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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz