Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Jason Bradbury, author of the Dot Robot series and presenter of The Gadget Show
'I got three A-levels and 13 0-levels and CSEs'
Thursday 01 April 2010
Jason Bradbury, 40, is now in the sixth year of presenting The Gadget Show on Channel Five. Atomic Swarm, the second novel in his Dot Robot series, is just out. He is at Gadget Show Live at the NEC, Birmingham (8-11 April) and will be taking his Dot Robot Road Show around schools during the year (www.Jason bradbury.com).
I played Judas in the Easter play and was hanged in silhouette. It was only a paper cut-out but even at 10 I was aware that it could have a profound psychological effect! In fact, they were hugely happy days at St Andrews C of E Primary in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire: a wholesome and healthy experience.
I was a bright kid and it seemed like the wrong result when I failed my 11-plus, unlike my brothers. They went on to grammar school – imagine the problems that started! But going to Gartree Secondary Modern (now Community School) was the best thing that happened to me.
I had several influential teachers. Mr Ritson was the English teacher who brought Beatles' lyrics to the class: "What does this line in 'Eleanor Rigby' mean?" When I was 12 I came to him with the play of Just William which I'd written and said: "You are going to direct this, Mr Ritson – starring me!"
I had a very austere science teacher, Mr Walker. He forced science on us. It was like the Stockholm Syndrome, when you fall in love with your captor. He wouldn't let me not do science at O-level.
All the science in my books is real. In the Dot Robot Road Shows that I take to schools, children control real robots that walk round the hall and do handstands.
I didn't realise that you could go to school and mess around; I believed the teachers and did exactly what I was told. I would think: "Why am I here in this lesson for 45 minutes?" I never lost sight of the fact that at the end of the year I would be tested.
I've had a life dedicated to getting more qualifications than my brothers – combined. When I went to North Lincolnshire College in Lincoln, I thought, "If I take four more O-levels, my brothers will never catch me." They never came close! I got three A-levels and 13 O-levels and CSEs.
In the one A-level (art) I did in a year – to show off – I got a B, and also got two O-levels. In my second year, I took four exams and got four As, in English and psychology A-level and in French and drama O-level.
I got a 2.1 at Bristol University, which has the best drama course in the country: it was very intense, very hard work and I remember having no free time really. I studied comedy as a module. David Walliams and I were totally focused on getting our double-act off the ground; we were part of a group who set up a regular comedy club called "David Icke and the Orphans of Jesus'". Dominik Diamond, who later appeared in Shaun of the Dead, was compere and Simon Pegg, who played Scotty in the recent Star Trek movie, did a stand-up act.
Of the plays, I remember an overly arty interpretation of Kafka's The Trial and a lot of experimental theatre – one involving the use of rancid fish in a jail cell. Sarah Kane, who went on to write Blasted, was in my class. Within a couple of years of leaving she had a play at the Royal Court. She later wrote a play about suicide and then committed suicide. She is regarded as one of our great female playwrights – and I was at lectures with her.
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