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Shakespeare and Drama

Dixon of Dock Green


Jeff made his television debut in the legendary and still longest running police soap, Dixon of Dock Green. In an episode entitled Pay Off, he appeared alongside series regulars Jack Warner and Peter Byrne with guest star Hazel Bainbridge playing his mother. In his role as Alan Hunt, the storyline portrays him and his wife as a young married couple desperate to own their home. A scenario which seems increasingly unlikely for financial reasons until wife Ann succumbs to temptation! Coincidentally, Judy Buxton also appeared in Dixon of Dock Green in an episode called The Specialist.

Crossroads


A month after his appearance in Dixon of Dock Green, Jeff was signed on a six week contract to appear in eleven episodes of the hugely popular ATV soap Crossroads. Probably not surprising when you consider he is a Midlander by birth. He joined the cast as Mike Hawkins, a friend of Crossroads’ regulars Sheila and Roy Mollison and market fruit stall holder. His storyline was somewhat involved acting as a go between for his friends and a runaway boy. His exit from the series was far less glamorous but rather more mysterious! ‘I went to the motel for some coffee and was never seen again,’ Jeff laughs.

The Mayor of Casterbridge


Dennis Potter’s television adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge provided Jeff’s first major drama role on the small screen and a liaison with director David Giles which was to prove rather fruitful in terms of his career. Jeff was cast in the role of The Carter and appeared in the first four episodes of the seven episode series screened in 1978. Heading the cast was the brilliant Alan Bates in the title role with Anne Stallybrass in the role of his unfortunate wife and Anna Massey as his equally unfortunate mistress. For Jeff the production holds some very happy memories. ‘Well obviously it was a great experience to work with Alan Bates, a real learning opportunity,’ muses Jeff. ‘He was the complete professional in every respect and so well prepared but he was so easy to work with and still managed to be one of the lads. I remember he was a huge Elvis fan like me and he would play Elvis’ Moody Blue album constantly in is car. We would have numerous discussions about Elvis’ music between filming! ‘They were great times.’

Shakespeare - Richard II - Henry V - As You Like It


Following The Mayor of Casterbridge, director David Giles invited Jeff to appear in the role of the Duke of Surrey in Shakespeare’s Richard II alongside an illustrious cast including Derek Jacobi, Sir John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller for BBC TV. In the same year, producer Cedric Messina approached Jeff in the infamous BBC canteen  to ask him to play the role of William in As You Like It. He was offered this role in what Jeff feels were slightly bizarre circumstances. Messina had seen Jeff’s portrayal of the multi talented Ormanroyd in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and decided he was an ideal William. Jeff was a little concerned at first in that he did not know the director; however, he was advised not to worry. ‘I can’t help feeling the director got me whether he wanted me or not,’ laughs Jeff, ‘but it was a wonderful production to be a part of and I thoroughly enjoyed working with James Bolam who played Touchstone.’  This production was filmed in May 1979 and also starred Helen Mirren. Jeff then went on to appear as Stephano in The Tempest and Snug the Joiner, also for David Giles but this time at The Edinburgh Festival, which ultimately led to his most recent television Shakespeare role as Nym in Henry V with David Gwillim. Jeff firmly believes Shakespeare is something every actor should have on his CV. ‘It is quite hard work in that you literally have to translate it all in your mind first to get the emphasis right but I believe it’s a technique that once developed can help you give a performance of greater meaning all round. I don’t profess to be a natural Shakespearian performer but I have enjoyed what I have done and would like to do some more at some point especially Malvolio in Twelfth Night. I really couldn’t refuse that.’

Secret Army


Created from the pen of prolific drama writer Gerard Glaister, this brilliantly produced wartime classic took to our television screens in 1977 and ran for three series until 1979. Set in war-torn Belgium, the storyline followed the danger ridden lives of a group of Resistance fighters in occupied Belgium throughout World War II. Much of the action centred on La Candide, a bistro style café from where many escape plans for the allied forces were masterminded. Central characters included café owner Albert Foiret brilliantly portrayed by Bernard Hepton, his mistress and waitress Monique (Angela Richards), Resistance leader Lisa Colbert ‘Yvette’ (Jan Francis) and Kessler, a relentless Gestapo Officer (Clifford Rose). If all this sounds a little familiar, it is because the series is reportedly the inspiration behind the hit comedy Allo Allo. That said, there was nothing remotely humorous about Secret Army. Tense, gripping and compelling it was heralded as one of the BBC’s finest ever drama series. Jeff appeared in episode nine of the first season entitled ‘Too Near Home’. He portrayed a young Resistance member named Michel , a role he now reflects on as ironic with his connection to the stage show of Allo Allo in which his wife Judy also plays ‘Michelle of the Resistance’ albeit of the opposite gender! ‘Mine was very much a cameo role’, said Jeff. ‘But I was very impressed with Secret Army especially the speed at which they turned it all round. They did it weekly as well. They had already recorded film to put in with the studio stuff and they pulled it off so well. It was quite something for me, I was surrounded by Bernard Hepton and Jan Francis and people like that’.

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