The first episode of Planet Cosmo aired today. It was supposed to be a very happy day. Yes, the show looked awesome on television and the response so far has been incredible but, truth be told, the day turned out to be a bit of a stinker for a couple of reasons but mostly this – today was the day we got the very sad news of the passing of Richard Briers.
I worked with Richard on Roobarb & Custard Too, the follow-up to the classic 1974 show, Roobarb. It was 2005 and I was directing a television show for the very first time. Taking the place of the legendary Bob Godfrey, I had some pretty massive shoes to fill and I was probably well out of my depth.
How would I possibly direct someone of Richard Briers’ stature?
Well it turns out directing Richard Briers on Roobarb was mostly me just nodding and saying, “Fantastic. Wonderful.” He was amazing. When he stepped into that booth on the first day, I heard Roobarb. 1974 Roobarb. It was like no time had passed. He needed no reminders, just got straight into it and it was beautiful. I was a child again and there were tears in my eyes listening to him. All the old characters were perfect but we had new characters too so he had to handle the narrator and a host of characters, old and new. No problem for Richard. He found voices in minutes and never lost them. So absolutely consistent.
Richard Briers turned Grange Calveley’s wonderful words into music. And he did a mean Richard Burton Mole.
He was a joy to work with. Oh, there was a bit of a surprise at first because I was expecting Tom Good, wellies and all, and, instead, was meeting a rounder man in his early seventies. And there was the odd grumpy moment, but never angry. Mostly just about how something had been photocopied in a way he didn’t particularly appreciate. He always made it funny though, always light and always entertaining and these moments really just served to show how human he was. After all he had done, all he had achieved, after becoming a UK legend, he was really a very regular man, happy with just a cheese and pickle sandwich and the odd glass of wine. No pretentiousness, full of humility.
And so, so easy to work with. This from a man with such incredible talent. A national treasure. International treasure.
I went away from Air Studios in London having had a great life experience and with a bunch of fantastic recordings. All I had to do was put pictures to them. How could I go wrong? Grange Calveley and Richard Briers made my job easy and the result of that is that I was able to go on to make more shows. I was given a chance to learn more, to build expertise, knowledge. Without that experience with Richard Briers and those amazing recordings, I wouldn’t be launching Planet Cosmo today. It just wouldn’t have happened.
Thank you, Richard. For all you gave me, for all you gave Roobarb, all you gave children and adults alike in all your work. You’re truly one of a kind, a talent, a gentleman.