Peter Barkworth

Star of 'The Power Game' and 'Telford's Change' who enjoyed a prolific career on stage and small screen

Peter Wynn Barkworth, actor: born Margate, Kent 14 January 1929; died London 21 October 2006.

Middle-class management roles fitted the actor Peter Barkworth like a glove. After finding fame on television as Kenneth Bligh, fighting boardroom battles in The Power Game, he dreamed up his own series, Telford's Change, starring as a hotshot international banker who seeks a less stressful life by trading in international travel and an expense account to become a provincial bank manager in Dover.

The 10-part 1979 serial traced the effects this had on Mark Telford's life - and marriage, with his London-loving wife Sylvia (played by Hannah Gordon), who had her sights set on a career in show business, refusing to move.

Barkworth conceived the drama in 1968 but had it rejected by ITV, who regarded it as dull. Later, he suggested it to the writer Brian Clark, producer Mark Shivas and director Barry Davis while working with them on a "Play for Today", The Country Party (1977). The result was a popular success for the BBC, achieving audiences of up to 11 million and offending no one, with even the "clean up television" campaigner Mary Whitehouse branding it "very sexy".

Peter Barkworth also had a distinguished stage and film career, as well as directing, but he accepted that he would always be recognised by the public for these television roles. Looking back in 1992, he said,

It's 26 years now since The Power Game was screened and 13 since Telford's Change. Yet people still associate me with them. Mind you, some do a double-take when they see me in the flesh. "Weren't you Peter Barkworth?" they say. "Still am," I reply.

Born in Margate, Kent, in 1929, Barkworth moved with his family to Stockport, Cheshire, as a child and soon displayed a talent for acting. As a party piece for friends, he did an impersonation of Winston Churchill reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb", accompanied by his mother on the piano and father on the Swanee whistle. He acted in plays at Stockport School and appeared on stage aged 13 in For What We Are (1942) at the town's Hippodrome theatre.

He trained at Rada in London (1946-48), later recalling that his father gave up tobacco and alcohol in order to send his son £2 15s a week "to make ends meet". He returned to teach at the school (1955-63), with students such as Anthony Hopkins and Simon Ward, and later served as a Rada council member for many years. Ward recalled Barkworth's wise advice:

The moment you leave this academy and get your first job, make sure that, if you get paid £10, you save £2.50, otherwise you are going to end up in a little bedsit without a shilling to put in the gas meter.

Barkworth acted in repertory theatre in Folkestone and Sheffield before making his West End début as Gaston Probert in Letter from Paris (Aldwych Theatre, 1952), following it by playing Gerald Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance (Savoy Theatre, 1953) and Stefan in The Dark is Light Enough (Aldwych Theatre, 1954). Like a Dove (Phoenix Theatre, 1957), in which he was Bernard Taggart-Stuart, ran for more than 1,000 performances. Barkworth also played Sir Benjamin Backbite in a revival of The School for Scandal in the West End (Haymarket Theatre, 1962) and on Broadway (Majestic Theatre, 1963).

At the Haymarket in 1972, he was Edward VIII in Crown Matrimonial, Royce Ryton's play about the abdication crisis, and repeated the role when it was filmed two years later for television; he later named this his favourite part.

Having first appeared on television in a live, 20-minute BBC play at Alexandra Palace back in 1948, while still studying at Rada, Barkworth made his film début as a sub-lieutenant in the comedy A Touch of Larceny (alongside James Mason, 1959), going on to appear in Where Eagles Dare (1968), Mr Smith (1976) and Escape from the Dark (1976), but it was the small screen on which he became a regular in the 1960s, often playing detectives, vicars, wing commanders and other "professional" figures.

Most significant was The Power Game (1965-66, 1969), which was a spin-off from The Plane Makers, with the aerospace tycoon John Wilder (Patrick Wymark) transplanted to the boardroom of a merchant bank that takes control of the civil engineering company owned by Sir Caswell Bligh (Clifford Evans), with Barkworth as the founder's son, Kenneth. He remembered that, during the making of the series, "life became so stressful that the doctor put me on Mogadon and I became hooked for a while".

In between other, one-off character roles, Barkworth played Stanley Baldwin in Winston Churchill: the wilderness years (1981), starred as Geoffrey Carr, a computer magnate raising the ransom for his kidnapped wife and stepchild, in the thriller series The Price (1985), and won both Bafta and Royal Television Society Best Actor Awards for his performance as the philosophy professor Anderson in Tom Stoppard's play Professional Foul (1977).

He took a rare comedy role in the sitcom The Good Girl (1974), as the grumpy television executive Eustace Morrow, who wooed the younger, innocent Angie Botley (Julia Foster) but was dominated by his own mother (Joan Hickson).

Barkworth's last film role was as the prosecutor Charles Gill in Wilde (1997), starring Stephen Fry. "I have completely retired," he assured an interviewer in 2002, and now have a lot more time for friends. I can go to the theatre without feeling jealous or thinking, "Why wasn't I offered that part?"

He lived in Hampstead, north London, for more than 40 years and also had a seaside flat in Folkestone.

Peter Barkworth was the author of About Acting (1980), More About Acting (1984) and The Complete About Acting (1991), based on insights gathered while he was teaching at Rada. In First Houses (1983) he recalled his early years as an actor, while For All Occasions (1997) collected poetry and prose for public speakers.

Anthony Hayward

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive - Manchester City Centre

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency wo...

Recruitment Genius: Artwork Design Apprenticeship

£7200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Artwork Design Apprenticeship is avail...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web design and digital age...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor