An Evening with Brian Blessed is on Saturday, May 21 at the Capitol Theatre, an evening combining anecdotes from his illustrious acting career with tales of his adventuring. On screen, he has appeared in everything from Doctor Who to Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare films. On stage his credits range from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But he is also an avid climber and will also be talking about his Everest climb without oxygen; his trek to the North Pole (he is the oldest man to go to the Pole on foot); and his many hours of space training in Russia.
As he says, he just loves space. It’s his greatest passion and has been all his life.
“I was brought up on Flash Gordon and just loved it. All the coalminers in the area where I was brought up were wonderful people. They played cricket every weekend but the other great thing about the coal miners in South Yorkshire was that they would put on operas and plays. My father knew the whole of Hamlet. My father was removing 18 tons of coal a day and then he would take part in opera. The amateur theatre was incredibly powerful in South Yorkshire.
“We had the BBC and we heard about the astronauts and the cosmonauts. We used to listen to The Lost World on BBC and we had Journey Into Space and War Of The Worlds which was done brilliantly on radio. You could hear the Martians walking. And we had two cinemas and we saw all sorts of films there and then at the weekend we would watch Flash Gordon. And it was very well done. We poured out of the cinema every week not knowing how Flash Gordon would survive and I would run down the embankment. The railway was within 200 yards of my house and I would run down pretending to fly.”
The joy of course is that Brian got to appear in the 1980 film of Flash Gordon as Prince Vultan: “And now everywhere I go in the world people are wanting me to say ‘Gordon is alive!’”
One of his many other great roles was as the Emperor Augustus in the iconic TV series I, Claudius: “I remember we went to the launch and all the actors were there and people were saying why on earth have you cast Brian Blessed as Augustus, and (director) Herbie Wise said ‘because no one can chew the cr*p like Brian can. He can out-talk anybody!’ and that of course was the key to Augustus. He would talk complete nonsense if he wanted to kill somebody. He would say ‘I'm sending you away and I'm going to miss you so much’ but he would just be arranging to have them killed.”
Another key to the series was that the adapter admitted he just couldn't get hold of the characters until he suddenly thought of the Mafia: “And then he realised that that was the way in. He said that he suddenly started touching these people and holding these people and they became tactile to him.”