BRIAN Blessed – he who is half actor, half explorer – will be bringing his booming presence to Surrey this month to talk about his life experiences – and there have been a lot, writes Barry Rutter.
In An Evening With Brian Blessed, his career on stage and screen will lead to anecdotes from Flash Gordon, Black Adder, I Claudius and Z Cars and his many appearances in Shakespearean productions.
He will also share his experiences as an avid climber who has conquered both Everest and Kilimanjaro.
“It’s a one man show with me being me, 50% actor, 50% explorer,” explains the 81-year-old who was born in Yorkshire and now lives in Windlesham. “I’ll be discussing drama, acting and performance. Art is everything.
“I like telling people that I went to drama school with [Star Trek star] Patrick Stewart, we both got grants. I was the son of a coal miner and this opportunity kick-started my career. Britain is fantastic, we’re shaking with art.”
As for the other side of his career, Blessed booms proudly: “I am the oldest man to reach the summit of Mount Everest, I’ve completed space training in Moscow and at NASA and I’ve worked on Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox – I’ve worked with many scientists.”
His favourite place “has to be” the summit of Mount Everest, adding: “I was stood in the stratosphere and the sky was dark blue cobalt.”
Meanwhile, his work with animal charities like the World Wildlife Fund and Born Free Foundation has seen him being filmed saving animals and he’s had a multitude of rescued pets including dogs, cats and ponies.
“My favourite animal though is a gorilla called Gugus,” explains Blessed. “He was six foot four inches and I met him at Aspinall in Canterbury in the ‘70s – we had a special connection.”
Although he wants to retain plenty of detail for his live show, he admits the highlight of his acting career was performing in the 2006 film of As You Like It set in Japan.
“I played the good Duke and the bad Duke… in some scenes I played against myself,” he laughs. “For the bad Duke I got to wear a black cape like Darth Vader. The director was Kenneth Branagh and we’ve worked on five films together.”
And he has no regrets – not even missing out on being Dr Who.
“No, I was offered the part of Dr Who back in 1965,” he reveals. “I was 25 and I said I was too young. I am delighted a woman’s playing the Doctor next. The strength of mankind is its women. Ninety per cent of men bore me, I’m a fan of women.”
An Evening With Brian Blessed will be at G Live in Guildford on Wednesday 26 September.
If you need any more persuasion, the man himself promises: “It’ll be an original evening, joyful and comical. I want to change every cell in the body, I want the audience to go away utterly changed and I want to encourage young people to go on adventures. Adventure is the key for the millennials.”