Obituary: Robin Nedwell
Thursday 04 February 1999
Born in Birmingham in 1946, Nedwell moved with his family at an early age to Cardiff and, at school, was encouraged to become an actor. He joined the Welsh Theatre Company, before training at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and gaining repertory theatre experience in Birmingham, Liverpool, Cheltenham, Bristol, Cardiff and Sheffield.
Nedwell's became a well-known face almost overnight when he was cast in Doctor in the House (1969), alongside other medical students played by Barry Evans, George Layton, Martin Shaw, Simon Cuff and Geoffrey Davies, all trying the patience of Professor Loftus (Ernest Clark). The ITV sitcom was launched after LWT's then head of comedy, Frank Muir, acquired the rights to adapt Richard Gordon's "Doctor" books, which had already been brought to the screen in feature films from the mid-Fifties onwards.
The television series, with new staff and students, set at St Swithin's teaching hospital, featured scripts by writers such as John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Barry Cryer. Although Nedwell did not appear in the sequel, Doctor at Large, he returned as Waring - now a senior houseman - in 42 episodes of Doctor in Charge (1972), with Sammie Winmill playing his girlfriend, Nurse Sandra Crumpton, and Victor Platt and Mollie Sugden as his parents.
Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies were next seen in Doctor at Sea (1974), aboard a cruise liner, the Begonia, with Ernest Clark now playing Professor Loftus's brother, Captain Loftus. The team of writers for both of these series included Phil Redmond, who was later to create Grange Hill and Brookside. Nedwell and Davies were again the stars when Australian television revived the series as Doctor Down Under in 1980. The BBC sought a further revival with Doctor at the Top (1991), featuring Nedwell as an NHS consultant paediatrician at St Swithin's, now married with five children, as well as George Layton and Geoffrey Davies, but this ran for only seven episodes.
Never has one situation comedy appeared in so many guises. But typecasting proved not to be a problem and Nedwell found himself in demand for starring roles in other comedies. After his first appearance in Doctor in the House, he acted Roland, best friend of Geoffrey (Richard Beckinsale), in the writer Jack Rosenthal's warmly remembered series The Lovers (1970-71). He played Mike Upchat in The Upchat Connection (1978), Keith Waterhouse's sequel to The Upchat Line, which had starred John Alderton as an author known more for his chat-up lines than for his literary success. In the new series, Alderton's Upchat had raffled the key of his left-luggage locker at Marylebone station, London, and bequeathed his name and his address book to the winner, Nedwell.
Another series written by Waterhouse, West End Tales (1981), starred Nedwell as Fiddler, who immersed himself in Soho life with his friends the Bishop (Garfield Morgan) and Checkie (Larry Martyn), gathered at Ma's Cafe, with Toni Palmer playing Ma. Hot on its heels, Nedwell played a pop musician, Peter Higgins, giving new life to a village brass band, in Shillingbury Tales (1981), a series that evolved out of Francis Essex's play The Shillingbury Blowers (1980). When the six-part series began, Peter Higgins was married to Sally (Diane Keen), daughter of Major Langton (Lionel Jeffries). Nedwell's next starring role on television was as Harry Lumsdon, a bakery worker with a newly discovered IQ of 166, in The Climber (1983), a series written by Alex Shearer.
Although he also played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and Reverend Green in Cluedo on the small screen, most of Nedwell's subsequent career was spent in the theatre. As well as touring Australia in Doctor in the House (1974) and Doctor in Love (1977), he appeared on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company in The Devil is an Ass, The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III (all 1995-96), and in the West End in Brigadoon (Victoria Palace, 1989).
He played Max Detweiler in a British tour of The Sound of Music, a production that was also staged at Sadler's Wells (1992). Nedwell proved his versatility on screen by acting in Roman Polanski's film of Macbeth (1971), working mostly on the sword-fight sequences in this particularly violent and bloodthirsty version of the Shakespearean tragedy. Fencing was a hobby of his and he taught it at drama schools.
Nedwell was also seen in the film Stand Up Virgin Soldiers (1977), a sequel to the original big-screen version of Leslie Thomas's best-selling novel about British army recruits in Singapore, and the spoof television film The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood (1983), starring George Segal. At the time of his death, Nedwell had been due to appear in a forthcoming BBC children's comedy-drama, as yet untitled. He was a dedicated follower of Llanelli rugby club and collected Japanese swords and prints.
Robin Nedwell, actor: born Birmingham 27 September 1946; married 1982 Heather Inglis (one daughter); died Hedge End, Hampshire 1 February 1999.
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