I am still gigging regularly at The Comedy Store and XS Malarkey (and the 99 Club, Leicester Square – this month the 22nd and 29th only) – I can’t fit any other gigs in because…
I will be playing Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet for Feelgood Theatre until August 12th. The reviews have been very positive:
“adds enough new ideas and makes clever use of the park’s striking locations to make you experience the Bard’s oft-performed tale of doomed love with fresh eyes.” – The Stage
“if you fancy taking the family with a picnic to the park for evening out in the warm weather (*not guaranteed) with some well-performed Shakespeare, this is your ideal ticket.” – British Theatre Guide
I filmed a role in the Eddie Izzard/Judi Dench/Jim Broadbent film 6 Minutes to Midnight at the end of last month: it’s directed by The Next Doctor‘s Andy Goddard. Most details are still under wraps but you can read a little bit about what I got up to on ithere.
I have been commissioned to write a mini-play about Spike Milligan for Radio 3 which will be performed in front of a live audience and broadcast at the end of September.
I’m back presenting The 7th Dimension on Radio 4 Extra for three weekends at the beginning of September.
I was on BBC Breakfast last week talking about the internet. Sadly the segment is unavailable now, but here’s a picture:
The Quatermass book grows by the day. I’m hoping to meet my deadline but even if I don’t it’s going to be out sooner rather than later. I’ve found photos, facts and folk all of which/whom offer fascinating new insights into those classic productions. The first volume is due by the end of the year. More info soon…
This month at XS Malarkey there are some great comedians – our headliners include Caroline Mabey, David Trent, and Bobby Mair and there is plenty of heft in the supporting line-ups too. More details are available now at theXS Malarkey Website.
I’m doing some more work (documentary and commentary related) on BBC Blu-Ray releases – not just Doctor Who. And very exciting (if you like that sort of thing – which, fortunately, I do!)…
Ongoing news but good news …
My dramatisation of Nigel Kneale’s famous lost television play, The Road, for Radio 4 was recorded in Maida Vale at the beginning of February. The cast is phenomenal : Mark Gatiss, Adrian Scarborough, Hattie Morahan, Colin McFarlane, Susan Wokoma, Francis Magee and Ralph Ineson. It will be the Halloween Fright Night production for BBC Radio 4 on October 27th. It is one of my proudest achievements.
STOP PRESS: There will be a tie in event on the night (I’ll say it again – October 27th) in Manchester – so don’t go making any plans! More details to follow… STOP STOP PRESS – the play, intended for a late night broadcast, has been promoted – it will now go out in the busier afternoon slot because it has got the thumbs up from on high. Not sure how this affects the Home Q and A … more news when I have it.
Hello – here are the Hadoke headlines for July 2018, which is going to be a rather hectic month for me. I hope you’re enjoying the sun and whichever sport floats your boat.
I am still gigging regularly at The Comedy Store and XS Malarkey until around mid July (I’m not back at the 99 Club until August) but I can’t fit any other gigs in because…
I will be spending the summer playing Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet for Feelgood Theatre – after last year’s five star A Midsummer Night’s Dream this is going to be a spellbinding night because it has the same creative team and most of the same lovely actors. There’s lots of fighting and music and the captivating atmosphere of the open air will beguile you, so please do come. Details and ticketshere.
I’m going to be filming a fun little cameo in a feature film later this month. I won’t jinx it until my bit is in the can but it boasts one heck of a cast and a splendid director. I will be playing a comedian (versatility, you see, that’s my strength).
I have been commissioned to write a mini-play about Spike Milligan for Radio 3 which will be performed in front of a live audience and broadcast at end of September.
I’m back presenting The 7th Dimension on Radio 4 extra for a three weekend stint until the middle of July.
I’ve tracked down a couple more folk involved in the original serials, as well as some fascinating documents, which should all help to make my forthcoming Quatermass book as close to definitive as possible. It will probably now be two volumes. The first volume is due by the end of the year. More info soon…
This month at XS Malarkey there are more of our Edinburgh previews – they include Felicity Ward, Brennan Reece, Rob Rouse, Laura Davis, Ahir Shah and many more. What a line up! More details are available now at theXS Malarkey Website.
The Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-Ray box set is out this month and I pop up on one of the documentaries. It looks like a fabulous package (the box set – I’m only filmed from the neck up so quiet at the back). Grab yourself a copy because it’d be nice if it sold well and led to further releases.
Ongoing news but good news …
My dramatisation of Nigel Kneale’s famous lost television play, The Road, for Radio 4 was recorded in Maida Vale at the beginning of February. The cast is phenomenal : Mark Gatiss, Adrian Scarborough, Hattie Morahan, Colin McFarlane, Susan Wokoma, Francis Magee and Ralph Ineson. It will be the Halloween Fright Night production for BBC Radio 4 on October 27th. It is one of my proudest achievements. STOP PRESS: There will be a tie in event on the night (I’ll say it again – October 27th) in Manchester – so don’t go making any plans! More details to follow…STOP STOP PRESS – the play, intended for a late night broadcast, has been promoted – it will now go out in the busier afternoon slot because it has got the thumbs up from on high. Not sure how this affects the Home … more news when I have it.
After a few months off during which I have slept and stuff, Who’s Round is back… and it’s about time (etc etc).
It’s certainly about time we had a Doctor.Most Doctors have been interviewed loads, so of course I have gone for one with a unique claim to the Gallifreyan throne. He’s actually been involved in the programme in practically every medium possible, this fellow, and has worked with more than one of the “other” Doctors. Oh, and Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellan and the bloke who played Varan in The Mutants. They’re all here, in the 200th edition (blimey) of this ridiculously time consuming podcast. These will be back to their weekly release schedule and there’s a fantastic mix of familiar faces and hitherto un-interviewed folk from the history of Doctor Who, all of whom have fascinating stories about their times with and without our favourite programme.
Peter Thomas – actor from missing William Hartnell story The Savages – dies.
Peter Thomas, who played Captain Edal in The Savages, has died at the age of 80.He had worked with Christopher Barry prior to the making of the story and so was in the director’s mind when it came to casting the chief of the security forces on the unnamed planet where all is not what it seems. With Frederick Jaegar, ostensibly the story’s lead villain, spending much of the action impersonating William Hartnell’s Doctor it is Thomas who provides most of the thuggishness. He’s the enforcer and easily the story’s most unpleasant character – and unusually, he survives at the end, in a story which has no fatalities. Thomas had to undergo golden facial make-up but that wasn’t his biggest problem on the show: “Bill Hartnell and I did not get on that well in The Army Game – I fell out with him during rehearsals. He used to shout, and if you forgot a line or miscued him he would tell you! Literally in our last episode of Doctor Who I think he forgave me: in the final scene, owing to the pressure of work instead of “Grab him and strap him to the trolley” I said “Strab him and grap him to the trolley” – but it did get a laugh even from Bill Hartnell.” The finished result wss good though – the audience research report for The Savages finds the viewers singling out the performances of Hartnell and Thomas for the most praise.
Thomas trained at LAMDA from 1952 and upon graduation did a short stint in rep at Lancaster before National Service (the RAF) intervened. Having done his duty (and performed onstage in RAF variety shows and stage productions while he was doing so) he returned to the theatre and then broke into television where he made something of a career of playing bad guys. His TV roles included Probation Officer (1959), Walk A Crooked Mile (1961), Z-Cars (1962), No Hiding Place (4 different characters 1962/65), The Plane Makers (1963), No Cloak, No Dagger (1963), The Avengers (three times – 1966/67/68) and Big Breadwinner Hog (1969) with Peter Egan, whom he had encouraged to become an actor when Egan was a young lad. In this excellent but very violent series Thomas is unmissable as a leather clad thug with a teddy boy quiff and a flick knife.
After the film Tales From The Crypt (1972) and an episode of Crown Court (1976) he disappeared from the acting profession for about thirty years due to the unfortunate illness of his wife. Having established himself as an onstage comedy stooge (he worked with Hancock, Benny Hill, Graham Stark and Jimmy Jewel) he had to turn down 35 weeks touring alongside Bob Monkhouse – such a commitment was impractical with two young children and a terminally ill partner and so he made the difficult decision to sever ties with his agent and accept no more offers.
In the early 80s he started a production company, and he kept his hand in the performance side of things when he provided the voice overs and the occasional presentation spot for the corporate videos that they made. Approaching the age at which most people retire, and with his children now grown up, he began to work professionally as an actor again and was very proactive in getting his own work – doing short films and modelling shoots whenever he could, and creating a character called Mr Grumpy.
In 2013 his face adorned the London underground as part of the Turn2US charity campaign, one of many posters he featured on in recent years (he also showed up for the NHS carers recruitment campaign and the Oxford Hearing Centre). He also contributed to advertising campaigns for Heineken (a James Bond/Skyfall tie in) and French Netflix. This sort of work was a callback to the 60s when he had a high old time appearing in adverts for all sorts including Don Carlos Cigars, Remington Razors, Rich Tea Biscuits, Black & Greens Tea, Guinness and Bilslands Bread. He was also an able guitarist and folk singer.
He was happy to be associated with Doctor Who, and kept up with it over the years:“It was caught the atmosphere of the 60s – and when they brought it back years later it was an instant success. One of my favourite Doctor Whos was Jon Pertwee and in the newer versions it has to be David Tennant. It was a good show”. Peter recently joined me and Kay Patrick to discuss The Savages for one of Fantom Films’ forthcoming Who Talk releases: he was sprightly and full of memories so the news of his passing was as surprising as it was saddening..
With thanks to Paul Dunn.
Peter Thomas took part in a Who’s Round which you can listen to here.
You can see my video of the Doctor Who names we lost in 2016 here.
RODNEY BENNETT, classic Doctor Who director, has died.
The director Rodney Bennett, who was behind three memorable early Tom Baker storiesand whose work outside of the show included many classic dramas has died peacefully aged 81.
Bennett was brought on board at a time during which the show underwent a great stylistic change.Tom Baker’s debut, Robot (1975) was very much a continuation of Jon Pertwee’s era in terms of look and personnel but the very next story The Ark in Space (1975) found the show embracing a gutsier approach, one not afraid of the horrific and psychologically terrifying. Shot on stark, white, clinical sets it concerns the survivors of a futuristic society – who have abandoned the Earth due to the threat of solar flares – under threat from the Wirrn. These deadly wasp-like creatures bury their eggs in cryogenically suspended humans and infect the space ark’s commander Noah. One scene, in which Noah – mid-transformation into a Wirrn – begs his lover Vira to kill him, was cut by producer Philip Hinchcliffe prior to transmission as he deemed it too unsettling. The Ark in Space is generally acknowledged as one of the show’s true classics (both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have sung its praises) and, in one scene – shot from above – in which the Doctor celebrates mankind‘s indomitability, provides the fourth Doctor with one of his defining moments. “I wish we could have got a camera even higher because then it would have been like killing two birds with the same stone – Tom taking on the human race and conveying the size [of the Ark]. But because of the lighting rig higher than that we couldn’t go,” Rodney lamented when I visited him and his lovely wife Jill at their home in Bath in 2013. Despite the restrictions of the studio the scene is still one of the series’ finest.
The Sontaran Experiment (1975), Baker’s third story, was actually shot before The Ark in Space, entirely in location and – unusually for exterior work – on videotape. Disaster struck when the leading man broke his collarbone but the show went on. The bleak locale makes from a suitably post apocalyptic setting and the decision to give the surviving humans South African accents is a smart one which provides plausibility and verisimilitude. Even though Baker was in pain because of his injury the director was a great fan of his leading man describing him as “A wonderful mixture of Burt Lancaster and Harpo Marx – the physical size and strength of Burt Lancaster and then that wonderful smile and childlike aspect of Harpo Marx – which seemed to me a wonderful polarity, or duality, of Tom’s Doctor Who.”
Rodney’s final story The Masque of Mandragora (1976) also features Tom Baker and his sidekick Elisabeth Sladen. “Elisabeth Sladen was amongst the gamest actors I ever worked with. I think she was absolutely lovely and a perfect foil for the Doctor”. The Masque of Mandragora is a gorgeous period drama with a fine cast (the young Tim Pigott- Smith makes a good account of himself and Jon Laurimore has a fine times as the villainous Count Federico) with the Welsh village of Portmerion standing in for Renaissance Italy. “There was so much experience and talent [at the BBC at the time]: the costumes that Jim Acheson put together would grace any feature film. And the wigs were very good too.”
Having done student theatre whilst studying at Cambridge, Rodney Bennett started at the BBC in radio– producing material for the World Service and the Third Programme. When BBC 2 he applied for an attachment to the schools’ department and began to learn the craft of directing with a camera. Some years later he moved to the plays department he got a break directing Z-Cars when the scheduled director fell ill and Rodney happened to be around. He acquitted himself well and stayed with the Serials Department for another 6 months, doing more Z-Cars and some plays for Innes Lloyd’s 30 Minute Theatre. After that Bennett decided to take the plunge and go freelance – a risk which paid off as he enjoyed success on both major channels.
When the BBC embarked upon their major series of every Shakespeare play, it was Bennett to whom they entrusted the key production of Hamlet(1980) in which he cast Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart and Lalla Ward (fresh from playing Romana). “I interviewed lots of young actresses for that role. I was very keen at one stage on Zoe Wanamaker. But Lalla was charming.”
His eye for casting would have an even more enduring impact when he met “lots of very nice actresses” for a vital role in his production of The Darling Buds of May (1993). “I decided I would look through the whole of Spotlight from beginning to end including the quarter pages [the cheaper end pages at the back with smaller pictures]. I began at the As at about 9 o’clock and at about 6.30/7, there among the Zs I saw what looked like a holiday snap of a very pretty girl. It too a bit of convincing the producers that she was the one for the part because I don’t think she’d done much television”. But convinced they are and the young woman languishing in the Zs – who was called Catherine Zeta Jones – became a star over night in the ratings hit which also starred David Jason and Pam Ferris.
The production he enjoyed making the most was Monsignor Quixote (1987), filming in Spain with a fine cast headed by Alec Guinness and Leo McKern. The Lost Boys, about JM Barrie, was a less comfortable production to make but one in which Ian Holm gave “an extraordinary performance”. It was a complicated production but he was very happy with the end result (which won awards internationally).
His other productions includedNorth and South (BBC 1975), Madame Bovary (BBC 1976), The Legend of King Arthur (Maureen O’Brien was Morgan Le Fay, 1979), Sense and Sensibility (a981), Dombey and Son (with Julian Glover 1983), and episodes of such favourites as Rumple of the Bailey (1987), The House of Elliott (1991), Soldier Soldier (1993, 93) and Dr Finlay (1996).
When I visited him he faced his mobility difficulties with a quiet stoicism, and he and Jill were extremely hospitable. He was gentle and charming and blessed with that perfect diction of the old school. He was still friends with Maureen O’Brien whom I contacted when I learned of his death: “Darling Rodney. Such a lovely man and such a sensitive and responsive and kind director,” she told me. “He went on writing his kids’ adventure stories right to the end, you know? Such courage and determination in a man who seemed too gentle for such persistence. Quiet, very English people like Rodney of such special talent can get easily overlooked.”
Two BAFTA nominations (for Monsignor Quixote and The Legend of King Arthur) and three top tier Doctor Who stories will hopefully mean that Rodney and his work will be remembered for a long time to come. And so will the fact that he was a very nice fellow indeed.
He is survived by Jill, their children Adam and Kate, and four grandchildren, Ben, Hannah, Max and Aurelia.
Rodney Bennett, Television director, born March 1935, died January 2017.
Thanks to Richard Bignell, Kate Pinsent and Maureen O’Brien