As Spring tries to start its engine and we head toward April, the cruellest month, let us see what has been happening in the Morse universe.
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Roger Allam on Twitter.
Here is the article from The Times.
How Roger the leftie got to like Roy the rebel
Roger Allam thought Roy Jenkins condemned Britain to 18 years of Thatcherism, but playing the SDP leader in a new play changed his view
The bald cap and the receding hairline wig that will top it off and turn Roger Allam into Roy Jenkins await him in the costume room. One of Britain’s most recognisable actors is about to assume the role of one of the most familiar politicians of the 1980s, the man whose failure to make it to No 10 robbed Britain of its first bald prime minister since Churchill.
Steve Waters’s Limehouse, which is playing at the Donmar Warehouse in the West End of London, is set on Sunday, January 25, 1981, the day that the ill-fated Social Democratic Party (SDP) began to become a possibility. Roy (pronounced Woy) Jenkins was primus inter pares among the “gang” of four Labour defectors: Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers. For a heady year, until the Falklands intervened, it was not inconceivable that the party would topple Margaret Thatcher and come to power.
Not yet 30, Allam had just joined the RSC. A few years on and he would be its Inspector Javert in Les Misérables and his many years of stardom, albeit of a secondary sort, would begin. I ask him if he was among the thousands who signed up to the SDP by — and this was revolutionary in itself — credit card. “No,” says Allam solemnly. “I bought very much into the narrative that they split the left vote and gave us 18 years of Thatcherism. However, the play is an opportunity to reconsider.”
Even for then Jenkins, in his dark suits and with his silk handkerchiefs, whose diaries of his years as president of the European Commission were stuffed with accounts of long lunches and heavy dinners, was an old-fashioned figure, I say.
“Well, that’s another one of the what-ifs, isn’t it? What if Shirley Williams had led? But, actually, reading about Roy Jenkins I got to really like him. I think he’s a really interesting figure and incredibly intelligent and bright and was, 15 years before this, a very civilising home secretary in the Wilson government. So, was he old-fashioned? I don’t know.”
In his own ways, Allam’s slightly formal urbanity contradicts his own political radicalism. This is an actor who once fired off a sardonic letter to the Guardian wittily castigating tax cheats. At 63 (three years older than Jenkins was in January 1981) he does not, however, share Jenkins’s dress sense. Breaking from rehearsals for lunch to talk, he sports a lumberjack shirt, an unbuttoned corduroy waistcoat and a large tweed jacket.
Yet his lived-in looks have always been, for me, subsidiary to how he sounds. His deep, precise but lilting diction has lifted roles raging from Inspector Fred Thursday, the young Morse’s superior in Endeavour, to the dementia-suffering and corrupt brigadier in The Missing. In the cinema we will see him next as a poet in the film of Stephen Fry’s novel, The Hippopotamus. His voice is as rich as Jenkins’s ever was.
High-living Jenkins, the son of a Welsh miner, was a fascinating man, not least for a private life that encompassed not only a devoted wife, the mother to his three children, but two mistresses, all of whom knew about one another. Limehouse has no room to explore that particular hinterland. It is busy cramming the painful incubation of the fledgling SDP into a few hours at Owen’s riverside flat in the soon to be fashionable London Docklands district of Limehouse.
Having read John Campbell’s biography of Jenkins and the politician’s memoirs, Allam does not deny there is a responsibility imposed on an actor playing a real person — something he has done plenty of times, from Hitler through Oliver Cromwell (“I wore the warts”) to Robin Janvrin, the Queen’s private secretary, who later told him he had enjoyed watching himself in The Queen.
Jenkins’s widow died only a month ago. Did that make it easier? “Yes, I believe it would have been harder otherwise, actually. I don’t envy the others [in the cast] because I’m sure Shirley Williams, David Owen and the others will come and see the play.”
While Jenkins was born into the trade union movement, I have to guess where Allam’s own leftism originated. Noticing that his father was a London vicar, I suggest it came from a Christian socialist tradition. Rather, it turns out, it was born of a separation from his father when Roger was sent to a charitable boarding school in Sussex. At Christ’s Hospital he was infuriated by injustices such as corporal punishment — his housemaster caned him for smoking — and, less dramatically, older boys being permitted to steal food from his plate.
“Quite a lot of children who went there came from families that had split up; divorced parents and stuff like that. I came from an incredibly loving family background, so it was utterly miserable.” He must have missed them terribly. “Hugely. Hugely. And then, of course, you stop missing them and you get older and things go on. It was difficult when I came back from university and lived at home briefly. For half my life I’d been away from home more than I’d been at home.
“Not long after, my father died. I was just 24. He was only 63. Of some horrible disease that they can’t do anything about. I never really developed a proper adult relationship with him.” Indeed, he says, he never told his father that his faith had “melted away” while he was at university in Manchester.
Emotional distance is not a mistake he has made with his boys, aged 16 and 11, by his wife, the actress Rebecca Saire, whom he has been with since 1993. “My younger son is still very tactile and still holdable on your lap. You think, ‘Oh God, soon I won’t have that’.”
The remark prompts me to say that I have observed a melancholy in his performances, even his turns in The Thick of It as the Tory minister Peter Mannion, utterer of the unforgettable “I’m bored of this, I’m going for a Twix”. He says that no one has said that to him before, but does not demur. I tell him that I found his Prospero in The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe particularly upsetting. He thanks me. When Prospero gives a long exposition of what led to his exile 12 years before, Allam believes he is reliving the pain for the first time. Vocalising what happened is for him a kind of “therapy”.
Allam, centre, as the minister Peter Mannion in The Thick of It BBC
Has he, Allam, ever been in therapy? “I’ve had a go, yeah. Your life becomes like this planetary system and sometimes the depressing planet can come around and just sort of occupy your brain, but I don’t get clinically depressed. I don’t require drugs to lift me out of it. I just have to wait.”
His career offers limited comfort. He finds most of his performances wanting, and can regard his career that way too. “I think I could have done better, or I could be further on. I don’t know. I could have had the odd Hollywood movie in my back pocket.” A Marvel villain? “Yes! Why not?”
He shares one restorative joy with Jenkins: an expansive dinner table. Susanna White, who directed him in the BBC’s Parade’s End a few years ago, told me he was a bon viveur in the best sense. “Is there a worst sense?” he retorts. “Well, I’m with Roy on that. I like good food and I like good wine, although I don’t think I’d find myself among the expensive clarets Roy drank.”
As Falstaff in Henry IV in 2010
I need to ask him about that voice. I hear the iambic pentameter in it almost always. “It’s not conscious but I’m certainly very conscious of language and how it works. The iambic pentameter is considered to be, if you’re speaking English certainly, the natural number of syllables you can speak in one breath.”
His diction is so clear, I wonder if, in this age of mumbling television acting, directors ever tell him to “take it down”? “Of course,” he says, but he does not argue back. “What’s curious is that sometimes I’ve done scenes on films and on television where I’ve been sitting about the same distance we are now and I can’t hear what the other actor’s saying because it’s somehow considered untruthful to speak louder.”
This attempt at naturalism is partly fashion, he says. Hard to think of it now, but the SDP was once a fashion too, a political fad, and one he saw through. Yet just as his atheism has softened with the years — he now calls himself an agnostic or “non-theist” — so his antipathy to the SDP has modified. Jenkins was not, by 1981, a careerist, and nor were his co-conspirators. They could rather, he says, be seen merely as “woefully mistaken”. If anti-Corbynistas today wish to avoid making the same errors, they would do well to go and watch Allam as Jenkins lead the left astray.
Limehouse is at the Donmar Warehouse, London WC2 (0844 8717624), to April 15. For a chance to get free tickets to any Donmar show, under-25s can sign up for YOUNG+FREE alerts at donmarwarehouse.com
Shaun Evans Only on Twitter. (I’m not Shaun, I’m just an admirer) @ShaunEvansOnly
D.C. Morse by tillieke
Sara Vickers (Joan Thursday)
James Bradshaw (Max DeBryn)
Anton Lesser (Chief Superintendent Bright)
Abigail Thaw (Dorothea Frazil)
Sean Rigby (James Strange)
Roger Allam (Fred Thursday)
Shaun Evans (Endeavour Morse)
Dakota Blue Richards (WPC Trewlove)
The Making of Endeavour
From the website What’s On Stage.
From The Stage Website
TV Guide to all things Morse on TV.
Saturday 11th March ITV3 11:35am Inspector Morse – Dead on Time.
Morse is haunted by his past when he investigates the apparent suicide of a terminally ill Oxford don and finds that he has an unexpected and painful personal connection with the don’s family. With John Thaw (Chief Inspector Morse), Kevin Whately (Detective Sergeant Lewis), James Grout (Chief Superintendent Strange), Joanna David (Susan Fallon), Adrian Dunbar (Dr John Marriot), Samantha Bond (Helen Marriot) and David Haig (Peter Rhodes). (1992)
Saturday 11th March ITV3 5pm Lewis – The Quality of Mercy.
When Lewis and Hathaway are called in to investigate the murder of a rising star on the Oxford theatrical circuit, they focus their suspicions on the cast of his current play. As Lewis discovers all the theatrical ambitions and jealousies, he wonders if an actor would kill for a good part. Meanwhile, Hathaway thinks he may have uncovered just who killed Lewis’s wife in a hit and run accident years before. With Kevin Whately (DI Robert Lewis), Laurence Fox (DS James Hathaway), Clare Holman (Dr Laura Hobson), Rebecca Front (Ch Supt Jean Innocent), Bryan Dick (Phil Beaumont), Shaughan Seymour (Graham Wilkinson), Daniel Sharman (Richard Scott), Geoffrey Breton (Joe Myers), Abby Ford (Isabel Dawson), Jo Herbert (Sally) and Ronan Vibert (Simon Monkford). (2009)
Sunday 12th March ITV3 6am Inspector Morse – Happy Families.
When a well-known business tycoon is murdered at his country mansion, his feuding sons and unstable wife immediately fall under suspicion. Meanwhile, Morse clashes with a new chief superintendent and becomes the unwitting victim of a hate campaign in the tabloid press. With John Thaw (Chief Inspector Morse), Kevin Whately (Detective Sergeant Lewis), Gwen Taylor (Margaret Cliff), Martin Clunes (James Balcombe), Andrew Ray (Alfred Rydale), Anna Massey (Lady Emily Balcombe), Rupert Graves (Billy), Jamie Foreman (Chas), Alun Armstrong (Superintendent Holdsby) and Charlotte Coleman (Jessica White). (1992)
Monday 13th March ITV3 1:30am Inspector Morse – The Death of the Self.
The bizarre death of an Englishwoman abroad takes Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis to the vineyards and ancient villas of Vicenza and Verona in northern Italy. Morse revels in his new surroundings and is captivated by glamorous opera singer Nicole Burgess, while Lewis hankers for home. With John Thaw (Chief Inspector Morse), Kevin Whately (Detective Sergeant Lewis), James Grout (Chief Superintendent Strange), Frances Barber (Nicole Burgess), Michael Kitchen (Russell Clark), Georges Corraface (Claudio Battisti), Jane Snowden (Maureen Dyson) and Peter Blythe (Kenneth Lawrence). (1992)
Monday 13th March ITV3 10:55am Inspector Morse – Absolute Conviction.
The sudden death of a convict leads Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis to investigate the complex affairs of three businessmen jailed for fraud. The interests of the fraudsters’ families are at stake, as is the reputation of the governor of the progressive open prison. With John Thaw (Chief Inspector Morse), Kevin Whately (Detective Sergeant Lewis), Sean Bean (Alex Bailey), Diana Quick (Hilary Stephens), Richard Wilson (Brian Thornton), Tony Steedman (Lawrence Cryer), Robert Pugh (Geoff Harris), Cheryl Hall (Laura), Steven Mackintosh (Detective Sergeant Cheetham), Jim Broadbent (Charlie Bennett) and James Grout (Chief Superintendent Strange). (1992)
Tuesday 14th March ITV3 Midnight Inspector Morse – Absolute Conviction
Tuesday 14th March ITV3 10:55am Inspector Morse – Cherubim and Seraphim.
When tragedy strikes in his own family, Inspector Morse is forced to confront the generation gap. His investigation into the death of a bright young girl leads him into an alien world of house parties, raves and smart drugs. With John Thaw (Morse), Kevin Whately (Lewis), Isla Blair (Janey Wilson), Sorcha Cusack (Joyce Garrett), Jason Isaacs (Desmond Collier), John Junkin (Holroyd), James Grout (Strange) and Charlotte Chatton (Marilyn Garrett). (1992)
Wednesday 15th March ITV3 12:10am Inspector Morse – Cherubim and Seraphim.
Wednesday 15th March ITV3 10:55am Inspector Morse – Deadly Slumber.
The great John Thaw is back on our screens as ITV3 spotlights Colin Dexter’s gruff detective in some classic episodes throughout the week. In this story, Deadly Slumber, Morse battles to remain objective when he and Lewis investigate the murder of a man who founded a private hospital. Suspicion points to a father whose daughter suffered brain damage during what should have been a routine hospital operation, but Morse is touched by the bereaved father’s plight. With John Thaw (Chief Inspector Morse), Kevin Whately (Detective Sergeant Lewis), Carol Starks (Jane Folley), Jason Durr (John Brewster), Richard Owens (Dr Mathew Brewster), Brian Cox (Michael Steppings) and James Grout (Chief Superintendent Strange). (1993)
Wednesday 15th March ITV3 8pm Lewis – The Point of Vanishing.
Lewis and Hathaway encounter religious fanaticism, deception and some very old family secrets in this episode of the Oxford-based crime drama series. Religious maniac Steven Mullan is found scalded and drowned in his bath. Mullan had been imprisoned for attempting to murder celebrity atheist Tom Rattenbury in a car crash, crippling his daughter in the process, and had only recently been released. Closer investigation, however, reveals that Mullan may not have been the intended victim, and he is not the last person to die. As Lewis and Hathaway investigate the Rattenbury family, they eventually discover what they are trying to keep hidden. With Kevin Whately (DI Robert Lewis), Laurence Fox (DS James Hathaway), Clare Holman (Dr Laura Hobson), Rebecca Front (Ch Supt Jean Innocent), Ophelia Lovibond (Jessica Rattenbury), Danny Midwinter (Steven Mullan), Dougal Irvine (Alex Hadley), Julian Wadham (Tom Rattenbury) and Jenny Seagrove (Cecile Rattenbury). (2008)
Thursday 16th March ITV3 12:10am Inspector Morse – The Day of the Devil.
Detective series. Morse and Lewis find themselves in a terrifying world of devil worship as they hunt a violent rapist on the run from prison. With John Thaw (Morse), Kevin Whately (Lewis), James Grout (Strange), Keith Allen (John Peter Barrie), Harriet Walter (Esther Martin), Patrick O’Connell (Jack Vaizey), Anthony Hunt (Young Porter) and Lloyd McGuire (Clough). (1993)
Thursday 16th March ITV3 10:55am Inspector Morse – Twilight of the Gods.
An investigative journalist is found shot dead, then a sniper opens fire at an Oxford degree ceremony. Connection? The title of this story – Twilight of the Gods – will not be lost on Morse fans who share the detective chief inspector’s devotion to opera. The meltdown of the gods’ entire powerbase at the end of Wagner’s Ring cycle may indeed eclipse what’s afoot here, not by much in Morse’s eyes when a world-famous diva of whom he is a devoted fan takes a bullet while Morse looks on. With John Thaw (Chief Inspector Morse), Kevin Whately (Detective Sergeant Lewis), Sheila Gish (Gwladys Probert), Alan David (Sir Watkin Davies), Celia Montague (Adele Baydon), Rachel Weisz (Arabella Baydon), John Bluthal (Victor Ignotas), John Gielgud (Lord Hinksey) and James Grout (Chief Superintendent Strange). (1993)
Friday 17th March ITV3 12:10am Inspector Morse – Twilight of the Gods.
Friday 17th March ITV3 10:50am Inspector Morse – The Way through the Woods.
Morse is concerned about a murder case believed closed after the death of the accused, as a fifth victim’s body is still to be accounted for. Morse is convinced that the body, that of a single woman on a day trip to Oxford, is in Wytham Woods. But her bag was found at Blenheim Lake and when a body is discovered there, Morse and Lewis are assigned to the case. With John Thaw, Kevin Whately, Nicholas Le Prevost, Christopher Fairbank, Gary Powell, James Grout, Vivienne Ritchie and Michelle Fairley. (1995)
Saturday 18th March ITV3 2:40am Inspector Morse – The Way through the Woods.
We come to the end of another weekly post. I hope you found something of interest. Thank you all for your ongoing support and thank you to those who have subscribed this week, welcome. Take care and I hope you all have a nice week ahead.