keeps whining about the bad things that keep happening to them when it’s clear to you that they just need to stop doing what they are currently doing and then maybe they’d be alright. But I needed help that I never would have asked for and I got it. And when she said goodbye I felt tears leaping from my eyes, and I wasn’t even on stage. Nor was I being someone else.

I was being Toby and, crucially, I actually didn’t mind.

 

 

There are patient testimonies about seeing Dr Mizara for a number of skin conditions here.

Dr Mizara talks to the Telegraph about the relationship between the mind and the skin here.

 

Bernard Kay 1928-2014

posted: January 1st, 2015

Myself and Bernard at the CAA last month.

Myself and Bernard at the CAA last month.

I am very sad to report the death of that fine actor Bernard Kay.

I’ll add something personal later but for now:

The actor Bernard Kay, who starred in Dr Zhivago and was a recognisable TV face in over 100 programmes ranging from the very first episode of Z-Cars to Jonathan Creek via Doctor Who and The Professionals, has died aged 86.

Born in Bolton in Lancashire, the son of a journalist, he initially worked as a reporter for the Bolton Evening News and a stringer for the Manchester Guardian. Educated at Manchester’s Chetham’s School, when he completed National Service he studied at the Old Vic Theatre School on Waterloo Road, London (having also been accepted by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Guildhall School of Music And Drama). He used his army experience whilst making his first film, Carry On Sergeant: helpfully correcting its star Willliam Hartnell regarding drill procedure. Hartnell was not impressed and unsuccessfully tried to get him fired.

Hartnell had forgotten the incident when Kay was the lead guest star in one of the early Doctor Who adventures The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964). He returned to the series the following year to give a dignified turn as a war weary Saladin in the highly regarded adventure The Crusade (1965) and crossed the paths of later Doctors Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in, respectively, The Faceless Ones (1967) and Colony In Space (1971).

Bernard in Doctor Who.

Bernard in Doctor Who.

His most notable film role was as the Bolshevik in Dr Zhivago, a part written by Robert Bolt with Kay in mind. Other film credits included Sinbad And the Eye Of The Tiger (1977) and Psychosis (2010) but he was more at home on the small screen. One of his most acclaimed roles was as the german Korporal Hartwig in the famous Tweedledum episode of Colditz (1972) in which Michael Bryant’s Wing Commander Marsh attempts to fake insanity in order to be repatriated. Hartwig is charged with ascertaining the truth and after an antagonistic start the two develop a touching friendship as Marsh genuinely begins to lose his mind.

He was given six weeks paid leave and told to keep a low profile by the Coronation Street producers after the angry public reaction to his killing of Ida Barlow in 1961.

On stage he learnt the role of Macbeth in 24 hours to save the opening night of a production at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1952, he performed in Baghdad as Shylock as part of a British Council tour of The Merchant Of Venice and he received critical acclaim for his last stage performance in Dream Of the Dog at the Finborough Theatre. At the start of his career he had played small parts for the Royal Shakespeare Company in its early days and returned there to play Glendower in Henry IV Part 1 in 1991 but he was most proud of his performance as Danny (the Pete Postlethwaite part) in the stage tour of Brassed Off, for which he had to conduct genuine brass bands.

He won an award for the first chapter of his memoirs, describing his torrid childhood in pre-war Bolton. One of the judges for the New Writing ventures panel, which awarded him first prize, was novelist Ali Smith who described it as “wise, taut, gripping and a perfect piece of explication”.

He was married to the actress Patricia Haines who died aged just 45 in 1977. Her daughter Niki (by her first husband, the actor Michael Caine) survives him. He was found dead at his home on December 29th, although cause of death and exact date are yet to be determined.

PSORIASIS BLOG – Bits and bobs, scabs and spots…

posted: October 21st, 2014

Bits and bobs, scabs and spots…

I wanted to to an update in September entitled “Oh f*ck…” because after a year of being pretty clear I went on holiday, to the sun. By the time I came back, I knew that the tiny little flecks of colour on my skin, and the fact that I felt a bit itchy and uncomfortable, meant that my psoriasis was on the march again. I thought it might be useful to chronicle its unwelcome return to my too too unsullied flesh as it happened. But in a way, I felt that might aid it in its campaign to take root on my body again – plus I was a bit depressed about it – so I didn’t. Now, however, I have an approaching deadline for a play I am meant to be writing, so what better time to give you all an update…?

As we know, the sun can really help clear up the skin, so a week of Verona’s beautiful Vitamin E flavoured illumination, plus the resultant relaxation, would only be good.

It's when it spreads from the usual places like the arms and ankles to the less commonly afflicted parts like the back that you know you're in trouble.

It’s when it spreads from the usual places like the arms and ankles to the less commonly afflicted parts like the back that you know you’re in trouble.

Except…

I had been a bit worried by all the stuff I read in the papers about Doctors prescribing too many antibiotics and how bad that can be. So I asked Dr McBride if perhaps I should give my body a rest. She didn’t really think I should but said that if I was going to it would be safer over the summer when my likelihood of picking up a throat infection would be minimised. What she didn’t tell me to do was give up taking them just before gong on an aeroplane with all its recycled air and close proximity to other people’s germs. But I did. And so I picked up a bit of a streptococcal throat infection and despite the success I have had with my biologics, my arms – and gradually the rest of my body – started showing the tell tales signs of an outbreak. My body temperature also fluctuated and I was extremely agitated by the itchiness that dominoed with goose bumps all over my frame. At one point I thought that these metamorphoses would lead to a spell in hospital, as the last time I’d had a similar resurgence it didn’t abate until it totally wiped me out. I’m used to the odd period where the back of my arms or my elbows and knees have discolouration and dryness, but when the softer skin of the torso or that hardier suff on the back of the hands start showing signs of plaques I know I am in a bit of trouble.

This has been a bit of a bind. Just as there’s an argument that loving and losing is a hell of a lot more painful than never having loved at all, I was perhaps knocked sideways a little because I had started to take a pain free, smooth outer shell for granted. It looked like I was about to be plunged into a revisitation of the dark old days and so I got not a little distressed (which, of course, helps the condition to wage its war). Fortunatley, Doctor McBride wasn’t too concerned, reassuring me as ever that this was normal and that even if it turns out that the biologics aren’t strong enough to help me then there are other options and I mustn’t despair. For now though, the blame is firmly on the sore throat – so back on those antibiotics – and I’m continuing my treatment as before, but with a greater attention to the application of creams and lotions in order to manage this upsurge in plaques.

A couple of months later and I am still covered – but it is not as widespread nor painful as previous major outbreaks. It is a disappointment after such a period of fantastic progress, but it is certainly not as bad as it has been in the past. Everything is relative. I’m mostly stricken on the back of my arms, my knees and the back of my ankles, but it is not too flaky nor is is cracked and raw. I didn’t have to do to hospital and the itching has abated. So while I don’t especially like what I see, I know all too well that I could be feeling a hell of a lot worse.

In the meantime, the other side effect of the holiday is a massive rise in my cholesterol (8.5 having been at a brilliant – for me – 5.2) which is cause for serious concern so I have had to employ the services of a personal trainer and am actively eating and supplementing myself with things specifically designed to make this high figure drop. My blood tests in Decemeber will indicate just how happy a Christmas I will be allowed to have.

Lessons learned – (i) Don’t stop taking prophylactic antibiotics before getting on a plane and (ii) the Italians may well have a relaxed attitude to the consumption of wine and ice cream, but you are not an Italian (iii) it could have been a lot worse.

I had a lovely holiday though. Sun, sea, sand … the scabs didn’t come till later!

Out Of The Unknown DVD Commentaries

posted: August 20th, 2014

I have had the privilege of working on the DVD commentaries for the forthcoming BFI box set of Classic BBC sci-fi anthology series Out Of The Unknown. With about 8 weeks to turn things round and a minuscule budget, producer John Kelly and I managed to accrue a pretty decent roster of talent which I am delighted to be able to reveal now.

All commentaries moderated by me.

No Place Like Earth
With Mark Ward (Out Of The Unknown expert) and Dan Rebellato (playwright, lecturer and John Wyndham expert).

The Dead Past
With John Gorrie (director) and Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds).

Time In Advance
With Peter Sasdy (director), Wendy Gifford (Polly), Philip Voss (Police Officer) and Danvers Walker (Dan).

With Clive Endersby for Sucker Bait.

With Clive Endersby for Sucker Bait.

Sucker Bait
With Clive Endersby (Mark), Roger Croucher (Fawkes).

Some Lapse Of Time
With Roger Jenkins (director), John Glenister (PA), Jane Downs (Diana Harrow) and Delena Kidd (Dr Laura Denville).

The Midas Plague
With Peter Sasdy.

The Machine Stops
With Philip Saville (director), Kenneth Cavander (adaptor), Michael Imison (story editor).

With Philip Savile And Michael Imison for The Machine Stops.

With Philip Savile And Michael Imison for The Machine Stops.

Level 7
With Mordecai Roshwald (author), Michael Imison (story editor).

This Body Is Mine
With John Carson (Allen).

Welcome Home
With Moris Fahri (writer), Bernard Brown (Bowers Two).

The Man In My Head
With Peter Cregeen (director), Tom Chadbon (Brinson), Jeremy Davies (designer).

Some of the commentaries spend some time with one participant then switch over to another as it wasn’t always practical to get people at the same time: indeed Roshwald and Cavander (for example) live in the USA so we did them by Skype. Others we visited at home to minimise disruption to them. So some are a bit of a mix and match, but we wanted as many participants as possible.

We were asked to provide 7 commentaries. We aimed for 13 and managed, ultimately, to get 11 – over half of the available episodes. I’m very proud of what we did on a release originally planned to have no commentaries at all.

 

PSORIASIS BLOG: Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out 2

posted: August 2nd, 2014

Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out 2

Despite advice from a media savvy friend that one should do so, I’m not the type of person who reTweets anything that praises me. I just reply and say thank you. I am not sure what is to be achieved by yelling out to cyberspace that someone likes your work. It comes across as either needy or narcissistic and I don’t want to be either of those. You wouldn’t go up to somebody in a pub and say “Look, John from Doncaster thinks I rock and @twinkletoes says I’m hot and funny”.*

(*in the interests of full disclosure, those were made up names and comments – NO-ONE has ever Tweeted that I’m hot and funny).

 

Lots Of Highly Trained And Skilled Professionals From Salford Royal Hospital Dance Like Loons Just To Raise Awareness About Psoriasis.

Lots Of Highly Trained And Skilled Professionals From Salford Royal Hospital Dance Like Loons Just To Raise Awareness About Psoriasis.

So with that in mind, I post the words below NOT because they say once things about me but because the Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out was designed to highlight to people with this condition that they are not alone and that there are resources and methods that help. From the feedback below, it seems we did our job. So if anyone reading this does feel isolated or at the end of their tether with this horrible condition than please have a look. And then maybe drop me – or some of the groups I will link to underneath -a line.

I present it unedited…

 

Here’s how I feel about the psoriasis shout out and how it’s effected me since.

I first heard about the shout out back in April through Helen the Flaky Fashionista and Tony [sic] Hadoke. They both had reached out to me some weeks before via twitter when I was at a very low point with my psoriasis. I had searched the hash tag #psoriasis and came across Helen first. We started to chat about various treatments etc, and then she introduced Toby to the conversation. At that point, knowing there were two separate people outside of my family who knew and also suffered from the disease was somewhat comforting. It truly gave me hope, and actually brightened my day. After a few conversations, they both mentioned about the ‘Shout Out’ campaign being run. I knew I had to be a part of it, even by just attending. I was also asked to take part in Helens fashion show and initially I agreed, but soon bottled it as I was scared of standing there and people staring. Looking back, I truly wished I did take part as I’ve since learnt to embrace my P and no be embarrassed any longer. I came to the event at Salford Royal, just as the flash dance started. I immediately felt myself welling up, I couldn’t believe that all these people were getting up and dancing for psoriasis – it was amazing. I went over to the van and spoke to some amazing people. I was slightly overwhelmed, and had a lump in my throat the majority of the afternoon. At this point my P wasn’t as bad as it had been on my arms so I was able to wear short sleeves, but my whole mental state was a mess. I felt low, ugly, angry and quite hateful. All of which slowly went as the afternoon went on. I was introduced to Helen and Toby, and I was slightly nervous. I was nervous because in the few weeks id had spoken to them on twitter, I’d become slightly in awe of their work for raising awareness and the like. I couldn’t get my head round how accepting they both were (to a point) of the P. We sat down and had a chat, and it was nice to just be truly honest about how you feel etc. We also made a few jokes about P and leaving skin around. Which, if you’ve ever suffered from P, you’ll know you need to maintain some level of humour to keep you sane.

Complimentary massages were on offer, Which I heard were fab. But one of the things I was keen to see was the mindfulness session and the talks about the future for P. I went into the mindfulness session with a very open mind – I know my limits and I know sitting there nice and quiet is beyond me. But I did it, and initially I thought this isn’t for me at all. But the weeks after I would say I utilised some parts every now and again. It was wonderful to hear the talks from everyone, it’s lovely that people actually look at P and think I’m going to do something about this. It’s not the most glamorous disease there is after all.

A real highlight of my day was meeting another sufferer called Russ. He’s amazing. He has both P and PSA, but he was still smiling. He read me his poem, I can’t explain how I felt but he hit the nail right on it’s head. Again, I turned into a girl and started crying. It was at that point I told myself to wind my neck in and just accept what is and move on. When I left, I called my mum right away who is also a P sufferer. And she was gutted she couldn’t get the time off work to come. She said that she could hear a change in my voice and said I sounded more brighter then I had in months.

Unfortunately, I’ve since had a flare up and was admitted to the ward. I was on there for two weeks, and it felt like therapy. The nurses ask you upon admittance what’s most important to you? I looked round and most people had put things like go home or get better. Mine was to wear shorts – I’m a girl, and I’ve pretty good legs apart from the scabs. I felt that the admission was the ending I needed to finally accept my P and embrace it as part of me. With the help of all the wonderful staff and patients I feel I’ve done just that. I’ve been out of hospital two weeks now, and the weather is scorching, perfect time to get my legs out in a pair of shorts. Yes I’m flake free for the first time in over 10 years, and it feels amazing.

I truly believe that the Helen, Toby and the shoutout were my turning point and is love to be able to help others out. So sign me up for next years shout out xxx

My thanks to Rebecca for letting me share her feedback.

Links: Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out

See Psoriasis, Look Deeper

The Psoriasis Association

Helen Hanrahan – The Flaky Fashionista

Get Adobe Flash player