Obituary: Barry Evans

The youthful, ever-smiling Barry Evans found fame in the comedy series Doctor in the House and Mind Your Language, but failed to shake off the image that those television programmes gave him, despite his earlier appearances in a wide range of screen dramas and stage performances with the National Theatre and Young Vic.

Born in Guildford, Surrey, in 1943, Evans was orphaned and brought up in a Dr Barnardo's home in Twickenham, Middlesex. Intent on a career in acting, he won a John Gielgud Scholarship to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama, before making his theatre debut in Barrow-in-Furness. He found his first big break in Spring Awakening at the Royal Court Theatre and, soon afterwards, appeared in Chips with Everything on Broadway (1963).

On returning home, Evans joined the Nottingham Playhouse repertory company and toured with it throughout Britain and the Far East. He also acted in the films The Class (1961) and The White Bus (1966, directed by Lindsay Anderson) and on television in Redcap (1964), Undermind (1965), The Baron (1966), Much Ado About Nothing (1967) and Love Story (1967).

After a year with the National Theatre, Evans was chosen by the director Clive Donner to star as the former grammar school boy Jamie McGregor, determined to lose his virginity, in the film Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968). The picture was regarded as an adolescent romp, with music by Stevie Winwood and Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group, which helped it to capture the mood of the permissive society of the Swinging Sixties. He subsequently appeared in the film Alfred the Great (1969).

Then, Evans was cast as a medical student, Michael A. Upton, in Doctor in the House (1969), the ITV sitcom based on Richard Gordon's Doctor books and scripted by writers such as John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Barry Cryer. The series came about after Frank Muir, LWT's head of comedy, acquired the rights to produce television adaptations of the books in consultation with the author, 20 years after they had first appeared in print and 15 years after the first film, starring Dirk Bogarde and James Robertson Justice. To update the stories for television, new staff and students at St Swithin's teaching hospital were created.

Upton, young and gauche, and the other new students, played by Robin Nedwell, George Layton, Martin Shaw, Simon Cuff and Geoffrey Davies, had to deal with the wrath of authority in the person of Professor Loftus (played by the actor Ernest Clark). A second series followed in 1970, before Upton and some of his colleagues returned as newly qualified doctors for two series of Doctor at Large the following year. However, Evans did not appear in the further sequels, Doctor in Charge, Doctor at Sea, Doctor Down Under and Doctor at the Top.

Evans appeared in the soap opera Crossroads and a Thirty Minute Theatre production of Torquil (1972), as well as the films Die Screaming, Marianne (1971) and Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976), before starring in the sitcom Mind Your Language (1977-79) as the English teacher Jeremy Brown, who had to deal with mature foreign students while enduring criticism from the dragon-like college principal Miss Courtney (actress Zara Nutley). The series, written by Vince Powell, returned in 1986 for a further 13 episodes, but it suffered from stereotypes of foreigners and Evans - by then in his forties - subsequently found that casting directors and producers passed him over for roles, as a result of the image he had of being a fresh-faced young man with a boyish smile.

Between series of Mind Your Language, he appeared on television alongside Dick Emery in the six-part comedy thriller Legacy of Murder (1982). He also acted for one season with the Young Vic Theatre, toured in the hit comedy Doctor in the House, with Jimmy Edwards, and directed a regional production of The Norman Conquests, in which he also played Norman. As acting work diminished, Evans switched to taxi-driving to earn a regular income, although in 1993 he returned to the screen as Bazzard in the film The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which starred Robert Powell, but it failed to make an impression.

Barry Joseph Evans, actor: born Guildford, Surrey 18 June 1943; died Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire c9 February 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Ashdown Group: HR Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A mainstream Secondary school in C...

Guru Careers: HR Administrator / Training Coordinator

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: An HR Administrator / Training Coordinator is requi...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'