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John Arthur (actor)

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

John Arthur is an English actor best known for his work in the theatre – notably with Sir Alan Ayckbourn. Theatre work also includes work at the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. On television he is predominantly known for situation comedy.

Early life[edit]

Born John Arthur Smith on 20th October 1945 in Birmingham, he is the only son of Sydney Arthur Smith, toolmaker, and Jessie Smith, née Evans, occasional shorthand/typing teacher. Before attending Drama School he worked in export as cost clerk exporting metal tubes for Tube Investments Birmingham, plus a variety of temporary jobs.



After leaving drama school in Birmingham in 1970, he worked for 10 years or so in repertory; the old Derby Playhouse, the Lyceum Theatre, Crewe, the Swan Theatre, Worcester and three years with the EMMA Theatre Company based in Loughborough, performing throughout the East Midlands in village halls, pubs, schools and prisons. Also during this period he worked in weekly rep in Rotherham, Hull and Bradford.

In 1977 he joined Sir Alan Ayckbourn's company in Scarborough North Yorkshire, where he stayed for over three years. While there he played central roles in 9 new Ayckbourn plays, as well as major parts in other plays,[1] such as John Procter in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.[2] Ayckbourn roles included Roland Crabbe in Taking Steps,[3] Len Coker in Sisterly Feelings and Richard in Joking Apart.

Subsequently, his Ayckbourn work continued in other theatres such as The Palace, Watford, Greenwich Theatre and The Theatre Royal, Windsor.

At Greenwich Theatre in 1984 he was the Mayor of London in Anthony Minghella's play Two Planks and a Passion, directed by Danny Boyle. West End work includes Michael Frayne's Look Look, Sir Peter Hall's revival of Piaf[4] and Alan Ayckbourn's Communicating Doors.[5] He has completed two seasons at theThe Royal National Theatre, appearing as 'Enery in Tons of Money and Desmond in A Small Family Business among others.,[6] For Jude Kelly in Leeds he played Simon Eyre in The Shoemaker's Holiday. In 2003 he played Philp Larkin in Larkin with Women at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry[7]

30 years television work have included John in Fresh Fields, Jack in Andy Capp[8] Constable Dunstable in Pilgrims Rest[9] (1995) and Phil in Carlton TV's Barbara[10] (1996/7). Filmography incudes Thunderpants (2002) and The Abduction Club (2002).[11] He has worked several times with Mark Gatiss, notably as Bill Wilson in the BBC 4 film of The Worst Journey in the World[12] and as Coil in The Crooked House,[13] also for BBC 4. From 2017 on-going he is Bishop Barry[14] in Emmerdale.

Following his earlier work with director Christopher Luscombe on Dandy Dick,[15]and as Wilf in the successful revival of Alan Bennett's Enjoy,[16] and Single Spies,[17] he worked again with Luscombe in 2016 -2017 for the Royal Shakespeare Company playing Sir Nathaniel and Antonio in Luscombe's acclaimed productions of Love's Labours Lost[18] and Much Ado about Nothing at The Royal Haymarket Theatre in the West End.

In 1982 he began a relationship with Scottish actress Jeni Giffen, who he eventually married in 1992 in Scarborough. They were divorced in 1998.

In 1996 he acquired an amateur pilot's licence, flying out of Biggin Hill Airport, Kent.

In 2003, with business partner ccmedian Bobby Bragg, he co-founded It's a Funny Business Ltd,[19] teaching stand-up comedy in a weekend course in Minster Loveell, Oxfordshire. The company was dissolved in 2009.

He lives in Oxfordshire with his partner Penelope Gee of the Astor String Quartet.

Ayckbourn plays performed[edit]

Play Role Theatre Date Director
Joking Apart[20] Richard The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough 1977 Alan Ayckbourn
Sisterly Feelings Len Coker The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough 1979 Alan Ayckbourn
Taking Steps[21] Roland Crabbe The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough 1979 Alan Ayckbourn
Making Tracks Wolfe Devine The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough/Greenwich Theatre 1981 Alan Ayckbourn
A Trip to Scarborough Lord Foppington etc. The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough 1979 Alan Ayckbourn
Suburban Strains Howard, Naylor and Mr Grubland The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough 1980 Alan Ayckbourn
It could be any One of Us Norris The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough 1983 Alan Ayckbourn
Absurd Person Singular Ronald The Palace Theatre, Watford 1980 Michael Attenborough
Absurd Person Singular Ronald The Belgrave Theatre, Coventry 1983 Robert Hamlin
A Small Family Business Desmond The National Theatre 1987 Alan Ayckbourn
Ten Times Table Laurence The Theatre Royal, Windsor 1989 Robin Herford
The Norman Conquests (Living Together, Table Manners, Round and Round the Garden) Tom The Theatre Royal, Windsor 1992 Mark Piper
Seasons Greetings Harvey The Theatre Royal, Windsor 1993 Mark Piper
Communicating Doors Harold The Geilgud Theatre, London/The Savoy Theatre, London 1995 Alan Ayckbourn
Taking Steps Roland Crabbe The Mill Theatre, Sonning/The Theatre Royal Windsor 2002 Robin Herford
Time of my Life Gerry The Royal Theatre, Northampton 2007 Laurie Sansom
Time and Time Again Graham The Mill Theatre, Sonning 2009 Robin Herford
How the Other Half Loves Frank The Mill Theatre, Sonning 2013 Ian Masters
Absurd Person Singular Ronald The Mill Theatre, Sonning 2014 Tom Littler


  1. "It Could be Any One of Us". Alan Ayckbourn official site. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  2. "Plays Directed". Alan Ayckbourn official website. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  3. "Taking Steps". Alan Ayckbourn Official site. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  4. "Piaf". This Theatre. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  5. Taylor, Paul. "INDY/LIFE". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  6. "Second Mrs Tanquary". Theatricalia. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  7. "Where I Live". BBC home. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  8. "Andy Capp". The British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  9. "Pilgrim's Rest:No News is Bad News". BBC Radio Times. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  10. "Barbara". Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  11. Elley, Derek. "The Abduction Club". Variety. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  12. "The Worst Journey in the World". BBC Four. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  13. "The Crooked House, The Waiscoting". BBC Four. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  14. "Emmerdale". famdom. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  15. Benedict, David. "Dandy Dick". Variety. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  16. Billington, Michael. "Enjoy". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  17. Connor, Sheila. "Single Spies". The British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  18. "Haymarket Theatre". Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  19. Roe, Nick. "Stand up Comedy School in Oxfordshire". The Times. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  20. Smurthwaite, Nick. "Joking Apart". The Stage. The Stage Media Company Limited. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  21. Somerville, Matt. "Taking Steps". Theatricalia. Matthew Somerville productions. Retrieved 20 March 2020.

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