Roger Brierley

Biography

Roger Brierley (2 June 1935 - 23 September 2005) was an English actor. Brierley appeared in many television productions over a forty-year period. He twice appeared in Doctor Who, as Trevor in The Daleks' Master Plan (1965) and as the voice of Drathro in The Mysterious Planet (1986). Brierley appeared in the biopic Jinnah based on the life of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in the Granada television series Jeeves and Wooster as Sir Roderick Glossop, and as Michael Palin's Latin teacher in an episode of Ripping Yarns called Roger of the Raj, which first shown on BBC television in 1979. He played the part of Osborne in the 1977 episode "Suddenly At Home" in the TV series Rising Damp. He was also in an Only Fools and Horses episode (1982). Later work included portraying John Biffen in the TV dramatisation of The Alan Clark Diaries (2004). He also played the hotel manager in "Mr. Bean in Room 426" and appeared in A Fish Called Wanda as Archie Leach's secretary Davidson. His acting was elegant and precisely tuned to figures of authority enjoying a brief moment of power. His arrival on screen promised either a crisp, professional denouement (from a judge, solicitor or doctor) or a piece of expert bloodymindedness (some bank manager, vicar or civic apparatchik). It was ironic that they were all upholding some kind of established system, since in life he prided himself on his stroppiness, questioning, curiosity and mischief. He managed to combine all these qualities - plus a near-legendary resistance to foreign travel and unfamiliar food - while retaining the love of his many friends. Well to the left of centre, he became a formidable negotiator for Equity, persuading the other side, by his scrupulously pinstriped appearance, that he must, surely, be one of them. He was the son of Arthur, a chartered accountant, and Adela, an adjudicator of amateur drama. Adela's family had kept the Blossoms Hotel, a large pub on the main road south out of town, but her first love was the theatre. The implicit deal was that Roger was allowed to act on condition that he studied accountancy on leaving Cheadle Hulme school, where he was a pupil from 1943 to 1953. Being red-haired, skinny and tall for his age, he was mercilessly bullied at school, but it was a generous, broad-based institution and he suffered no lasting harm. By the time he did leave, he already had Shakespeare's Claudio (Much Ado About Nothing) and Oberon (Midsummer Night's Dream) under his belt, and had joined the student group of Stockport Garrick Society, a refuge for stage-struck adolescents and leading pioneer of the Little Theatre movement at the start of the century. Not even National Service stopped him acting. After qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1959, he rejected the Pay Corps (too like accountancy), military intelligence (oxymoronic) and chose the education corps. Sent to teach at the Army Apprentice school in Carlisle, he discovered other middle-class boys trying to get thrown out of the army by behaving badly. In vain. The army in Carlisle welcomed diversity. They even faked his rifle-test to give him the sergeant's stripes, without which he could not teach. Roger always made it sound like a frontier-posting between Privates on Parade and MASH. After two years at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, he joined Hornchurch Rep in 1963. Despite his great height (6ft 5in), commanding presence on stage and a season with Peter Brook's RSC ensemble, he never had much of a theatre career. He remained highly sceptical about Brook's methods of preparation for US (1966), the company-devised show about Vietnam. Television work - The Likely Lads, Doctor Who - came quickly. By 1966, he had settled in London and met the actress Gillian McCutcheon, with whom he enjoyed many years of happiness. They split in the 1990s. Their son Oliver has followed his father's passion for Manchester United and become a spokesman for Shareholders United, which Roger had helped found to fight Murdoch's 1998 bid. Roger's passion for United was no nerdy sideline, but a serious cause: the continued independence of a great football club. The procedural clarity of his accountant's mind was as much a source of wonder to fellow shareholders and supporters as it had been to members of Equity a few years before. He was a member of the Equity Council from 1984 to 1986, and actively involved in union affairs between 1977 and 1996. Most members thought acting had nothing to do with politics, but several issues threatened to drive them into civil war: fees for commercials; how to deal with apartheid South Africa; how actors should be paid for repeats of old programmes sold off to the new cable stations. In the end, most of the battles were lost, but they would have been lost far sooner if Roger and his colleagues in the Centre Forward group had not fought every inch of the way. For many years, he was also an invaluable joint treasurer of TACT, The Actors' Charitable Trust. All his life Roger retained his enthusiasms and loyalties. While under no illusions about showbiz, he remained star-struck by the great comic actors with whom he had worked. Being introduced to the somewhat intimidating Coronation Street cast by Doris Speed, who played landlady Annie Walker, was as iconic a moment for him as when he saw Don Bradman come on with the drinks tray at Old Trafford in 1948. Brierley featured regularly on British television. He appeared in the BBC series Casualty three times and also made appearances in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries and Shine on Harvey Moon (1982). He often played typical character actor roles such as vicars, judges, barristers or hotel managers. He worked with Victoria Wood on several occasions over the years. Firstly on her series Wood and Walters (1981) in the early eighties, later in the mid eighties on the series Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985), then again in the late eighties in the series Victoria Wood (1989). Brierley worked with Wood a final time in 1994 in her TV film Screen One: Pat and Margaret (1994). Wood later remembered her previous work with Brierley and in her TV film Housewife, 49 (2006), she named a character after him. The character was played by Jason Watkins. Brierley met Joan in 2001, an old school-friend on whom he had once had a crush. They decided to set up house together. It was like a sequel to Much Ado - not boring old Claudio this time, but a senior Benedick and Beatrice, after years of mutual loneliness, sparked up for an adventurous eighth decade. But Roger had lived with angina for 20 years and it was not to be. Brierley died of a heart attack on September 23, 2005.

Filmography

Movie Name Release Date
Jinnah “The Founder of Pakistan” Biography Movie Online [1998] November 7, 1998