Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Poldark’ Category

54842542

Seeing this lift in our hotel transports me back to the forties and the residential hotels on the seafront at Eastbourne, where I used to visit my grandmother in the school holidays.

It has an open sided shaft so you can watch it ascend—looking up its skirts so to speak; and double hand-pulled filigree metal gates—that clunk satisfyingly shut.

It runs up the spine of the Fowey Hotel, built in 1881 to accommodate the new breed of holidaymakers arriving by train.

It also welcomed wounded soldiers for rest and recovery during the First World War.

It’s a period piece but manages to keep its dignity.

A testament to a time when the coming of the railways changed the face of Britain.

IMG_4578

On the wall between the lift and the dining room there are framed letters written by Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, while on holiday, to his son, whom he addresses as “dearest Mouse“.

photo-3-8

It is claimed that Kenneth Grahame made a boat trip up Lerryn Creek on the Fowey River with some friends and it became at the inspiration for the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows where the Rat and the Mole make a boat trip along the river for a picnic.

Wicker statues of the animal characters in the book guard the garden near the hotel.

IMG_4584

Typical Toad–hogging the foreground!

We are in Fowey on Cornwall’s south coast, for the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature where I’m invited to give the Daphne du Maurier memorial address which opens the festivities—wow!

IMG_4572_2

The view from our window.

A week of wonderful cultural events unfolds in this unique setting.

 

FoweyFestivalLogoBlackonWhite_FINAL_01_15

 

Déjà vu is the order of the day.

I was in Fowey 40 years ago filming the rescue of Dwight Enys from a French prison for two quite uncomfortable weeks.

We filmed at sea for two days and up that same creek for the rest—me and my Merry Men all dressed in 18th century gear—doing our best to keep straight faces:

“Follow me, men!”  

“Keep your heads down–which way did they go?”

Fowey hasn’t changed much over 40 years–to its credit.

IMG_4638_2

Though charming, it feels like a working place–not a cutesy-poo tourist attraction.

No pressure then–just the main keynote address and the following day a 45 minute talk about my books and how composing daily haikus helped me write them–and the “good luck” story of my diabetic journey.

Going up and down in that wonderful silent lift and soaking up the vista from our window–steadies my nerves!

More to follow…

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

fawlty-towers

This weekend the classic comedy series Fawlty Towers celebrates its 40th birthday!

In December 1974 John Cleese cast me as cockney detective Danny Brown in the pilot episode of the series that is now celebrated as one of the great comedy shows of TV history.

dannybrown-1

Quite why he cast me I have never been able to figure out–until this morning!

The only time I’d met him before was when we were both in an undergraduate production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Trevor Nunn at Cambridge University in 1961. Although we were both in the same scene–Act IV Scene II–I can’t remember spending any time with him.

He was on the comedy side of university theatre in The Footlights and I was on the straight side, the ADC–the Amateur Dramatic Club.

This morning I pulled out my volume of The Works of Shakespeare (purchased, second hand, in 1960)–and looked up the scene.

John played a member of the Watch (comedy) and I was Borachio (straight)–a henchman of the villainous Don John.

Borachio and his fellow fixer, Conrad, are being arraigned by Constable Dogberry, having been caught red-handed by members of the watch.

Was John so impressed with my cockney accent that 13 years later he reincarnated a reformed Borachio as Detective Danny Brown?!

I was too nervous to ask him in rehearsal–seems the likely explanation though.

A week’s TV work just before Christmas after three years earning peanuts in the theatre was very welcome.

But it involved recording in front of a studio audience–something I’d never done–and I was nervous!

Snooty Basil didn’t like having his hotel foyer polluted with Danny’s broad Cockney accent, but was forced to show him a bit of respect when, failing to make Manuel–the waiter–understand his instructions to take the luggage upstairs–Danny steps into the breach with a surprising display of fluent Spanish.

slp9vkgli8nef43ahfsz

I don’t speak Spanish–so I learned the lines by rote.

Come the “take”–nails biting into my palms–I managed a faultless rendition of the Spanish lines–only to be told by the floor manager that there was a camera in shot–and we would have to go again!

AAGH!

There I am on the DVD, speaking fluent Spanish, so I must have managed it again–but I have no memory of it!

A-touch-of-class-mr-brown-meets-manuel-1

I had just been cast as Ross Poldark and after Christmas began work on the epic that changed my life.

It wasn’t the end of Fawlty Towers for me though.

The pilot was approved and the series got the go-ahead. Six half-hour episodes were in the can, but a late plot change involving Polly–played by Connie Booth, John’s writing partner and wife at the time–meant they had to re-record part of my dinner scene exchange with Polly.

My hair had grown and changed color for Poldark–so for one afternoon at Television Centre in mid-summer, they dyed my hair dark brown and pinned it up at the back–and I was briefly Cockney Danny Brown again.

tve5272-118-1-0

I just read a newspaper piece about the anniversary, in which actor Nicky Henson, who appeared in a later episode, rejoices that 40 years later the residuals (those were the days!) are still enhancing his pension.

images-2

Nicky Henson with John Cleese

I concur–we were lucky boys!

I doubt playing Borachio has ever paid off so well in the life of an actor!

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

AT LAST!

Yesterday the audio version of Making Poldark became available for download via Audible, Amazon or iTunes.

http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_mn_mt_ano_tseft__galileo?advsearchKeywords=Making+Poldark&x=0&y=0

 

Below, I’m re-posting my account of recording it way back in January.

Making_Poldark_3_FRONT_COVER_FINAL_2500x2500_Pixels_20150325

Just back from UK where I recorded my memoir of Poldark as an audio book–with an extra chapter about taking part in the new BBC/Mammoth version–40 years after doing the original!

 

Two days in a small, soundproof booth in a basement recording studio in Hove in Sussex, while the wind and the rain raged above ground.

I was fortunate to have three helpmates in the studio running the show–and keeping my nose to the microphone.

Chris Daniels, sound engineer, owns the studio and is a member of that fraternity of calm console operators who are never flustered.

IMG_8940

They have seen it all before–and behave as though they read the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF, before sitting down to work:

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And you’ll be make a Sound Engineer, my son!
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling.)
IMG_8938
My old friend, Constantine de Goguel Toulouse-Lautrec–his grandmother was in St. Petersburg in the October Revolution of 1917 and survived–sat in the producer’s seat and guided a rusty performer through the sessions with grace and years of experience.
IMG_8931
He’s a fine actor and an experienced dialogue coach for movies.
He also runs Spoken Ink–subtitled “The Home of Short Audio“–well worth checking out.
Meredith made up the triumvirate as back-up producer keeping a beady eye on the script and an ear out for things that could be better (like the American pronunciation of “Potomac”!).
Her occasional ripple of involuntary laughter was a morale boost for The Man in the Sound Proof Booth!
IMG_8937
The project is in post production now. When complete, we’ll announce it here.

Read Full Post »

from Minnesotta, North Carolina (via Rome), Rhode Island, California, Virginia, North Yorkshire, Tipperary (Ireland), New Zealand, Brixton (S London)–for the two cooking workshops.

Not quite back-to-back! We’ll be trying that out in September and October. This time we took a few days to fly to Florence to celebrate Brother Jack’s 60th birthday (he’s performing in a show there at Teatro del Sale).

Here’s a short photo diary of the good times we had.

IMG_0540_2

late May Bravehearts with host Dominique on the right.

IMG_0835_2

Mid- June Braveheatrs–looking enthused

IMG_0765_2

Eager aprons waiting to be claimed

IMG_0511_2

Minnesotans–togged up and ready to break eggs

IMG_0779_2

Tossing the salad the Italian way–36 times!

IMG_0806_2

What do we think? A touch more vinegar?

IMG_0521_2

Friday morning coffee break and “food” chat

IMG_0529_2

Friday morning starter–the unexpected curried apple soup

IMG_0544_2

Friday supper (work-free delight)–Chez Valérie

IMG_0564_2

Simone–the essential ingredient, without whom…

IMG_0585_2

“Showtime” Sunday lunch–with Cecile and Polly–first time around

IMG_0844_2

“Showtime” Sunday lunch–second go-around (where’s the hat?!)

Read Full Post »

Surfing the net for a bit of Poldark news this morning (I’ve become a groupie!) I chanced on a series of wonderful photos, many of which I had never seen before.

They were taken during the filming of the original series by a gifted young photographer, Ian Barnes, who was just starting out in his career.

Here’s his story and the photo slide show, published today by the Western Morning News: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Unique-record-set-original-BBC-cast-Poldark/story-26324743-detail/story.htmlEbony the Horse

The slide show reminded me that  I had written the story of two of the photos depicted in my memoir Making Poldark. [Also available on Amazon.com]

 My steed for the second series, Ebony, was supplied by the wonderful horsemaster, Ben Ford  (the back of his head is visible in the photo below).

I had more riding to do in the second series, so Ebony and I saw a lot of each other. She never threw me like Dennis (my mount in the first series, an ex-Steeple chaser), but I’m sure she knew she had a novice on board.

Our most difficult day was the first shot of the second series—Ross Poldark‘s return from Holland.

In real life, I had been in London the previous day to see my then girlfriend play Cordelia at the opening night of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, which had transferred from Stratford to the Aldwych Theatre. After the performance I caught the overnight train to Cornwall.

So I was there, fresh as a wilted daisy, at 8am on the beach at Caerhays ready to film. It was pouring with rain.

Ebony and I waited until 3:30 in the afternoon before we could even get on the beach. Neither of us was in very good shape by then. The wind was blowing the sea into a frenzy,  and I had great difficulty in keeping my over-large hat on my head. Screenshot 2015-04-17 14.33.12 Ebony, quite sensibly, was none too keen on the conditions. She could see the waves out of the corner of her eye and thought they were coming for her.

With difficulty, trying to control my hat, my flowing cloak and the reins, I managed to get her facing the right way. The camera was mounted on the roof of a Land Rover and we were supposed to follow it at full gallop across the beach. Screenshot 2015-04-17 14.37.37 It should have been an invigorating experience. Instead it was a nightmare.

Ebony HATED the sound of the Land Rover and decided the SAFEST place was her horsebox—so that’s where we headed.

We passed the Land Rover with ease and I managed to stop her only a few feet from the end of the beach. Exhausted I fell off into a puddle!

I remounted. (Well, I was the hero!)

Ben, experienced in such things, placed a sister equine on the seaward side of the Land Rover track, hoping Ebony would run towards her. We tried again and Ebony rejoined her friend rather more quickly than the cameraman anticipated.

By this time, I was losing confidence and my fingers were losing their grip.

We tried once more. Ebony did an impromptu gavotte, crisscrossing the Land Rover, and then another mad gallop.

I decided she’d won the day and walked back to the coach.

Two days later we had a perfect sunny day and managed the shot in one take.

I think Ebony had worked in television before.

Poldark filming seems to attract characterful beasts. Aidan Turner’s steed Seamus (Darkie in the series and Irish, like Aidan) is enjoying his new found fame!

Read Full Post »

FrontCoverOnly-Poldark

My memoir of MAKING POLDARK–with a chapter on how I got involved in the 2015 adaptation of Winston Graham’s romantic saga, and behind-the-scenes photos taken during the shooting of the new series–is NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER on Amazon.

(The book is currently available only on Amazon USA.)

RE-3-2_2

Read Full Post »

The stage is set, the ring is built and only hours to go before the bell sounds.

Bare knuckled it maybe–this is the 18th century–but not bare chested; in tonight’s confrontation the players have agreed to keep their shirts  on–at least in the physical sense.

(One might imagine that this is both a relief and a disappointment, depending which side you’re putting your money on).

RE-4-2

The director trying unsuccessfully to persuade Dr Halse to take his shirt off..

The gloves are off  and Ross doesn’t pull any punches regarding his thoughts on the justice system operating in Cornwall.

And of this particular administer of “justice” he has painful memories.

The Rev. Dr. Halse was headmaster of Truro Grammar School and administered justice in the form of thrashing frequently on the person across the court from him today.

So there’s baggage and backstory to tonight’s confrontation.

There’s also a distinct feeling of deja-vu—as though somehow we’ve been through this movie before.

It all feels faintly familiar—certainly for one of the parties….

Anyway–seconds out and let the best man win

IMG_3666

Jim Carter looks a little too trusting…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,440 other followers