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Tony Robinson

Tony Robinson (left) with Mick Aston and Guy de la Bédoyère on a Time Team shoot in 2007
Born 15 August 1946 (1946-08-15) (age 63)
Leytonstone, London, England
Occupation Actor, broadcaster and political campaigner
Domestic partner(s) Mary Shepherd (former)

Tony Robinson (born 15 August 1946) is an English actor, author, broadcaster and political campaigner. He is best known for playing Baldrick in the BBC television series Blackadder, and for hosting Channel 4 programmes such as Time Team and The Worst Jobs in History. Robinson is a member of the Labour Party and has served on its National Executive Committee. He has also written 16 children's books.

Contents

Early life

Born in Leytonstone, London, Robinson attended Wanstead High School in what is now the London Borough of Redbridge. He performed in his first professional acting role at the age of 12, as a member of Fagin's gang in the original production of the musical Oliver!, including a stint as the Artful Dodger when the boy playing the role didn't turn up.[1] Over the next five years, he appeared in a number of West End shows, in film, and on television.

At school, Robinson passed four O Levels (English Language, English Literature, History and Geography) and went on to study for A Levels, but decided to study at a drama school instead. Too young to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Robinson instead studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. After leaving, he spent four years in repertory theatre.[2]

He won an Arts Council bursary to work as a director at the Midland Arts Theatre, Birmingham and founded the Avon Touring Company, a Bristol-based community theatre company, with writer David Illingworth.[2]

He appeared in the 1974/75 season at Chichester Festival Theatre, as Angel Chicago in the nativity musical Follow The Star. In the 1975 season, he appeared as Hovstad in Henrik Ibsen's Enemy of the People. In 1976, he appeared as Feste in Twelfth Night, and as Majorin in Monsieur Perrichon's Travels.[2]

In the early 1970s he starred in the children's educational programme Sam on Boffs' Island. He also appeared in the award-winning Horizon documentary Joey, and in the title role in the BBC production of The Miracle of Brother Humphrey. He also appeared in the film Brannigan alongside John Wayne.[2]

He was also one of the Who Dares Wins team in the ground-breaking Channel 4 comedy/satirical show during the early/mid-1980s.

Blackadder period (1983–1989)

Robinson came to prominence in 1983 for his role in the British historical sitcom Blackadder, as Edmund Blackadder's dogsbody Baldrick. In the first series, broadcast as The Black Adder, he was quite astute, while his master was an idiot. Later series (Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third, Blackadder Goes Forth) moved the duo through history and switched the relationship: the Edmund Blackadder of Blackadder II was a brilliant schemer, whereas Baldrick had devolved into a buffoon whose catch phrase was "I have a cunning plan" (which he never had).

In addition to his acting on Blackadder, he also wrote and narrated several Jackanory-style children's programmes, encouraged by Richard Curtis.[3] Programmes in this style included Tales From Fat Tulip's Garden (continued in Fat Tulip Too), Odysseus: The Greatest Hero of Them All (a retelling of the Iliad and the Odyssey), and Blood and Honey (tales from the Old Testament, filmed on location).

In the early 1990s he created the children's comedy TV series Maid Marian and her Merry Men, a loose retelling of the legend of Robin Hood in which he appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Four series were broadcast on BBC1 during 1989–94.

Beyond Blackadder (1989–present)

After Blackadder, Robinson became the narrator and one of the lead actors for the British animated series, Nellie the Elephant, based on a song of the same name. The series ran from 1989 to 1991 and was shown on Children's ITV.

Robinson also presented the early-Saturday evening series Stay Tooned for BBC 1, which featured a selection of classic Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons. The series ran for several years.

In 1994, Robinson began presenting Time Team, a TV programme devoted to archaeological investigations limited to three days (the outcome is never guaranteed, varying from spectacular to disappointing). In 2005, Exeter University conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Robinson, and Honorary Professorships on principal presenter Mick Aston and producer Tim Taylor, to reflect its great appreciation for what Time Team has done for the public understanding of archaeology in the UK.[4] The series continues as of 2009.

Robinson was drafted in to present other history-based shows on Channel 4, including The Worst Jobs in History, researching and re-enacting some of the more horrible jobs of the past millennium. He also took this show on tour around the country along with an autobiographical question and answer session. This first series was followed by The Worst Christmas Jobs in History in December 2005 and then a second series of The Worst Jobs in History on Channel 4 in April 2006.

In 1999, Robinson returned to star in a one-off Blackadder short film to celebrate the millennium, entitled Blackadder: Back & Forth. This short film was shown in the Millennium Dome throughout 2000 and was later aired on BBC One in 2002.

Tony Robinson's Cunning Night Out, a largely improvised stage show, followed in early 2005 and included a mix of the many themes from his career for which Robinson is famous. He also edited and presented The Real Da Vinci Code, a documentary for Channel 4's Weird World series which countered the claims made by Dan Brown in his novel The Da Vinci Code.

In addition to telling his own stories, Robinson narrated the abridged audio book versions of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Nigel Planer, Celia Imrie and Stephen Briggs narrated the unabridged versions. He also provided the voicing for several characters in the videogame Discworld. He followed on this Discworld work by playing a role in the live action television dramatisation of Hogfather, broadcast on Sky over the Christmas season in 2006.

Robinson also presented Classic FM's Friendly Guide to Classical Music which aired on a Sunday at 4pm. The whole 16-episode series was repeated on 26 December 2006. He revealed on the BBC Radio 2 feature "Tracks of My Years" that his favourite songs are: "I Can Help" by Billy Swan, "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis, "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera, "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack, "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan, "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" by Beverley Knight, "This Woman's Work" by Maxwell, "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons and "Falling Slowly" by The Frames.

In 2007, Robinson narrated television advertisements for Honda, in the humorous style of Tales From Fat Tulip's Garden. The advertisements feature plastic cars with expressive faces (similar to Thomas the Tank Engine). He has also done voiceovers for laundry product Vanish as of 2007.

Recently he discovered his Jewish ancestry through his grandmother's surname, Levy.[5] The annual event, Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE also revealed his ancestry to him live on stage at the 2008 event. Robinson's most recent presenting jobs were Channel 4's, Tony Robinson's Crime and Punishment and Catastrophe. He is currently presenting a 4-part Channel 4 series entitled Man on Earth, focusing on man's struggle with climate change in the past 200,000 years.

Tony Robinson and the Paranormal was first broadcast on Channel 4 in December 2008. In this series, Robinson investigates paranormal phenomena combining the fields of archaeology, parapsychology, history and spiritualism to investigate paranormal evidence.

In July 2009, he appeared in the light-hearted BBC1 series Hotel Babylon, as sly hit-man Arthur Barnes. The character is knocked unconscious by a flying bottle expertly lobbed by the female hotel manager during a showdown in the lobby.[6]

DVD and Live Tour

In the Spring of 2007 Robinson visited 30 towns in the UK and Ireland with his one-man show, A Cunning Night Out. The show was such a success that it was released on DVD in the autumn of 2007.

Politics and personal life

Robinson and his former partner Mary Shepheard were active in Bristol Labour politics from the early 1980s.

From 1996 to 2000, he was vice-president of the actors' union Equity, helping with a huge restructuring programme which turned a £500,000 deficit into a small surplus.[7] Since leaving, he was elected to the Labour Party's National Executive Committee, a position he held from 2000 to 2004.[3]

He was also active in the "Make Poverty History" campaign during early 2005, in the lead-up to the G8 summit in Scotland, and is the patron for UK-based charity Street Child Africa.

In 2006 he appeared in Tony Robinson: Me and My Mum, a documentary surrounding Robinson's decision to find a nursing home for his mother, and the difficulty he had with doing so. The documentary showed his mother's death in the home. It also featured stories from other families in similar situations. It appeared as part of Channel 4's short season of programmes entitled The Trouble With Old People.

He previously supported Tottenham Hotspur F.C. and Stoke City F.C., but now supports Bristol City F.C..[8]

He also follows Spanish La Liga side Valencia CF, often spending his holidays in the country.[9] He is honorary president of the Young Archaeologists' Club of the Council for British Archaeology.[10]

It was reported that he was to marry his fiancée, Louise Hobbs, 27, in the summer of 2009.[11]

Robinson has shown his support for the Burma Campaign UK, an NGO that aims to highlight human rights violations in Burma under the State Peace and Development Council.

Awards

In 1999 he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts by the University of Bristol for his services to drama and archaeology.

In 2002 he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts by the University of East London.[12]

In 2005 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University for his contribution to the educational or cultural well-being of society[13] and an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Exeter for his active involvement in politics.[14]

In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford Brookes University.[15]

In September 2008, he was awarded the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of UCD.

Selected filmography

References

External links

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