Apr 8, 2011

Welsh Author Pens Australian David Copperfield Spin-off - An Interview With David Barry

About David Barry:- David Barry (born 30 April 1943) is a Welsh author and actor. He is best known for his role as Frankie Abott, (the gum-chewing mother's boy who was convinced he was extremely tough), in the LWT sitcom Please Sir! and the spin-off series The Fenn Street Gang, He has appeared in several films, notably two TV spin-off movies - Please Sir! and George and Mildred. David is now an author with two novels and an autobiography under his belt, Each Man Kills, Flashback and Willie The Actor. Read an extract from 'Flashback' here. His next novel is about the Micawber family adventures in Australia and is called 'Mr Micawber Down Under'.

AmeriCymru: Hi David. Many thanks for agreeing to talk to AmeriCymru. You became involved in the acting profession at a very early age. Care to tell us how that came about?

David: Having moved from Amlwch, Angelsey, to Richmond, Surrey, my parents were involved in amateur dramatics and were performing in a production of The Corn is Green. A young Welsh speaking boy was needed for the part of Idwal, which was where I came in. Another English boy was playing one of the boys in the classroom, and he attended Corona Academy Stage School. I pestered my parents to send me there, but it was a fee-paying school. But Corona assured my parents that, because I looked younger than my 12 years, they could find enough work for me to cover the fees. Which is what happened.

AmeriCymru: What was it like working with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh?

David: Vivien Leigh spoiled me rotten, and Olivier was a remarkable stage actor. I occasionally witnessed tempestuous domestic arguments between them, and Vivien Leigh reminded me of Scarlet O'Hara.

AmeriCymru: You are best known for your role as Frankie Abbott in 'Please Sir' and 'The Fenn Street Gang'. What is your fondest recollection of working on those two series?

David: Working with a great cast, and hearing wonderful stories and memoirs from the actors who played the staff in Please, Sir! and exploring comedy in Fenn Street Gang, and starting to write scripts myself.

AmeriCymru: What, for you , is the high point of your acting career?

David: Playing First Voice in a tour of Under Milk Wood, which was not only challenging but the imagery of the words is so powerful that much of the text I can recall after more than 15 years.

AmeriCymru: In 'Flashback' you write about your childhood in North Wales, and touring to theaters in Cardiff, Swansea, Porthcawl and Llandudno. Can you tell us a little about your Welsh background?

David: My father was a London Welshman, and both my parents spoke fluent Welsh. I was born in Bangor, and my parents had a newsagent's shop, and then we moved to Amlwch. There were not many theatres around at the time, and my father loved the arts, so much of my acting inspiration came from seeing almost everything the Ritz cinema had to offer. I guess my father missed theatres, museums and galleries, as did my mother, which is why we moved close to London when I was 11.

AmeriCymru: After a long and distinguished career as an actor you decided to take up writing and published your first crime fiction novel ( 'Each Man Kills' ) in 2002. Was this a new departure for you or had you always nurtured an ambition to be a writer?

David: I began attempting to write scripts, and my first broadcast script was an episode of Fenn Street Gang. Up until that time I hadn't considered writing as an option.

AmeriCymru: Your first novel ( 'Each man Kills" 2002 ) is a detective novel set in Swansea. Care to tell us a little more about the book?

David: I was working in a summer season at Aberystwyth, and I heard a story about an armed response unit killing a murderer the previous year. The murderer committed a motiveless crime, killing a relative I was fascinated by the story, and it stayed with me over the years. I eventually considered writing a novel, and I like crime fiction. So I wrote about my antagonist being known from the start of the book, but there being no apparent motive. My protagonist's challenge is to find a motive for the crime, and I suppose the Aberystwyth incident had inspired me..I chose Swansea because of the Dylan Thomas connection, and I love the Gower peninsula and Rhosili Bay.

AmeriCymru: Your second novel ( 'Willie The Actor' 2007 ) is a novel about an ordinary man leading an extraordinary double-life of crime. We learn from the 'product description' that it is loosely based on a true story. Care to expand on that?

David: I read about Willie Sutton in a magazine article. He was a notorious bank robber with a difference - he never fought anyone or fired a shot in his life. I became fascinated by this real-life criminal who was a sympathetic character, who was such a contrast to the violent gangsters around during the prohibition era.

AmeriCymru: What's next for David Barry?

David: I love Charles Dickens's novels, and I've written a spin-off from David Copperfield. My novel is about the Micawber family adventures in Australia and is called Mr Micawber Down Under, and will be published by Robert Hale Ltd next October. I have also been working on another Swansea-based crime novel.

AmeriCymru: Any final messages for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

David: Iechyd da i pawb!

Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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