I came across a great program on BBC Radio recently that featured Richard Wilson, who stared as the curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave. The program documented Wilson’s progress rehearsing and performing at Frinton Summer Theatre, the U.K.’s longest running summer repertory theatre.
Wilson agreed to go to Frinton for a two week period last summer to rehearse and perform in a play called The Dog, in celebration of the theatre’s 75th anniversary. The radio documentary follows the actor’s progress from the first day of rehearsal through to the last night of the show. It’s highly entertaining and especially fun to listen to as Wilson is expressing his frustration - in typical Meldrew fashion - over having to learn his lines in just a week. Despite that, the play was a huge success. The radio documentary first aired in December, so don’t wait too long to listen to it, or it might no longer be available. It can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04thhpd
As well as treading the boards, the 78 year old actor has also been keeping himself busy directing. In 2010 he took on the job as Associate Director for Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, where he most recently directed a contemporary play called Blasted. It ran last month and received excellent reviews. Although Wilson has been directing since 1965, it’s not something he’s primarily known for, nor is it something he wants to do all the time. As he explains, “it’s much more stressful than just acting, you’re responsible for too many things. When you’re acting you can have a couple of scenes off, or even a whole day. That doesn’t happen for a director.”
Directing is also not as lucrative financially as television work, so Wilson likes to return to television now and again. His latest series is a documentary called Richard Wilson On The Road, which recently aired in the U.K. In the six part series Wilson travels around the U.K. in a vintage 1960s Daimler using a 1930s Shell Guide book. The series gives viewers an opportunity to see for themselves that Wilson is nowhere near as grumpy in real-life as the Meldrew character he played for a decade. In fact, on a happiness scale of one to ten, Wilson puts himself “at an eight.”
I’m sure he was especially happy in 2013, when he was honored by the British Academy of Film & Television Scotland for his outstanding contribution to television and film. The award was presented by Wilson’s fellow Scotsman, David Tennant.
If there’s a British actor you’d like to find out more about, drop me a line:
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117