Friday, 24 December 2021

David Wood

Actor David Wood in the ITV drama 'Crown Court'


David Wood:

David Wood's innocent schoolboy looks, deployed so notably in Lindsay Anderson's remarkable 'If..' (1968), have stayed with him for his whole career. Which certainly isn't to say that he has been typecast, with an amazingly broad range of roles under his belt that show him hopping nimbly from outright menace to disarming sweetness with apparent ease.

With Malcolm McDowell in 'If..' (1968)

 In fact, it's in the field of children's drama and literature that he has made his most lasting impression: writing his own play for children, 'The Gingerbread Man', which he later adapted for television, and adapting a number of classic children's books for the stage. He proved a gifted storyteller on the much-loved BBC institution 'Jackanory' for  many years, and can be seen in episodes of schools programmes such as 'Watch' and 'Seeing & Doing' as well as tots' shows like 'Playaway'. He's also in the well-made children's serial, 'Huntingtower' from the late '70s.
Alongside Bernard Cribbins, Maurice Denham and
Jan Francis for 'Jackanory's' take on 'The Hobbit'.

While all this wholesome fare very much suited the David Wood who would later come to be dubbed Britain's Children's Dramatist, the darker side of '70s television drama also proved to be in search of his talents. He can be seen in the the Wednesday Play 'Mad Jack' about Siegfried Sassoon and the horrors of the trenches, in the feverish adventures of the Pre-Raphaelites in 'The Love School', and he's in episodes of those cult-favourite collections of the uncanny: 'Out Of The Unknown' and 'Menace'.  


With Ann Morrish and Patrick Troughton in
the 'Out Of The Unknown' episode 'The Chopper'

 On the movie front, David Wood crops up in a few interesting titles, starting with the aforementioned 'If..' (1968), and including the psychological portmanteau horror 'Tales That Witness Madness' (1973) with Donald Pleasance, Robert Powell and Joan Collins. He's reunited with Malcolm McDowell in the 'Journey's End' adaptation, 'Aces High' (1976), and plays one of the baddies in 'North Sea Hijack' (1980) pitted against a bearded Roger Moore, throwing the kitchen sink at escaping his Bond persona with more bizarre quirks than he can realistically manage to pull off.          
 'Tales That Witness Madness' (1973)

In the First World War flying movie, 'Aces High' (1976)

There's a smattering of period dramas, including Turgenev's 'Fathers And Sons' and Goldoni's 'The Venetian Twins' from the BBC, and the ambitious but slightly awkward 'Disraeli' with Ian McShane. He's in some old sepia-toned TV favourites such as 'Danger UXB', 'Enemy At The Door', and 'When The Boat Comes In'. A memorable moment for me is his tap-dancing martial arts duel with Purdey in 'The New Avengers', one of the few times when the series approached the surreal heights of its '60s ancestor.

In the ATV historical drama 'Disraeli' in which he portrayed
Lord Derby. Here w
ith Ian McShane in the title role.

 His last listed performing role was in the star-studded TV movie 'Longitude' in 2000, but David Wood is still seemingly busy with his work in children's drama, adapting Roald Dahl and other writers for the stage, publishing plays and books, and lecturing school drama classes. An engaging actor and a dedicated educator, deserving of this little salute and more.   

David Wood-imdb

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Anthony O'Donnell

Welsh actor Anthony O'Donnell in Mike Leigh's 'Nuts In May'

Anthony O'Donnell:  

I thought I only knew Anthony O'Donnell as Ray, the camper unfortunate enough to pitch next to Keith and Candice-Marie in Mike Leigh's 'Nuts In May'. As is often the case, I came to realise that I had seen the compact Welsh actor in quite a lot more than that. And that's without taking into account his long and successful stage career with the National Theatre, the RSC and many other prestigious theatrical institutions, largely as I am not much of a theatre-goer. 

'Nuts In May' in 1976

'Nuts in May' in 1976 was, it seems, his first foray into television, and the remainder of the '70s saw only a few appearances, in 'The Onedin Line', 'Crown Court' and 'The Sweeney' for example, and you don't get much more '70s than that. There was also an attempt to launch him as a sitcom star in LWT's rather pedestrian 'Lovely Couple', penned by the screenwriter of the 'Confessions...' films, but I don't have any memory of seeing it, despite it reuniting him with 'Nuts In May' star Roger Sloman in several episodes. 

The short-lived 1979 sitcom that didn't quite
make Anthony O'Donnell a household name.

Into the '80s and '90s and he was balancing an increasingly successful theatre career with the odd TV role. Memorable among these was the small but sinister gangster Big Dai in 'Minder', and some others such as the revived 'Tomorrow People', the vet series 'Noah's Ark', the Higson and Whitehouse one-off 'Dead At Thirty', and 'A Very Peculiar Practice'.

As Big Dai in the 'Minder' episode 'The Cruel Canal'

Cinema roles from this period include 'Santa Claus The Movie' (1985), 'Robin Hood' (1991), and a reconnection with Mike Leigh for 'Secrets & Lies' (1996). 

With Brazilian star Joaquin De Almeida in
'Xango From Baker Street' (2001)

 With the arrival of the 21st century, and now in his fifties, he appeared in Kenneth Branagh's 'Love's Labours Lost' (2001), and as Watson in a Brazilian twist on Sherlock Holmes, 'Xango From Baker Street' (2001), 'Vera Drake' (2004), 'The Baker' (2005), 'Death Defying Acts' (2007) and 'Skyfall' (2012).

The menacing looking (but ultimately played-for-laughs) Sontaran,
Kaagh, in 'The Sarah Jane Adventures', a spin-off of 'Doctor Who' 

Meanwhile, back on the small screen, came appearances in 'The Sarah Jane Adventures' as the humorously belligerent alien, Kaagh, and a turn in 'Gavin & Stacey', as well as Ruth Jones's 'Stella', the period drama 'Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky', 'The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher', and the Jeremy Thorpe drama 'A Very English Scandal'. All good stuff.  

In the supernatural comedy-drama, 'Being Human'

With Hugh Grant in 'A Very British Scandal'

Anthony O'Donnell-imdb