Passed / Failed: Ned Sherrin

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The Independent Online
Ned Sherrin CBE, 67, ties up Radio 4's Loose Ends and asks the questions on Counterpoint. He directed BBC TV's That Was The Week That Was and produced the films Up Pompeii and The National Health. He has directed four plays by Keith Waterhouse, including Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, and will be directing the fifth, Good Grief, later in the year. His novel Scratch an Actor is out in paperback.

Ned Start? I went to Barton St David primary school, near Glastonbury. A boy - we'd better not mention his name as it would disgrace him in the village - said he'd show me his if I'd show him mine. I showed him mine but he ran away without showing me his. I was always a good little boy, a bit of a swot. I had a terrible tragedy when we were asked to draw Mrs Williams. I put lots of lines in her face, which indeed there were, and she was not pleased. People who didn't put in the lines got much higher marks.

Ned And Board? The grammar school was called Sexey's Trade High School. I was a weekly boarder, which I liked, because it got me away from doing the tiresome elements on the farm where I grew up. I was captain of cricket and football. In one match, I was centre-half when the player I was marking scored eight of the nine goals; he was John Atyeo, who later played for England. It was a hotbed of drama. I was rather good as St Joan; it was an all-male school.

Art-Broken? I stayed on after School Certificate [O-levels]. There was no Arts in the sixth form at the time. I spent the first term reading chemistry, biology and physics, and it became quite obvious I wasn't going to get anywhere. I organised a revolution with three masters and did English and history `Highers' on a one-to-one basis, with botany and Latin as half-subjects, which was enough for Oxford. I thought I'd get my National Service out of the way. I was Best Cadet.

Who's The Law Around Here? I wanted to read English or history, but my father, who was funding me, couldn't see the point of those unless you were going to be a schoolmaster - and farmers held schoolmasters in contempt. So I said Law because my grandfather, of whom my father was in awe, was a solicitor.

Barred From The Bard? I kept being rejected by OUDS, which was the more legitimate theatre company and did Shakespeare. I joined the Experimental Theatre Company. They used to do terribly experimental things and lose money, and then we'd do revues and make money.

Bar None? Work was on hold until the last term. I got a Second; the BA in Law counts as the first half of the legal qualification, and for the second part I went to a crammer in Chancery Lane in Holborn. I think I also got a a Second in the Bar Finals. The morning after the ceremony of being called to the Bar, I was walking down the Strand and bumped into Stephen Wade, who had been floor manager when a review I had done with Maggie Smith had been televised. He said, "We're starting commercial television next week - come and join us."

That Was The Law That Was? I never had any intention of of being a barrister; it was a way of encouraging my father to put up the money. The only use law was to me was that we were very clever at not being caught by libel on That Was The Week That Was.

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