Brian Blessed: Blessed Be His Name
With over 50 years in show business, Brian Blessed has much to talk about. Ting Dalton discovers just a smidgen of his glorious adventures…
He may be 82 years old, but age is inconsequential to Brian Blessed, who shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The actor, writer, director and adventurer is about to embark on a tour across the UK next month, to share some of his life stories, acting highlights and anecdotes in An Evening With Brian Blessed.
When we chat there isn’t so much speaking on my part, as Brian’s signature booming voice echoes around the room. I am in wonder, as the star of classics such as Blackadder, Z Cars and Flash Gordon, recounts tale after tale about all he has seen and done, the physical endurance of impressive feats such as climbing Mount Everest not once, but three times, as well as crossing the North Pole on foot (the oldest man to do so), surviving a plane crash in the jungles of Venezuela and completing 800 hours of space training in Russia!
“I love life and embrace it, and I don’t understand those people who want to retire from it. It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old,” he tells me earnestly. And I believe him. In just our short conversation, I am speechless at his achievements and for those audience members who go to see Brian when he comes to Dorking Halls on 24 April be warned, your head will be spinning…
Are you looking forward to the show?
Oh yes! I love Surrey and I’ve lived here for 50 years. In the early years, I used to go to Dorking a great deal. For my Everest training, I would frequently go to Box Hill and add some rocks in my rucksack and go up it 14 times in a day. It’s such a lovely area plus you’ve also got Leith Hill.
The evening I come to Dorking Halls will be all about hope. I’m for living and life. And there does seem to be dark days with Brexit and all of that, but no! We’ll make, we always do. One mustn’t be a prophet of doom! So, I’ll do Shakespeare, poetry and give tremendous examples of space and all the different projects that I am part of, and will talk about an infinite number of things. I love being on stage and just being on me.
What question do you get asked the most?
Everywhere I go from the Prime Minister to the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, everybody wants me to say: “Gordon’s alive!”. I think Flash Gordon became one of those great film successes, it was a brilliant comic strip and works as a film.
“The greatest danger in life, is not taking the adventure. Nature doesn’t cheat, there is no one like you, and you should be allowed to fulfil your dream.”
Why do you love adventuring so much?
People always say to me, ‘isn’t it dangerous Brian?’ But I say to them, the greatest danger in life, is not taking the adventure. Nature doesn’t cheat, there is no one like you, and you should be allowed to fulfil your dreams. I almost write my own script. If I say I’m going to do something like climb that mountain or go to that desert, then I set about it. But what is amazing when you look at the world, is that there is so much in this world to explore that is unknown. For instance, a third of China is unexplored. I’ve actually been to Mongolia and climbed one of its highest mountains with wolves and one of them slept in my tent!
Is it true you helped a woman give birth in Richmond back in the 1960s?
Absolutely true! I was in Z-Cars and I used to go out running in Richmond Park and then I saw this Italian woman under the tree screaming away.
I was a working-class boy and a son of a coal miner and in Yorkshire in the war days, there was only one nurse and one doctor so we all helped to assist with births! So this woman didn’t know what to do and I helped her breath properly, got the baby out, got rid of the afterbirth, bit the cord and tied a knot, and then I pressed her tummy to get rid of clots and shouted for help. And the ambulance came and she was whisked away. The baby was fine! And she was fine! But even after all these years, no one has come forward even though I’ve made appeals.
Tell us what’s in store for you in 2019?
So much! I’ve just done three new episodes of Peppa Pig [Brian voices the character of Grampy Rabbit in the hit kids series]. I absolutely love doing that – and I take them to the moon and Mars, as well as searching out a yeti! And I am also directing the last in a quartet of Agatha Christie plays in The Mill at Sonning in Reading – a beautiful theatre right on the river.
I met Agatha Christie many years ago when I was an assistant stage manager in Nottingham. And we got on like a house on fire. We’d go and buy props together and she would tell me all about her life. One day, she just turned to me and told me she would love it if I directed four of her plays.
So I’ve already done The Hollow, Spider’s Web and The Unexpected Guest. This July, it will be Towards Zero, which was her favourite play. Very, very, dramatic. I’m also going to work a lot this year with the Guildford Shakespeare Company and they’re fabulous. It’s full of young people, so alive and full of ideas! I’m really looking forward to it.
As for adventuring, well my aim this year is to go to the bottom of the sea, which is 75,000ft deep. It’s a Challenger Deep in a new bathysphere sub they’re building. I’m very much up for that!