This is crazy but works!
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Brian Blessed recalls the director who taught him to play the fool
The Guardian, Saturday November 8 2008
When I was 11 I played the part of Rumpelstiltskin and my teacher told me I would make a great actor. But I was the son of a coal miner and I had to leave school when I was 14 because my father had an accident. I became a plasterer and I did amateur theatre at night. It was there I met Harry Dobson.
He got a hold of me and guided me from then on. He was the best director and teacher I ever met; he was of the same stature as Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn, or at least would have done as well as them had he not stayed in amateur theatre and helped people like me.
Harry was a great bull of a man: he had a huge physique with sausage fingers and a penetrating gaze. He rode a motorbike and wore leathers and said things like: "Give yourself the luxury of making a fool of yourself!"
He thought the greatest risk in life was not going for the adventure and told me often that my determination was getting in my way and that I should lighten up and ease up on myself. He taught me not to try too hard, and that I needed to get out and have fun.
I went through a phase when I became uncaring, the way teenagers do. I was horrible to my parents and to everyone around me and Harry was appalled. One evening I was talking to him in an offhand way and he slapped me straight across the face. It stung, it was powerful and it almost unbalanced me. "You uncaring bastard - you're forgetting everyone who has done so much for you, you're big-headed and egotistical!" he roared. "You can bugger off; I don't want to talk to you!"
I got a fever that night that lasted a couple of weeks. I apologised to my parents for my behaviour and then I went to see Harry and told him I was back to myself and apologised profusely. He hugged me and said, "Come here, you great ape!"
I kept in touch with Harry. When I was in Z-Cars I got a message that he was in hospital with cancer. I rushed to his bedside and there was this bull of a man now about five stone with wires coming out of his nose. I was crying my eyes out, but he reassured me. "Oh Brian, I'm having the most wonderful dreams. You go for it and don't let the bastards grind you down." A few hours later he was dead.
I always feel when I play parts that he's watching over me, saying: "Give, you bugger, give!" and as a result in rehearsals I always make a fool of myself and throw myself into it, trying new things out.