Thursday 30 July 2020

Jeff Rawle

British actor Jeff Rawle

Jeff Rawle:

I first remember seeing Jeff Rawle in the 1970s TV series 'Billy Liar', the first version of Keith Waterhouse's kitchen-sink Walter Mitty that I ever encountered. With its budget studio-bound look and sitcom-hysterics live audience, it made somewhat underwhelming television, and was soon lost deep in the recesses of my memory. When I read the book and saw the 1963 film in the '80s, there was barely a flicker of brain cells to remind me of this incarnation, yet it turns out that Rawle and his Mr Shadrack (Colin Jeavons) - though forever in the giant shadows of Tom Courtenay and Leonard Rossiter - made an impact on me after all.

As Billy Fisher in the early '70s TV 'Billy Liar' 

With that pinched, underfed urchin look of '70s youth, Jeff Rawle played Billy with energy and verve, albeit with none of the nuance of the film version, which is understandable as it was virtually his first television acting role. The show was popular at the time, but didn't quite make him a household name. Roles on television that immediately followed tended to be rather slight, but included some variously serious dramas, such as Bertold Brecht's 'Baal', and the odd 'Play For Today' among the 'Van Der Valk', 'Crown Court' and 'Hammer House Of Horror'. 

In an episode of 'Remington Steele'

By the end of the '80s there were some more substantial recurring castings, in 'Angels', the 'Doctor Who' adventure 'Frontios', 'Fortunes Of War', and 'Vote For Them', before things started to brighten up with the odd 'Minder', 'Boon' and 'Wycliffe'. It was two comedy offerings that brought him more into the public eye once again: 'Faith In The Future' - a sequel to 'Second Thoughts', with Rawle replacing James Bolam as the foil to Lynda Bellingham, with Julia Sawalha and Simon Pegg in early roles; and more notably 'Drop The Dead Donkey' - the slightly topical newsroom comedy which featured him as the timid George Dent caught in a constant battle of egos and politics.                 

In the satirical journo-com 'Drop The Dead Donkey' 

Possibly, it was his affecting portrayal of retired rocker Roger Fenn in 'Doc Martin' that led to his casting in 'Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire', but whatever it was that led to the role, it certainly proved to be leg-up in terms of profile. Although not a large part, Amos Diggory plays into one of the crucial plot points of the film via his screen son, Cedric, (future star Robert Pattinson) and the emotional fall-out of his death. 

As tweedy ministerial wizard and 'port-key' guide Amos
Diggory in 'Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire' (2005)

This side of the Potter, Jeff Rawle has been in some interesting and worthwhile stuff, such as an enjoyable drama based on the early development of 'Doctor Who' - the Mark Gatiss-helmed 'An Adventure In Space And Time' - and several episodes of 'The Durrells', but perhaps got most attention as the 'Hollyoaks' serial killer Silas Blissett, investing the character with a level of depth that seems to have sent thrills racing through the soap-watching audience.          

A 'Doctor Who' veteran himself, seen here in the drama
about the birth of the show 'An Adventure In Space
And Time', with Sarah Winter as Delia Derbyshire.  

Perhaps the '70s TV 'Billy Liar' is due for a rewatch? It's been made available on DVD and features previous Familiar Unknown subjects George A Cooper and Colin Jeavons who are almost always worth a look. Whatever the verdict, Jeff Rawle certainly deserves my modest salute.    

Jeff Rawle -imdb

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Pip Torrens

Pip Torrens, British actor

Pip Torrens: 

Bromley-born actor Philip 'Pip' Torrens has a really very extensive body of work in his résumé, stretching back to the mid-'80s, with literally dozens of roles in a range of films and television, including some pretty big titles. Despite this, you'll probably recognise his suave good looks, but perhaps not be able to come up with the name. Early casting made much of his classic young Englishman vibe, while latterly this has transformed into something of the wry sophisticate, with a plethora of professional, military, or villainous complexions.    

As newbie copper PC Monkhouse, with his well-crucial
nemesis Delbert Wilkins in the 'Lenny Henry Show'

His cinema career seems to begin with the horribly-clichéd Rob Lowe teen movie 'Oxford Blues' (1987), but continues with the likes of the epic 'Little Dorrit' (1987), 'A Handful Of Dust' (1988), 'Eminent Domain' (1990), Patriot Games (1992), War Horse (2011), The Iron Lady' (2011), 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997), 'How To Get Ahead In Advertising' (1989), 'Remains Of The Day' (1993), 'Longitude' (2000), the Keira Knightley 'Pride & Prejudice' (2005), 'My Week With Marilyn' (2011), 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens' (2015), and 'Darkest Hour' (2017). A fair cross section of a few decades there.  

As Egyptologist Howard Carter  in the enjoyably far-fetched
'Young Indiana Jones: Treasure Of The Peacock's Eye' TV movie,
seen here with William Osborne playing EM Forster   

Although his CV is heavier on the serious, literary, and historical material, there are a few light comedy and comedy-drama roles on television. For example, 'The Lenny Henry Show', 'Murder Most Horrid', 'Yes, Prime Minister', 'Up The Women', 'Jeeves & Wooster', latterday 'Minder', and 'The Brittas Empire' among the comedies. Add to that some gentle detective/mystery fare such as 'Rosemary & Thyme', 'Lovejoy', 'Marple', 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Van Der Valk ' and 'Maigret'. Not to mention the generally well-liked David Tennant era 'Doctor Who' stories 'The Family Of Blood' and 'Human Nature'.       

Back-lit and inscrutable as the royal adviser, Sir Alan 'Tommy'
Lascelles, a stern presence in the TV series 'The Crown'    

There are a few potboilers too, parts in the sort of shows that make up many actors' bread and butter. Among these we might consider popular schedule-filler such as 'Heartbeat', 'The Bill' (five roles, all different), 'Casualty' and a courtroom lawyer stint in 'Coronation Street'. 

As Colonel Kaplan in 'Star Wars: Episode VII -
The Force Awakens' (2015), somewhat in the
tradition of Michael Culver as Captain Needa.    

But it's in the semi-heavyweight division that Pip Torrens has been most notable. See, for example, his strong role in 'The Crown', and several other historical dramas such as 'Shackleton', 'Versailles', 'Fleming', and 'War & Peace'.

As the amusingly evil and perverse Herr Starr in the 
extreme comic-book TV adaptation 'Preacher'

Recent appearances of interest include 'Deep State', 'Black Mirror', and the playfully OTT comic book-based 'Preacher' in which he achieves the difficult job of stealing the show from a cast of fallen angels, saintly superheroes and God himself, with his portrayal of the hilariously ruthless Herr Starr.

To judge by his record thus far, there are many excellent roles in store for this accomplished actor, so hopefully this small salute will mean that a few more people will be able instantly to put a name to the face.

 Pip Torrens-imdb