Michael Sharvell-Martin: Perennial supporting actor who worked with Benny Hill, Dave Allen and Les Dawson

The actor Michael Sharvell-Martin was the perennial supporting player, most often seen in television sketches alongside comedians such as Benny Hill, Dave Allen and Les Dawson – and on stage as a long-running pantomime dame.

The usually mustachioed actor joined The Benny Hill Show with its seaside-postcard humour when the programme transferred from the BBC to ITV. He appeared only in its first series (1969-70) but will be remembered for playing a bespectacled doctor doing the ward rounds at the fictional Lower Tidmarsh Volunteer Hospital and hopping into bed with a female patient, as well as a vicar discussing his football-playing prowess while unaware that his flies are open, and Dr Frankenstein in a mini-musical show finale, "The Sound of Frankenstein".

More subtle was the comedy in the BBC's Dave Allen at Large (1971-79), where the star interspersed his sit-down monologues with filmed sketches. Taboo subjects such as sex, death and religion – particularly the Pope – were all part of the Irish Catholic Allen's repertoire, which relied on observing life and putting a slightly lunatic slant on it. Sharvell-Martin was one of Allen's small repertory company of sketch actors, taking dozens of roles. "It was like having a big dressing-up box called the BBC – and someone gave you money at the end of it as well," he recalled earlier this year. "You put on a German helmet, then do a silly sketch, then become a Viking, then something else. Wonderful. A great, great time and a great laugh."

He also remembered benefiting from the star's generosity as a performer. "You'd be frantically changing for another sketch," said Sharvell-Martin, "and Dave had had some complicated make-up on and he would say, 'Let Michael do the sketch.' The bottom line, as he said, was that it doesn't matter who gets the laugh."

Later, Sharvell-Martin had a rare continuing role as a single character when he played William Gaunt's neighbour, Trevor Botting, in the sitcom No Place Like Home (1983-87). Trevor often joined Arthur Crabtree (Gaunt) in his greenhouse, sipping home-brew sherry, when his own wife's trademark shriek became too loud and Arthur was seeking refuge from his wife and the four grown-up children who had all returned to the fold.

The actor was born Michael Ernest Martin in Herne Bay, Kent, in 1944. His mother had served in the Women's Land Army and the Women's Royal Air Force, and his father rose to the rank of wing commander in the RAF.

At the age of seven, the family moved to Singapore. Four years later, Sharvell-Martin returned and attended Bethany School in Goudhurst, Kent, where a broken nose sustained in a football match gave him a distinctive look that probably helped his later acting career.

Appearances in school plays and his father's love of theatre led Sharvell-Martin to train in stage management at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. After working behind the scenes at the Aldwych, London, and in Guildford and Worthing, he was given the chance to act at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, in 1965. There was already an actor called Michael Martin, so he took his mother's maiden name and became Michael Sharvell-Martin.

While performing at Cheltenham in that year's pantomime, Cinderella, he met Linda Hind, one of the dancers, whom he married in 1967, when he also changed his name by deed poll. His initial screen appearances in The Benny Hill Show, an episode of the Frankie Howerd-starring comedy Up Pompeii! (1970) and the 1970 special Inside the Mind of Dave Allen were followed by a string of one-off television roles. He popped up in the sitcoms Dad's Army (1974), Terry and June (five roles, 1980-85), Yes Minister (1982) and Murder Most Horrid (as a major and a judge, 1991).

Sharvell-Martin continued with Dave Allen in his television specials (1981, 1984, 1986) and appeared in sketches in Look, Mike Yarwood! (1976), Mike Yarwood in Persons (1976-78), The Dawson Watch (1979), The Les Dawson Show and The Kenny Everett Television Show (1982-83).

He was also on the West End stage in the farces When Did You Last See Your Trousers? (Garrick Theatre, 1987-88) and Don't Dress for Dinner (Duchess Theatre, 1992-97). In 1996, he and the late Brien Chitty founded The Irving Society, in memory of the Victorian actor-manager Sir Henry Irving. This followed their National Theatre exhibition celebrating the centenary of Irving's knighthood the previous year.

By 2000, television comedy was changing and work was drying up for Sharvell-Martin. That year, he and his wife started running a bed-and-breakfast establishment in Bournemouth. They moved to Somerset, to live in Wincanton, in 2007.

Despite a lack of television work, the actor – known by his fellow professionals as quiet, gentle and genial, and as an avid collector of early theatrical memorabilia – remained popular in pantomime, usually playing dames or Ugly Sisters. He clocked up 35 consecutive years in such stage shows, finishing as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, last Christmas. Sharvell-Martin was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus earlier this year.

Michael Ernest Martin (Michael Sharvell-Martin), actor: born Herne Bay, Kent 2 February 1944; married 1967 Linda Hind (two daughters); died Wincanton, Somerset 28 October 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Travel
Streets ahead: Venice
travelWhat's trending on your wishlist?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect