In the theatre

In December 2023, I will be playing Charles Dickens in a Staged Radio Play  Tour of “A Christmas Carol”, with my great friend Colin Baker playing the role of Scrooge. More details nearer the time.

below: The cast of the Edinburgh  2018 Festival Production of  “Once Seen on  Blue Peter”

The cast of the Edinburgh  2018 Festival Production of  "Once Seen on  Blue Peter"
Launch Publicity for Once Seen on Blue Peter – LtoR Peter Duncan, Tim Vincent, Janet Ellis, Mark Curry, Me.

I completed a return to “the boards” in August 2018 in a specially written play “Once Seen on Blue Peter” at the Edinburgh Fringe. The Play was an idea by former Blue Peter Presenter Tim Vincent, and was a written by the Olivier Award winning writer, Tim Whitnall. It was a very amusing but respectful view of the world’s longest running Children’s TV show, where five former BP Presenters play somewhat heightened versions of ourselves. The lovely members of the cast were Mark Curry, Janet Ellis, Peter Duncan, Tim Vincent, and me, plus the very talented Ian Mark Crowe as a “Magpie”loving TV Floor Assistant. The setting was the Green Room at a TV Awards Ceremony where the five ex-BP Presenters are “discussing”who would step up to receive a Special award.  The play picked up two 5-star and one 4-star review at the Fringe Festival. My thanks go to Denise Silvey, Andrew Green and Tim Vincent for having the courage to produce the play, and to the fabulous Ian Talbot who directed it. It was a thoroughly enjoyable return to my first love, acting.

I had ventured back into the theatre at the end of 2012 with a performance as Alderman Fitzwarren in Dick Whittington for Act One Pantomimes at the Eric Morecambe Theatre in Harpenden. It was only a short run, very well received, and he had an enjoyable time working with the director, Chris Law.

Prior to that performance my last foray into the theatre was to direct my old friends Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball in Jack and the Beanstalk at Lincoln Theatre Royal.

In the 2008/09 Xmas season I directed my 31st pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the New Theatre in Hull, with The Grumbleweeds, Vicki Michelle (from ‘Allo, ‘Allo), and James Mackenzie (Raven on CBBC) as the principal stars. It was a very successful show, and I had a hard act to follow. The last time I directed there was in 1991 with Cannon and Ball in Dick Whittington in a show that broke all the house records, and which, for “bums on seats”, still holds the record for the venue.

Snow White was a fairly new venture for me as I only directed mys first version of the show at The Orchard in Dartford in 2007, with Wendi Peters (Coronation Street) as the Wicked Queen. Both shows were greeted with considerable critical praise, and were really more like plays with music than traditional pantomime.

Previously I had directed the comedy duo, The Chuckle Brothers in my fourth collaboration with them at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth in a production of Jack and the Beanstalk. my earlier shows with them had been Cinderella (Southend) Aladdin (Stoke) and Dick Whittington (Manchester Opera House).

A full list of my pantomimes can be found in the Full CV section in another page of the site.

Here are some extracts from some of the panto reviews with which  I have been recently involved.

“The panto’s great strength was the Chuckle Brothers… Paul and Barry made the most of the audience quips and the laughs and fun really flow. Add in the excellent staging and spectacle held together by director Peter Purves, who is surely one of the best in the panto business. He made the very best use of the Pavilion’s large but difficult shallow stage, and provided a show to laugh at and visibly (sic) enjoy, with a particularly effective transformation scene.

This Cinderella looks like ensuring a good financial Christmas for the theatre….

Under the direction of Peter Purves, it is a finely balanced show that moves at just the right pace. Topped off with spectacular sets and stunning costumes, it is a sumptuous affair that hits the mark on all counts.

Aladdin (has) stunning sets, lavish costumes, powerful genies, a beautiful Princess, and a Chinese Laundry. It is definitely the place for chuckling this Christmas

The children were kept amused forall of the two and half hour performance – no mean feat – and the audience was left calling for more. Oh Yes they were!”

How it All Started
I began acting at an early age – my first role at the age of nine was The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The following year I played the title role in Robin Hood and then Alan Breck in Kidnapped
My first professional role was in repertory during school holidays at the age of 17 as Sheriff in The Rainmaker (1957, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Barrow in Furness). I played one other part during that summer before going on to train for two years as a maths teacher! But teaching wasn’t the life for me and I returned to Barrow in 1961 as a permanent member of the company.

Spending two years learning my trade in weekly rep. (that’s performing a new play every week) I appeared in 96 plays playing everything from Malvolio in Twelfth Night to leading roles in the Whitehall Farces. My  time in Barrow as the hardest work, the most fun and the worst paid I have ever had in my life.

me, aged 23 as Professor Serebriakov in Uncle Vanya for The Renaissance Theatre Company, Barrow-in-Furness. 1962

Leaving Barrow to try my luck in London my first job was to play the Doctor in Witness for the Prosecution at the Wimbledon Theatre. I followed that with a three-month spell in the chorus in the Charlie Drake vehicle, Man in the Moon at the London Palladium. It was a total disaster from day one until it came off nine months earlier than scheduled.
Even during my years on Blue Peter, I still made occasional appearances on stage, including two Children’s Royal Variety Performances. Then in 1978 came my first commercial pantomime, Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford with John Noakes and Bonnie Langford. It was in this show that I first met my wife, Kathryn, who was playing Dandini. The show broke all box office records and laid the foundation for my appearing in or directing 32 pantomimes.

My  Qdos pantos have been on a seriously large scale. I have directed some of the biggest comedy stars currently working, from John Inman, to Hale and Pace, Bobby Davro to The Chuckle brothers. And records have been broken at every venue. I originally directed for E&B productions, then later for the management group AMG, who merged with E&B to form Qdos some years ago. Qdos is now the biggest pantomime producer in the country, with some 30 shows each Xmas.

I was proud to be elected to the Board of the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich in 1999, andam  proud of the way the board managed to get the theatre up and running after being “dark” for two years, and secured funding from the three principal bodies, Arts Council England East; Ipswich Borough Council, and Suffolk County Council. I was Chair of the Board for two years, standing down in 2007 after completing the maximum of six years. During my Chairmanship, the theatre got a badly needed new roof, many other technical improvements, and plans were well advanced for replacing the seating and other general refurbishments, all of which have now been completed. CE Sarah Holmes and Artistic Director Peter Rowe continue to run a marvellous Arts venue for the people of Ipswich and the surrounding area. Long may it continue.