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Going after old BBC favorites…

On nights when nothing I am interested in is on television, I have been going on line and revisiting favorite BBC channel  series from the previous decade.

I’m halfway through the three year series (six episodes each year) of the great Canadian series Slings & Arrows, the story of a Shakespearian theatre festival in Ontario, covering a different play each season (they opened with Hamlet and, in the second season, I am immersed in the Scottish Play.)

As many of you theatrefolk know, it is bad luck to say the name of the Scottish Play when you are discussing it… you can say the main character’s only in context of the lines in the performance. In the third season we will be getting into King Lear.

I love Slings & Arrows and could watch it many times over (You Tube has each episode in 7.25 minute units, but no commercials.)

Once I’m through these I’m going into two related series that were, at the time, my overall favorite of their seasons: Life On Mars (2 seasons) followed by Ashes To Ashes (3 seasons). These are about English police detectives who get into major accidents in the first episodes of each and wake up in the past (Life On Life on Mars (TV series)Mars in the 1970’s and Ashes To Ashes in the 1980’s. Each time the detective wakes up in Manchester where they are active in the existing Detective unit, but can’t figure out how they got there,

There was an American version of Life On Mars tried some years after the British, but it didn’t last a full season… the British was so much better.

If you’ve never seen these shows, I recommend them highly.

Nicol Williamson, legendary British actor, dies at 75…

He was once heralded as the greatest British actor of his generation. Nicol Williamson was known for stormy onstage behavior- including calling off a 1969 performance of “Hamlet” mid-speech because he was too tired to go on.

“I’ll pay for the seats, but I won’t shortchange you by not giving my best.” said Williamson. And then he walked off stage.

At age 26 when he auditioned for “Inadmissible Evidence,” playwright John  Osborne wrote in his diary that this “pouting, delinquent cherub produced the face to match the torment below the surface. He is much too young, 26, to the character’s 39, but no matter. He is old within.” The playwright called Williamson “the 

greatest actor since Marlon Brando.”

After appearing in films, television productions and plays on the English and Broadway stages, he retreated to Amsterdam about two decades ago and focused on playing country music. Before he died, he was able to finish recording the CD he had been working on, said his son, Williamson’s only immediate survivor. “He didn’t want any fuss made over his passing. He was not interested in publicity,” said Luke Williamson.

Nicol Williamson was known for being hard to get along with, especially by directors and producers (he once punched David Merrick during a rehearsal), and he commentd on his own personality:

“I think the only valuable thing you can do as an actor is to make people recognize in themselves what is also there in you, and what you see in them. Then they’ll hate you because they don’t want you to do that to them. That’s why I’m hated a lot of the time. They don’t want you to show these things in you because it makes them uncomfortable. It makes them frightened. But I think you must show these things in order to be true to yourself.”