Robin Davies: Actor who found fame alongside Wendy Craig and Catweazle
Monday 10 May 2010
A thick mop of curly, blond hair made the actor Robin Davies a distinctive figure as Wendy Craig's teenaged son in two 1970s domestic sitcoms.
In both And Mother Makes Three... (1971-73) and And Mother Makes Five... (1974-76), he played Simon Harrison, whose troublesome antics with his younger brother Peter (David Parfitt) simply bemused their widowed mother, the dithering Sally.
The change of title came after Craig's character met and married David Redway (Richard Coleman), an antiquarian bookseller, in the Richard Waring-created comedy. David, also widowed, had a daughter, Jane (Miriam Mann, then Maxine Gordon), and Sally's bemusement multiplied. Both series also featured Valerie Lush as Sally's cyncial Auntie Flo. The comedy was predictable and stereotypical, but the programmes were popular at a time when television sitcoms were produced on a conveyor belt. Few attained the level of Dad's Army or Fawlty Towers.
Before And Mother... Davies had appeared in the children's programme Catweazle (1970-71), his hair this time dyed bright orange to play Carrot, the dishevelled wizard's sidekick. The 14-year-old farmer's son befriended the eccentric, 11th-century alchemist, played by Geoffrey Bayldon, who was accidentally transported forward in time to the 20th century. Carrot was forever trying to keep his father away from Catweazle's deserted water-tower hideout.
There was both slapstick and comedy based on misunderstanding in Richard Carpenter's scripts. Carrot would explain to Catweazle the wonders of the 20th century and hear him grasping concepts such as "electrickery" and the "telling-bone". The fantasy series won the 1971 Writers Guild award for Best Children's Drama Script.
Richard Robin Davies was born in Towyn, Merionethshire (now Gwynedd), in 1954, and was a fluent Welsh speaker. From the age of 12 he trained at the Ada Foster Stage School, in London (1966-69). While there, he made his television debut in The Newcomers, a BBC serial about Londoners who had moved to a fictional East Anglian overspill town.
He also took the roles of the gang leader Steve in The Magnificent Six and (1967-69), a children's serial shown in the cinema, and Machin, one of the junior pupils, in the director Lindsay Anderson's subversive public-school satire If.... (1968).
On television, Davies appeared alongside Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in their ITV show Two of a Kind. "The running gag was, Eric used to chop people on the back of the neck," he recalled. "My job at the end of each show was to come on with a ladder, climb the ladder, chop him on the back of the neck and bugger off."
On turning 16 and being cast in Catweazle, he switched to using his middle name professionally to become Robin Davies because there was already an adult actor called Richard Davies, who played the stereotypically Welsh teacher Price in the sitcom Please Sir! In between the two series of Catweazle, he appeared alongside Patrick Wymark and Linda Hayden in the horror film Blood on Satan's Claw (1970), which gained a cult following.
Then, after 52 sitcom episodes with Wendy Craig confirmed him as a well-known face on screen, Davies was frequently seen on television. In The Saturday Party (1975) and its sequel, The Country Party (1977), both made for Play for Today, he acted the son of Peter Barkworth's redundant stockbroker.
He stuck with drama to play Corporal Box in Spearhead (1979-81), following the soldiers of a British Army infantry regiment during tours of Northern Ireland, Germany and Hong Kong. The actor also starred as the RAF officer Splodge in H. E. Bates's Second World War love story A Moment in Time (1979). His return to comedy came with the role of the hair stylist Herbie in Split Ends (1989), with a post-EastEnders Anita Dobson as the salon owner.
Davies was also in the film Britannia Hospital (1982), another Anderson- directed satire. His final screen appearance was as Master Plum in Shakespeare in Love (1998), which was co-produced by David Parfitt, his one-time screen brother.
On stage, Davies acted with the New Vic Theatre company in plays such as The Three Musketeers (1985). Adding writing to his repertoire, he scripted a revival of the director Michael Bogdanov's production of The Canterbury Tales that was staged at the Garrick Theatre (1994). Over his last 20 years, Davies regularly wrote and directed pantomimes at the City Varieties theatre in Leeds.
Richard Robin Davies (Robin Davies), actor, writer and director: born Towyn, Merionethshire 16 January 1954; married 1982 Venetia Vivian (one son, two daughters); died Norwich 22 February 2010.
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