was, to my fathers delight, an Elf and a Rainbow child!
following year for the 1955-56 season also at
the Royal Festival Hall I played the lead role of CRISPIAN CARY
then on. the educational facilities at CONTI took 2nd place to my acting career.
the Rainbow Ends
The actress Italia Conti had gained a reputation for working with children and
was asked to train the underage company (which included a 12 year old Noel
Coward). Where the Rainbow Ends was such a success that it led to
Italia establishing regular classes to teach dancing, singing, acting and
elocution. This quickly grew into a performing arts school that is still going
strong and has boasted many famous names among its students, including film star
Jack Hawkins (who was in the 1922 production of Rainbow at the Holborn
Empire), Leslie Ash, Wendy Richard, Naomi Campbell,Clive Dunn, Graham Harper
a children's play, originally written for Christmas 1911 byClifford
composed byRoger Quilter.
Where the Rainbow Ends
a fantasy, containing themes of British imperialism that would nowadays not be consideredpolitically
Even I was a bit shocked when I re-read the script
a few years ago! It concerns a group of children separated from their parents. Travelling on a
magic carpet, they face various dangers on their
way to rescue their parents,
and are guarded
and helped bySaint
Bromley Repertory Theatre Productions
I was so lucky. Lots of 'acting' jobs came my way -
particularly important was a series of different plays at
REP. It was far more fun and interesting going to rehearsals in the
daytime and 'shouting in the evening' than going to school.
Bromley Repertory Theatre Productions
that included me were:-
Murder at the Vicarage. The happiest days of your life, Master of Arts, The House Master, The Facts of Life, The Remarkable Mr Pennypacker, The Browning Version
Probably learned more at Bromley Rep than anywhere
else. Such nice and talented people and so generous to a probably,
horrid, child actor!
So at the age of 14 I would leave Conti's in
Archer Street, Piccadilly and get the underground and a train to Bromley for
rehearsals or to perform in the evenings and at 22.30 get myself to Paddington
Station to get the train to my home in Maidenhead!
1995 a lot of 'telly' acting was also coming my way including
leads in quite long running
drama series like:-
THE LITTLE ROUND HOUSE, and
the sequel MR PAPINGAY'S SHIP
in which I played the leading role of Robin and
Toke Townly played played Mr Papingay.
Toke taught me a lot about acting and years
later when he was Sam Pearson in Emmerdale and I met and worked
with him again
him again decades later when I
directed a number of episodes of Emmerdale Farm & Emmerdale over a 20year
THE MONEY MOUNTAIN
Which was a live drama production about two
English kids somewhere in Europe having various studio bound adventures.
Taught me to learn my lines properly as it was not recorded and if you dried or
got the giggles you had to carry on... it transmitted on Saturdays in the late
afternoon I think
My first venture into feature films
was a Pinewood movie designed to be a sequel to the highly successful Genevieve staring John Gregson.
A wonderful cast of actors and was directed by Wendy Toye.
In a way it introduced me to 3 of the most important elements of my life -
The location filming was all in France where I
It gave me enough money to buy a Palliard
Bolex 8mm cine camera and from then on I started making little movies. A
lot of what I learned about story telling with a silent movie camera, stood me
in good stead when I eventually became a
set in a world of boats and sailing - and later I made a circumnavigation
in my own small 36 ft sailing boat. So I suppose True as a Turtle started
me into my two great loves - Directing and Sailing.
Harry Wharton (As Michael Tennant)in London's Victoria Palace Christmas production of BILLY
BUNTER and later played FRANK NUGENT (As Michael Briant) in the
1961 BBC television
A few commercials, some radio, small parts in small films, bits and
bobs in BBC television productions like Armchair Theatre and The Grove
Doing OK but having spent my childhood playing leads or principle
roles I was finding it hard to just do a couple of lines. Big difference between
being a child actor and an adult actor. - You can't fool all of the people
all of the time'.
Lots of other theatre came my way
including several nation wide tours for Carl Clopet
Productions managed by my dear friend Norman Atkyns who later acted in several
of my own productions.
I played the boy in the BROWNING VERSION up and down the
country as well as CHARLIE in CHARLEY'S AUNT and lots more.
in those days meant traveling by train to the next town on Sunday and finding
digs. Going to the new Theatre on Monday evening and sorting costumes and makeup
- then 6 evening shows and two matinees giving lots of time to see the town then
Sunday morning onto the train with all the rest of the company and off to the
next town with the scenery in the luggage van.
As I entered my late teens the leading/important roles became harder to find
- they were finding me out
- and for a summer I worked as
and actor at the Little Theatre - Great Yarmouth.
experience doing weekly rep in a holiday resort theatre. Quite hard work -
Monday morning sort costumes and props and do a dress rehearsal in the afternoon
- Evening give first performance of that weeks new play which sometimes involved
setting the props, getting into my costume and makeup - calling the main actors
- playing God Save the Queen, taking the house lights down and bringing up the
lights for the 1st scene, running down into the wings, making an entrance and
'giving' whatever was role for the week. Tuesday would start
with a read through and blocking of the next weeks play, rehearsals Wednesday
Thursday Friday and playing in the evening with matinees on Wednesday and
Saturday night after the show striking the set and cleaning the
stage and putting up the new set for next weeks play and staggering off to bed
after midnight to have a day off on Sunday unless there were props to make or
This summer season taught me the art of the possible, how to
'run' a flat and do a quick scene change in a blackout.
Later as a television
director this knowledge was invaluable. I knew what scenically could
or could not be done and how long it should take.
I toured for a while with a children's theatre performing in schools up and
down the UK. Based in Birkenhead the company required me to drive the van
containing the scenery and other actors, put up the set, play the leading role
of the Pied Piper and play the flute - all of which I did with more enthusiasm
than skill - lots of fun - the more shows we did in a day the more we were paid
so sometimes they got us doing 3 schools in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.
Not certain that practice makes perfect...
link is for Maggie -
We were at Conti's together -Tony A was my
friend, your lover I think and when we met again a few years later you were a Bluebell girl and so beautiful.
We had one magic evening together in Earls Court
Everything in the number and intro, is how it was - miss
Michael E. Briant directed numerous episodes of classic TV series throughout
the 1970s such as Blake’s 7, Secret Army, Warship and most famously Doctor
Who. Many of his Who stories (The Sea Devils, The Green Death and Robots of
Death) are regarded as all-time greats by fans of the series. In this
memoir, Briant reminisces about his life and work, from his beginnings as a