‘I once took my shirt off on stage, and a man threw up’

This interview with Bernard Cribbins first ran in March 2020 and has been republished following his demise on the age of 93

Bernard Cribbins has simply walked purposefully into a sensible resort close to his house in Surrey. We are in search of a quiet position to sit down down and discuss his new memoir, Bernard Who?, when the sprightly 91-year-old, mid-conversation, misses a step and – horrifyingly – falls flat on his face, palms unfold out at his aspect, and offers out an almighty groan that I worry may well be his final.

As I kneel down beside him to test his pulse, he all of sudden and miraculously rolls over, sits up, and instantly begins cracking jokes with the group that has accumulated. “I’ll die later,” he tells one involved member of workforce. Then provides, as an after-thought: “can I have some ice wrapped in a napkin?”

It is most effective once we are in the end safely seated that he’s taking day out to look in short in a close-by reflect, gently probing the crimson mark bobbing up on his brow, sooner than saying, “it’s amazing but I’m still going”.

He laughs that clipped, jolly, infectious chuckle, so acquainted to the 4 generations who’ve watched him on TV, movie and degree in his 70-year occupation as an actor.

It’s all charted within the pages of Bernard Who? What made him wait goodbye to jot down his memoirs? After all, his has been a well known title from his West End debut within the Comedy of Errors in 1956, thru younger movie appearances within the Carry On motion pictures and Casino Royale, adopted via memorable roles because the station grasp whose sort center hides in the back of an officious means in The Railway Children, the aggravating visitor in Fawlty Towers and the narrator of the Wombles within the Seventies. And then there may be Doctor Who, Coronation Street, and maximum lately Old Jack’s Boat, plus a life-time fulfillment Bafta Award in 2009 for his paintings on youngsters’s TV, which incorporates his function in Jackanory – one thing a taxi driving force as soon as instructed him “made [him] want to read. And I almost wept.”

The guy who’s determinedly unemotional about himself could also be unashamedly emotional about his paintings. The reminiscence of what that driving force stated to him that day makes him neatly up now. “My parents didn’t read to me,” he explains. “My dad was a jobbing labourer, my mother was in the cotton mills. They were knackered when they came in. They fed me and, [told me to] get upstairs.”

He is thankful for his operating magnificence upbringing, regardless that – the object he credit for his longevity in each existence and paintings. He can nonetheless do an Oldham accessory, having spent lots of the first 20 years of his existence within the Lancashire the town, however after a spell of just about six years on the native repertory theatre within the mid Forties – interrupted via National Service in Palestine – he headed south and learnt to tone it down. It is what you needed to do again then, he says, for what he calls, with exaggeratedly posh intonation, “the thea-tre”.

Leave a Comment