Rowan Atkinson to revisit Blackadder

Thanks to long-standing, much respected Blackadder Hall visitor, nay part-of-the-furniture, John D. for spotting this gem.

Rowan Atkinson has granted his first in-depth interview about his iconic Blackadder role in Tiger Aspect’s second documentary on the classic BBC sitcom.

Atkinson will describe his personal experience of his involvement in the sitcom and its phenomenal success in the 60-minute documentary Blackadder Rides Again, which forms part of BBC1’s Christmas line-up. He will also visit Alnwick Castle, the location of the show’s first series that was titled The Black Adder.

Atkinson did not appear in Blackadder Exclusive: The Whole Rotten Saga, Tiger Aspect’s two-hour retrospective for UKTV channel GOLD, which attracted 341,000 viewers to the digital channel last month. A spokesman for the indie said the BBC1 documentary was an entirely separate production to the UKTV programme, featuring all-new interviews.

Both shows were commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the sitcom, which began on BBC2 and ran for three series before switching to BBC1 for Blackadder Goes Forth in 1989.

For the BBC1 show, cast members including Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Tim McInnerny and Tony Robinson and writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton will revisit key iconic moments, costumes and locations.

Tiger Aspect’s director of factual entertainment Ricky Kelehar, who executive produced both shows, said: “We are extremely excited to have persuaded the entire creative team behind this iconic sitcom to appear in the same show for the very first time since they all worked together.

“Many of them have since gone on to become towering talents around the world, including Rowan – who has never before spoken in detail about playing the anti-hero Edmund Blackadder.”

Blackadder Rides Again was commissioned by BBC executive editor, comedy entertainment Katie Taylor and produced and directed by Matt O’Casey. Blackadder producer John Lloyd is programme consultant on the documentary.

Stephen Fry reunited with Breasts

The lovely Stephen Fry is currently filming in Africa filming a documentary series called “Last Chance to See”. And thanks to Stephen’s love of all things technology, especially Apple products (just like me), he’s been keeping the world up to date with his very exciting life via the medium of Twitter (http://twitter.com/stephenfry).

Now, being a bit of a fan of his work (but being a fan of Top9Rated), I pop in to see what the great man is up to every so often and today he did a few Blackadder related posts.

Stephen with his comedy breasts

Stephen Fry with his comedy breasts

He may be somewhere in Africa, but that doesn’t stop a TV crew hunting him down for a chat about Blackadder. At some point before/during/after the interview he was reunited with his Golden Breasts from the episode Beer in series 2. On this he said “Done Bl’adder int. Was presented with golden comedy breasts from series 2. Most affecting. A tear stole into my eye”

 

Hopefully this will be included in the Christmas special.

Original Black Adder title revealed

At the recent Blackadder talk at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, writer Richard Curtis revealed the original title for The Black Adder.

(cue drum rolls)

The historical sitcom was originally called….

(gosh I bet you’re excited now)

King Edmund and His Two Friends

(cue silence and tumble weed)

Not that exciting really is it? But I’m glad they changed it as it would have been a right pain renaming the other series. Although I don’t think Richard and Rowan thought past the pilot episode.

BBC to Broadcast 25th Anniversary Special

A couple of weeks a go I was lucky enough to attend the recent Blackadder talk at the Cheltenham Literary Festival with Richard Curtis, Tony Robinson and John Lloyd in attendance. I’ll be doing a full write-up of the event soon, but thought I’d let you all know that Tiger Aspect were recording the event for use in a special 25th anniversary documentary to be broadcast on the BBC later in the year (not really much of the year left is there).

I’m wondering if they will actually feature something on the never-aired pilot episode as the guys certainly talked about it at great length at the Literary Festival.

A trip to Mrs. Miggins’ Pie Shop

Source: EADT

A SPECIAL TV documentary this week celebrates a 1980s comedy classic: Blackadder. Steven Russell hatched a cunning plan and paid a nostalgic visit to Mrs Miggins’s pie shop with actress Helen Atkinson Wood.

SOMEWHERE in Essex (we won’t blow his cover) is a real Laughing Policeman – an officer obsessed with the comedy classic Blackadder. We know this because he’s a friend of the sister-in-law of Helen Atkinson Wood, who “larked around in a mad wig” in the third series.

“He simply knows every single script and, every time I see him, he tells me reams of it. It’s fantastic to hear it back,” chuckles the actress who played pie shop owner Mrs Miggins, complete with wooden teeth, beauty spot and ringlets.

“There are, and I would call him one, complete anoraks who know lots of that sort of thing. It’s one of those ‘anorak sports’ – the trainspotting of the comedy world!”

It’s 25 years since Britain was first repulsed and fascinated by Edmund Blackadder in equal measure. Then, he was trying to seize the throne of Britain, aided by dim manservant Baldrick (Tony Robinson) – famous for his “cunning plans” that are in reality complete gibberish. Three more series followed during the1980s, with Blackadder taking different historical identities (but possessing similar Machiavellian character traits) as the action moved from 1485 to 1917.

It all came about after Rowan Atkinson, one of the stars of the satirical show Not the Nine O’Clock News, and producer John Lloyd toyed with the idea of making an historical comedy. With writer Richard Curtis (who like Helen Atkinson Wood has a home on the Suffolk coast) they dreamed up the character of The Black Adder.

In 1987 the actress got a call from John Lloyd, asking her to join the fun for the six-episode third series. Helen’s list of credits included The Young Ones, The Lenny Henry Show, Girls on Top, and a Comic Strip Presents episode alongside Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

And did she bite his hand off? “I think I probably said ‘yes please’ before he actually got to the end of the sentence.”

As well as joining an established TV hit, it offered the chance of a reunion with chums she’d known for years. Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis and actor Tim McInnerny were contemporaries at Oxford, where they’d enjoyed studenty meals together: “20 different ways of preparing pasta or baked potatoes.”

Ben Elton she’d met in an airing cupboard during a game of sardines at the Edinburgh fringe, where she was part of the Radio Active roadshow – a parody of local radio stations, with co-conspirators such as Angus Deayton – and he was doing a stand-up set with Comic Strip japesters like Rik Mayall.

Entering the BBC rehearsal rooms at White City brought “that Christmas-morning feeling in your tummy. Comedy and laughter, we all feel better for it, so it is a great thing to be around. It’s not like you’re going in to rehearse Ibsen; you’re going in to have the time of your life”.

With all that talent on show, there was oodles of creative fizz.

“It was the sort of production where people would pile in with ideas,” Helen confirms. “If you’re talking about having Stephen Fry (the Duke of Wellington) in a rehearsal room, you’re not looking at somebody who is just going to walk onto a set, having learned their lines, and just say them. They’re going to come in with lots of suggestions.

“It was a very thrilling thing to be part of. Every rehearsal was full of your favourite people or those you admired. It drew together, I suppose, the cream of all the comedy talent at the time.

“The list is endless. You go through the cast lists . . . people like Chris Barrie, who was there fleetingly; Tony Robinson – always scrubbing around, trying to get his teeth into a turnip; Hugh Laurie; Robbie Coltrane. And there were lots of great guest players, such as Tim McInnerny playing the Scarlet Pimpernel; and Miranda Richardson was a highwaywoman, I think.”

“Parts for women were so thin on the ground that it was tremendous to be one of the few. There was (in the second series) Miranda Richardson as Queenie, and Nursie . . . and then who? The women brought a different texture to Blackadder. Mrs Miggins was a very warm-hearted character: different from Blackadder, who was so oily, and different from Baldrick, who was . . . well . . . fiddling with his turnips; and different from the Prince Regent, who was so barking!

“She was also a no-nonsense, Northern character – which of course fitted me like a glove.” (The actress divides her time between north London and a Suffolk home near Walberswick, but grew up in Cheshire.)

With the key players knowing each other so well, there was the opportunity to have a few giggles.

“I think when Richard and Ben were creating the character, the fact a horse’s willy got mentioned is no accident, me being the keen horsewoman that I am” – Miss East Cheshire Pony Club, no less – “although, of course, you won’t commit that to the pages of your paper! (Oh yes we will.) The willy reference was about a suspiciously-shaped sausage that arrived for the Scarlet Pimpernel.”

Why does she think the show’s popularity has endured over a quarter of a century?

“I think the long and the short of it is that it is literally packed with jokes. I don’t think it’s any more sophisticated a reason than that. At the heart of Blackadder is just an endless stream of funny, funny, funny ideas and well-drawn comedy characters and non-stop jokes. That’s why it and things like Dad’s Army still have appeal – and it’s quite rare.

“Sometimes people really enjoy sitting back and not having to be politically challenged by their comedy or dip into surreal, grotesque things, like Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen – which I’m not saying will not stand the test of time, I’m not saying that for a moment, but that’s the beauty of Blackadder.”

Mrs Miggins made her final bow in the last episode of the series, on October 22, 1987. She fell for Blackadder’s cousin, McAdder – “the most dangerous man ever to wear a skirt in Europe” – and followed him to the Highlands.

Not long afterwards, Helen took over from Dawn French in a West End play called Silly Cow, written and directed by Ben Elton. Bewigged theatrical roles followed – Madame Arcarti in Blithe Spirit, for example, and Viola in Twelfth Night – and a part in the TV drama Your Cheatin’ Heart (where, while we’re on matters tonsorial, she cut and bleached her own hair, and cultivated a Glaswegian accent).

She’s added a TV-presenting string to her bow since then, and appeared on shows such as Call My Bluff, Have I Got News For You and QI.

Blackadder had one more outing before the 1980s ended. The fourth series had an edge of pathos that highlighted the futility of war. The last scene saw Blackadder and his men go over the top into no-man’s-land and likely death. The final image showed the field many years later, full of poppies.

“I don’t think anybody could watch the last episode and not be affected by it,” reflects Helen. “It showed that not only did you care about the characters, after all that time, there was a kind of political poignancy to it, too.”

– Blackadder: The Whole Rotten Saga is on G.O.L.D. (formerly UKTV Gold) at 9pm on Thursday, October 9.

It tells the behind-the-scenes story of the show and features interviews with key players, including Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Helen Atkinson Wood, Tim McInnerny and Jim Broadbent. There is also rare footage of rehearsals.

MRS MIGGINS ON PAL ROWAN:-

BLACKADDER had a cast of stars, but Rowan Atkinson was undoubtedly the fulcrum. As well as being in at the birth, he co-wrote the first series and was, throughout, the leading man.

Helen Atkinson Wood (no relation, by the way) has known him all her adult life. They met during university days at Oxford and went off to the Edinburgh fringe. She remembers how, at the start of his comedy career, the way he ate a packet of cream crackers would have an audience helpless with laughter.

“He’s a consummate professional. He knows what he wants and does it brilliantly. He’s exacting and studied. He understands natural clowning, but is a person who takes his comedy seriously.”

The actor is a very private person, controlled in his behaviour, but that doesn’t rule out laughs.

“Funnily enough, not many of the people involved were the type to be rolling around on the floor. It’s more to do with wit, a different sort of comedy. They don’t exactly go around stony-faced, but everyone is pretty dry and ironic with their humour.”


FACTFILE: BLACKADDER BASICS:-

First series (screened on the BBC in 1983): Set in the 15th Century. Edmund Plantagenet, one of King Richard IV’s sons, opts for a tough new image by adopting the title The Black Adder (after rejecting another possible moniker: The Black Vegetable).

In the last episode he dreams up a plot to seize the crown for himself, but swallows a fatal dose of poisoned wine and rules for just half a minute.

Written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, it won an International Emmy award, but clinched a second series only after a tighter budget was set, including studio recordings instead of location shoots.

Blackadder II (1986): Set in Elizabethan England. Edmund, the bastard great-great-grandson of the series I Blackadder, was a schemer par excellence.

Tony Robinson was back as Baldrick. A great cast included Miranda Richardson as the capricious Elizabeth I and Stephen Fry as the Lord Chamberlain. Rowan Atkinson concentrated on acting and Ben Elton shared writing duties with Richard Curtis.

Blackadder the Third (1987): Set during the reign of George III.

Blackadder Goes Forth (1989): Set during the First World War, with Blackadder and gang in the trenches

SUFFOLK’S BLACKADDER CONNECTION:-

SUFFOLK got a mention – of sorts – in Blackadder the Third:

Prince Regent: Erm, so what is a robber button?

Edmund: A rotten borough, sir, is a constituency where the owner of the land corruptly controls both the voters and the MP.

Prince Regent: Good, yes . . . and a robber button is . . . ?

Edmund: Could we leave that for a moment? Dunny-on-the-Wold is a tuppenny-ha’penny place. Half an acre of sodden marshland in the Suffolk fens with an empty town hall on it. Population: three rather mangy cows, a dachshund named Colin, and a small hen in its late 40s.

Prince Regent: So, no people at all, then, apart from Colin?

Edmund: Colin is a dog, sir.

BLACKADDER IN ESSEX:-

BLACKADDER came to Essex in the autumn of 1989 when Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson filmed at Colchester Garrison for the fourth and final series.

Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment joined the comedy starts to recreate a 1914 parade ground at Cavalry Barracks. The regimental band dressed in scarlet tunics to play a new adaptation of the Blackadder theme, and then 50 whistling soldiers in First World War battle-dress took up the tune to play over the opening credits.

The soldiers who volunteered to march for the cameras had to have their hair cut shorter and don an old-style uniform. Corporal Steven Neville said the filming was enjoyable, but said of the old-style uniforms: “They are wool, so they itch a lot, and they’d be impossible in the cold and wet.”

Baldrick’s turnip up for auction

A turnip

Tony's Turnip

Earlier this year, as part of the ‘Wear Your Wellies for Wildlife’ fundraising event, the Manx Wildlife Trust has been contacting celebrities from near and far to ask them to do a signed sketch of ‘Wildlife in Wellies’. They contacted Tony Robinson who got Baldrick to draw a very amusing turnip. I think he had some help with the spelling.

They have had a great response and they are currently auctioning the sketches on eBay. Each picture will be supplied unframed along with a Certificate of Authenticity. All you have to do is choose your favourite sketch, click on the link to eBay when the auction begins and place your bid!

From Monday 13th October, you can bid on Baldrick’s picture here: http://shop.ebay.co.uk/merchant/manx_wildlife_trust

Rowan to perform at Charles’ 60th birthday bash

This is potentially a very exciting story as Rowan performed the King’s Birthday sketch as Charles’ 50th birthday televisual spectacular some ten years ago. So here’s hoping that Rowan brings Eddie out of retirement one more time.

UPDATE: No, he didn’t bring out Edie one more time.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Comedy greats Rowan Atkinson, Robin Williams and John Cleese are to join forces to mark the 60th birthday of the Prince of Wales.

The televised gala, which will see Williams return to the UK stage after a 25 years, is being held to raise tens of thousands of pounds for youth charity The Prince’s Trust.

We Are Most Amused will take place on November 12, two days before the Prince’s birthday and will be broadcast on ITV1.

The Prince will attend the comedy night with the Duchess of Cornwall.

Monty Python star Cleese, 68, has promised something “extra special” for the event at London’s New Wimbledon Theatre.

Mr Bean and Blackadder star Atkinson, 53, last went on a live tour in 1991.

The 1,500 tickets for the show go on sale tomorrow priced between £25 and £100.

More stand-up and sketch acts will be announced in the run-up to the show.

ITV1 said: “The line-up will bring together the very best in comedy talent – from much-loved established names to fresh young acts from the stand-up circuit – a combination which will appeal to all ages and, above all, to comedy fan and guest of honour the Prince of Wales.”

Blackadder cast and crew to appear at Cheltenham festival

Hot diggegy dang and huzzah to boot! Tony Robinson, Richard Curtis and John Lloyd (not Tony Curtis, Richard Lloyd and John Robinson as I nearly wrote in all the excitement) are going to be appearing at the Chletenham Literature festival in October.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first broadcast of Blackadder, one of Britain’s best-loved and most-cited sitcoms, we unite writer and creator Richard Curtis, actor Tony Robinson, who’s turnip-obsessed Baldrick is one of television’s most iconic characters, and the series’ producer John Lloyd to discuss their favourite moments and cunning plans.

Blackadder: Tony Robinson, Richard Curtis & John Lloyd
http://cheltenhamfestivals.com/whats_on/event_detail.html?id=2323
Venue: Cheltenham Town Hall
Fri 10 Oct, 6.30-7.30pm

Blackadder and Ben Elton producer dies in tragic accident

It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I have to write this. Geoffrey Perkins, one of Britain’s great sitcom and TV show producers of the past 20 years has died in a tragic accident near his home in London.

Source: BBC.co.uk

Geoffrey Perkins, 55, worked for many years for BBC Radio, where he created the game Mornington Crescent in I’m Sorry Haven’t a Clue.

He also produced the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the most successful radio shows ever made and was executive producer on Blackadder: Back and Forth.

He became head of comedy for BBC TV with highlights of his TV career including The Catherine Tate Show, The Fast Show and Channel 4’s Father Ted.

‘Embraced talent’

BBC director of vision Jana Bennett said she was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the news.

“Geoffrey Perkins was an outstanding creator of countless comedy hits on the BBC and elsewhere, and a very distinguished former BBC head of comedy.

“He embraced comedy talent to create unique programmes which will be enjoyed for a very long time to come. All of our thoughts are with Geoffrey’s family at this very sad time.”

He left his role as a BBC radio producer to work at Thames TV for a brief period.

His many television credits include Spitting Image, Saturday Night Live and Friday Night Live, The Harry Enfield Television Programme, which he also co-wrote, and Ben Elton – The Man From Auntie.

Awards

He produced the topical drama A Very Open Prison for BBC Two and the first series of the BAFTA award-winning Father Ted for Channel 4.

A writer, producer and performer, Mr Perkins became BBC TV’s head of comedy in May 1995.

He was previously a director of Hat Trick Productions, one of the UK’s leading independent production companies, for eight years.

On leaving the BBC, he joined Tiger Aspect productions.

His latest production for the BBC with Tiger Aspect, Harry and Paul, with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, starts next week.

His credits as executive producer at the BBC included The Fast Show, Happiness, My Hero, 2 Pints of Lager, My Family, Coupling, and Big Train. He also co-produced both series of Ben Elton’s The Thin Blue Line.

His writing credits include Radio Active and KYTV, co-written with Angus Deayton and winner of the Silver Rose Of Montreux, and Norbert Smith – A Life, co-written with Harry Enfield which also won the Silver Rose of Montreux and an International Emmy.

Blackadder goes forth (again)

This little nugget of purest green was sent in by Susan; THANKS SUSAN.

Source: Daily Mail (via Susan)

When Rowan Atkinson went “over the top” as Captain Blackadder in the World War I version of his TV series, most people thought it was the end of his brilliant comic creation.

But I hear the actor will be re-enacting life in the trenches one more time next month in aid of injured soldiers. Atkinson is one of many celebrities taking part in Music On Fire!, the festival of orchestral fireworks at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

As ever, it is organised by Sir Michael Parker, the pyrotechnic genius behind most of the great anniversaries of recent years.

“It will look as if we are blowing Sandhurst to pieces, so I hope the Commandant is in a good mood,” says Sir Michael.

Joanna Lumley, Peter Bowles and Timothy West are among the stars he has recruited while singers including Hayley Westenra and Jonathan Ansell will perform with a 100-piece orchestra.

Adds Sir Michael: “Rowan has agreed to read some earthy soldiers’ poems from the First World War. But life in the trenches was pretty earthy.”

With four tons of fireworks going off over three nights, it will be the summer’s most eye-catching event outside Beijing. The cost of each £29 ticket will go to the Army Benevolent Fund.


About Music on Fire:
MUSIC ON FIRE!, the UK’s most stunning outdoor spectacular, returns with a new production of live popular and classical music, interspersed with a thrilling firework display and a magical Son et Lumiere. Celebrating James Bond and the centenary of his creator Ian Fleming, former Sandhurst Officer Cadet, world class artists perform with a 100-piece orchestra and a 100-voice choir in true 007 style! Special guest performers include acclaimed classical singers Jonathan Ansell & Hayley Westenra, as well as Theatreland’s first Supergroup Teatro (*Saturday night only). The many well known voices narrating the show include Rowan Atkinson, Peter Bowles, Hannah Gordon, Joanna Lumley, Sir Trevor McDonald, Prunella Scales and Timothy West. The Red Devils, the parachute display team of the Parachute Regiment and The Black Knights, the parachute display team of the Royal Artillery, will make a breathtaking night-time drop.

This unmissable event is held in the impressive setting of The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and guests are invited to picnic on the lawn in front of the Old College as they enjoy the show. Gates open from 4pm.

The event is designed and produced by Major Sir Michael Parker, the man behind the Golden Jubilee celebrations outside Buckingham Palace. All proceeds will go to the Army Benevolent Fund which supports soldiers, former soldiers and their families in times of need. Money raised will be used for Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and any future campaigns.

“I thought it was the most wonderful evening – I shall never forget it” Honor Blackman

“Make no mistake, this is not just fireworks with music. What is so extraordinary about Music on Fire is the perfect synchronicity between the two: the fireworks effectively become an instrument in the orchestra, exploding to the beat with rhythmic perfection, to create a visual and musical effect the like of which I have never seen.” Rowan Atkinson

Music on Fire will be held at Sandhurst Military Academy on 18,19,20th September 2008 – for ticket information call 0844 847 1657 or 0871 297 0077

At the moment, I do not know if Rowan will be in costume for the poetry reading, I will try and find out though.