ASSASSIN'S CREED

ASSASSIN'S CREED
January 2017
"John Banks is one of the UK's most prolific audiobook narrators, working for the likes of Big Finish, Audible, Random House and Games Workshop.

He is a true multi-voice, creating everything from monsters to marauding aliens.

He is also an accomplished stage and TV actor."

audible.co.uk 2018

Coming in November...

Coming in November...

Hello...

...I'm John Banks - welcome to my website.

The majority of my working life has been spent in the theatre with companies including
York Theatre Royal, Cheltenham Everyman, Sheffield Crucible, Bristol Old Vic, Manchester Royal Exchange and the National Theatre in London.

Television work includes Emmerdale, Coronation Street, and 'Allo, Allo!'. I have also worked on a number of radio drama and comedy productions with the BBC.

Since March 2009, I have enjoyed playing a huge variety of characters in more than 250* audio-drama stories for Big Finish Productions and The Black Library/Games Workshop, details of which can be found in the postings below.


There are also details listed here of the 150* audio books I've recorded since March 2013,
including the unabridged New Revised Standard Version of The Bible, for companies including audible.co.uk, Hachette, RNIB, W.F. Howes, Little Brown Group, Penguin Random House, Games Workshop, Orion, Fantom Films & Ladbroke Audio.

(*figures at October 2018)

I hope you find something of interest here and come back soon for further updates.


For all posts, reviews and audio samples, please scroll down...

Games Workshop

Games Workshop

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Sunday, 22 December 2013

So this is Christmas...

...and the pages of my Equity diary are rapidly coming to an end. From a professional point of view, I've had a varied and enjoyable time in 2013 and several highlights come to mind. Having spent five months or so at the Royal National Theatre, ending in March, I then thoroughly enjoyed working with director Benji Sperring of Tarquin Productions at The Tabard Theatre, performing two Maeterlinck plays, The Blind and The Intruder.

In some ways, I could easily regard 2013 as 'the year of the audio book'. Before Big Finish gave me the opportunity a couple of years ago to work on a series of Dr Who Short Trips and the Warhammer story The Madness Within, I'd never recorded a solo audio book. Quite unexpectedly, during 2013, I've somehow found myself being asked to record what has turned out to be seventeen of them, for a variety of companies and organisations. The 'learning curve' has been quite a challenge but certainly one I've enjoyed and the experience of it, I hope, has fed back into full cast audio work. Sitting in a recording studio, alone and performing an unabridged and undramatised text for seven or eight hours at a stretch certainly makes one appreciate dialogue, the input of others and the sound of different voices!

Some of this year's recording highlights for me include The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes, scheduled for release this month, The Avengers, which I'm very much looking forward to listening to next month and, of course, Survivors, which is to be released in June. I am genuinely thrilled to be a part of all of these series, although perhaps for obvious reasons, I feel a particularly close involvement with Survivors. It's always good to do a bit of comedy and in February, I had a fab time playing Mervyn Stone in The Mervyn Stone Mysteries: The Axeman Cometh, written by Nev Fountain. I also enjoyed doing a 'voice over' for the movie Shadow Industry, directed by Henry Vought, which is being entered into the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival (6 - 16 February) - so, exciting times ahead!

I thought February's Big Finish Day 3 was a great success, although I was sorry to have to leave early and hurry back to the NT for the Saturday matinee. Janet Fielding's Project Motormouth was also great fun and raised lots of money - and of course, the three days of the Dr Who 50th Celebration in November were amazing; it's always a pleasure to meet so many Big Finish fans.

And so, as this year comes to an end, what's next? More BBC Radio? That would be good. Bit of telly wouldn't go amiss either - back to the NT - who knows? In terms of future Big Finish stories, details are of course a closely guarded secret, but I can say there are quite a few things in the pipeline that I have had something to do with and I'll talk more about them as they become available throughout the year. I've also got some preparation to do over the holidays for a new audio book which starts recording in early January and I'm very much looking forward to Big Finish Day 4 on 18th January - not long to wait now!



In the meantime, many thanks for 'stopping by' the web site this year, your support is very much appreciated 

- enjoy the festivities and have a very happy 2014! 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Escape

And so, hot on the heels of Politics, I recorded another Adam Thirlwell novel The Escape, which is released today as an unabridged audio book from Audible.co.uk

Here are some details:

 

 Publisher's Summary

The more I knew of Haffner, writes Adam Thirlwell in The Escape, the more real he became, this was true. And, simultaneously, Haffner disappeared.

In a forgotten spa town snug in the Alps, at the end of the 20th century, Haffner is seeking a cure, more women, and a villa that belonged to his late wife. But really he is trying to escape: from his family, his lovers, his history, his entire Haffnerian condition.

For Haffner is 78. Haffner, in other words, is too old to be grown up.





What the Critics Say

"A witty, irreverent and elegiac new novel... Haffner is a Quixote of our time" 
(New York Times Book Review)
"A novel where the humour is melancholic, the melancholy mischievous and the talent startling"
 (Milan Kundera)
"In The Escape, you can practically see Bellow's Augie March, Roth's Mickey Sabbath and Martin Amis's John Self applauding, ghost-like, from the margins... The novel fizzes with intelligence, verbal skill and humour"
(Simon Baker, Observer)
"Beautifully written, poignant and clever... Thirlwell has a genuinely unique insight into humankind" 
(The Times)
"The Escape is one of the best British novels I've read this year for one reason; Thirlwell's prose. At once effervescent and elegant, his narrative voice lifts the novel's lecherous comedy beyond the sublunary lovers' antics into a more rarefied sphere" (Sarah Churchwell, Guardian)

* * * * *
As with Politics, if you would like to listen to a short extract from the audio book, please go to the Audible web page.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Politics



Released today from Audible.co.uk is Politics by Adam Thirlwell, which I recorded a few weeks ago as
an unabridged version of the original novel. If you go to the relevant web page on the Audible site, there's a sample to listen to; however, I must 'warn' you, that the excerpt chosen to represent the book is not for the faint hearted and pulls no punches in terms of its very explicit and graphic nature.

I found the book a very interesting challenge to record: I enjoyed the telling of the story and hope I've conveyed the essence of the narrative effectively - I'll have to buy a copy to see how it all went! If you do give it a try, I think you'll find it a worthwhile and a very 'stimulating' listen.
                                                                                        




Publisher's Summary

The sharp, funny, entirely original and explosive debut novel by Adam Thirlwell - twice named one of the Best Young British Novelists by Granta magazine.
In case you had not noticed, writes Adam Thirlwell in his first novel, Politics,, in this book I am not interested in anything so small as the history of the USSR. I am not writing anything so limited.

In this epic miniature, therefore, Politics tells the story of three kids in their twenties falling in love with each other in London. And, simultaneously, it tells other, smaller stories: of Stalin on the phone, Mao in the bathroom, Osip Mandelstam in another bathroom, Adolf Hitler on all fours, and Milan Kundera in an argument. Politics, is not (quite) about politics.

Adam Thirlwell was born in 1978. He is the author of Politics, The Escape, Miss Herbert and Kapow. He was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. He lives in London.

What the Critics Say 

"Extremely accomplished...very sophisticated" (A S Byatt, Guardian)
"One of the funniest, most stylish and utterly original debuts in years" (The Times)
"This is a clever book. Fantastically clever...funny and strangely insightful... A genuinely original book" 
(Daily Mail)
"Dazzling...clever, funny and original" (India Knight, Observer)
"Allusive, barbed, cocky, flamboyant, reckless, obscene and very funny" (Time Out)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Trial of The Valeyard

Released this month, Trial of The Valeyard, complete with its official cover art created by Simon Holub:


Here's what Big Finish have to say about this pivotal story:


There is some evil in all of us – even the Doctor. Transported aboard the Time Lords' orbiting courtroom, the Doctor once again encounters the Valeyard, an amalgamation of the darker sides of his nature. This time, however, the Doctor isn't in the dock. This time, the Valeyard is the defendant, accused of a crime so terrible that the presiding Inquisitor is forbidden to reveal it even to the court, nor even to his counsel for the defence… the Doctor.

If the Valeyard is found guilty, he'll be executed. Execute the Valeyard, and the secret of his origins dies with him. A secret that the Doctor is desperate to know… and which the Time Lords will stop at nothing to protect.

Colin Baker The Doctor   Michael Jayston The Valeyard   Lynda Bellingham The Inquisitor

Written by: Alan Barnes and Mike Maddox
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Who's on trial...

Another month - and this one is December - almost the end of the year! And what a busy, varied and interesting year it's been; theatre, audio drama, radio and audio books - who'd have thought it!

The most recent highlight for me has been the Dr Who 50th Celebration event; the level of excitement it generated slightly overshadowed other professional activities and it feels odd this week to be getting back to 'normal' - if such a state exists!

So this week's 'normal' consists of recording the final chapters of a RNIB Talking Book, Author, Author by David Lodge and the recording of two audio dramas with Big Finish. I'm very much looking forward to all of that; final preparations today and the fun starts tomorrow.

But what else is happening this month? Well who knows what might turn up.What I can say, is that this month sees the release of a Sherlock Holmes box-set from Big Finish and here are the details:

 The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes



Four decades. Four cases. One solution.

From the plains of Afghanistan to the alleyways of Victorian London, from the dark heart of the English countryside to the ruin of Europe after the Great War, join Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in a quartet of astonishing new investigations which span their lifelong friendship – and beyond…

Nicholas Briggs Sherlock Holmes   Richard Earl Dr Watson   John Banks Inspector Lestrade  
Derek Carlyle Wherry   Blake Ritson Christopher Thrale    
Michael Cochrane Winchester Bartley-Gower   Amy Ewbank Eliza Hinderclay/Judy
Eve Karpf  The Gracious Adelina/Mrs Chaunt Maclise/Mrs Hope    Ken Bones Jim Hinderclay 
 Caroline Keiff Tess Dorno   Tracey Childs Mrs Edgar Curbishley  
Marek Oravec Griesser   Andrew Fettes Tlitzlmann Blench

 Written by: Jonathan Barnes
Directed by: Ken Bentley 

I've always enjoyed listening to BF's Sherlock Holmes adventures; Nick and Richard capture the essence of the characters so vividly and the stories are such faithful evocations of the original Conan Doyle style. We recorded the four CDs that make up this box-set back in March, so when I come to listen to them, sometime in the next few weeks, they should sound very fresh - can't wait!





 * * * * *





There's another very interesting release this month, which is currently only available as a Big Finish subscriber bonus. In December 2014, the story will become available to all:  

 Trial of The Valeyard




BF have released the above image upon which, presumably, the cover art will be based; we shall see! For the keen listener, there might also be a surprise or two which BF haven't so far mentioned. If you are a subscriber, I hope you enjoy the story when it becomes available later this month.

* * * * *

And now, back to preparation for tomorrow's audio book, but before I go, I just want to mention a production of Ionesco's The Bald Prima Donna, which opens on Thursday 5th December at The Old Red Lion in Islington. This alternative Christmas show from Tarquin Productions, is directed by the team responsible for The Blind and The Intruder, Benji Sperring and Rachel Illingworth. I'm really looking forward to seeing this show, which promises to be highly original and hugely entertaining!


More news as it happens!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

 A Dr Who Special by Peter Davison


If you're a Dr Who fan and haven't already seen this fab little film, set aside half an hour, sit back and enjoy:


Peter has also made some other very funny short films, which should be available via You Tube.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

We Remember: In Flanders' Fields

A few days ago, I was approached quite unexpectedly by Canadian animator Todd McIntosh. I had never previously had any contact with Todd but he'd found a recording I'd made with Sound Designer John Silke of In Flanders' Fields, the poem written in 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae MD (1872-1918) of the Canadian Army. 

Todd asked if he might use my version of the poem in an animation he was working on. I readily agreed and the finished film appears below. I hope you'll agree that he's created a magnificent piece of work and a very fitting tribute.
 
 
In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
  We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
     In Flanders' Fields






Monday, 25 November 2013

Time to say 'thank you'...

Having spent a wonderful, exciting and joyful weekend at the Dr Who 50th Celebration, I really want to thank all those involved for making it such a fun and inclusive time. Our twice daily presentations were very well attended by knowledgeable and enthusiastic Whovians of all ages and we had some incredible 'guest actors' on-stage to help us out - thanks to all!


When not on-stage, I spent much of my time with the hard working Big Finish team, including Paul Spragg, Howard Carter, John Dorney, Matt Fitton, Ken Bentley, David Richardson and CEO Jason Haigh-Ellery, who were incredibly busy, meeting fans and introducing people to the amazing world of Big Finish audio drama. Over the three day period of the event, Dr Who and BF stars including Sarah Sutton, Louise Jemeson, Lalla Ward, Janet Fielding, Karen Gledhill, Lisa Bowerman, Lisa Greenwood, Beth Chalmers, writer Marc Platt and David Warner chatted to fans and gave free autographs, happily signing the CD covers of work they had been involved with and sometimes even work they hadn't; I was asked to sign several items which I hadn't contributed to at all!

Thanks indeed to fellow actors Beth Chalmers and Barnaby Edwards, with whom I performed our 'Day in the Studio with Big Finish' presentation along with Nick Briggs - the fantastic Nick Briggs, who is not only Executive Producer, but also writer, director, actor and in his spare time 'Voice of The Daleks' for the television series. Thanks for inviting me Nick, I loved every minute!

Here are some images from the weekend:


 
 Beth, me, Lisa G, Marc, Jason, Howard, David & Ken - photo by Lisa B

  * * * * * *
...and a final 'thank you' to The Cult Den for their very generous review, from which this is an extract: 

"The original Holmes hardback can be a handful to read. For those without a basic knowledge of espionage, dates and times, and life as a Russian in the Cold War, it can be tedious and take an age to get through. However when converted to audiobook it comes alive. Spokenworld Audio's team have done a great job, and the narration by John Banks brings the factual to life, with large parts sounding like a Le Carre novel.

9 hours is a commitment to anything you may not have tried before, but this is seriously good. For the conspiracy nut it feeds fuel to an already large fire, for the history buff it has more dates, times, and names than a phonebook, and for people like me that are mixture of the two? It's perfect."

                                                                                                                                    10/10

                          Edited by Tanja Glittenberg
                           Produced by Neil Gardner
                                                                                                                           
 Listen to an extract from the audio book by scrolling down to the sound clips section of this site.

* * * * * *

We did all go to the ExCel screening of The Day of The Doctor, but now I'm going to treat myself to watching Mark Gatiss' An Adventure in Space and Time.

* * * * *
But before I do that, I really want to say...

Many congratulations to my friend John Silke, who has just won a BaftaKids for his contribution to Kinect Sesame Street in the Children's Multiplatform category. 
                                                                                                                        
 More news just as soon as it happens!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Dr Who at ExCel

More of a 'tweet' than a post; just to say that I'll soon be heading off to the ExCel to begin preparations with Big Finish for this weekend's 50th Celebration of Dr Who.


I'm thrilled and excited to be part of such a landmark event - if you're going to be there at any time over the weekend, do come along to the Big Finish area and say 'hi' - and look out for the Big Finish Dr Who Live Presentation, which we'll be performing twice each day.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Time of The Doctor

Don't worry, The Time of The Doctor isn't a story, it's just a post title I made up; but this week really is the time of the Doctor as we approach the 50th anniversary next weekend. I've been looking on the BBC Official Celebration web pages and the sheer enormity of the event is beginning to sink in - such a range of things to do and such a plethora of attending contributors to the series from its inception to the present day - which is exactly as it should be.


My excitement is growing by the day, especially now that I have more of an idea of what I'll be doing at the Celebration. Beth Chalmers, Barnaby Edwards, Nick Briggs (Big Finish Executive Producer & Voice of The Daleks) and me, will be presenting a twenty minute excerpt from a Dr Who story, twice each day over the three day period (according to the published on-line schedule). If you're planning an itinerary for next weekend, I hope you'll include a trip to see our merry crew at Big Finish.


Last week was very busy with the recording of an audio book, Author, Author. although we're cracking on apace with it and might well complete the job with a day in hand. Next week, before shipping off to the Excel on Thursday evening, I'll be in a different studio for a couple of days to finish work on a different audio book, The Escape. It's quite an odd thing, to sit in a small recording suite, alone and reading aloud, trying to communicate and articulate a story populated by a wide variety of characters for seven or eight hours a day. The concentration level is such however, that the time seems to zip by - as has this posting!

So, enjoy the upcoming Dr Who celebrations and if you're at the ExCel next weekend, do come to the Big Finish area and say 'hello'.

* * * * *

   Night of The Doctor 




I've worked with Paul McGann on seven audio adventures and have enormous respect for his acting abilities. I love the work he's done as The Doctor with Big Finish and perhaps one day, he'll play the character on television. If this short episode is anything to go by, I think he'd be excellent.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

BBC Dr Who 50th Anniversary 1963 - 2013



Well, what a busy couple of weeks it's been - it always feels good to be busy. As mentioned previously, I'm currently in the process of recording a couple of audio books; The Escape by Adam Thirlwell for Red Apple creative and Author, Author by David Lodge for RNIB. There are several recording sessions scheduled over the next few weeks to complete each of the books and we should be finished by early December.

Last week, I was also back in the studio to record further episodes of Survivors for Big Finish and had a great time with the fabulous BF crew, David, Ken and Toby, who always create such a great working environment. Writers Andrew Smith and John Dorney also came along to make sure their carefully crafted scripts weren't mangled too badly by the acting company, and on Thursday, Matt Fitton put in an appearance. Matt wrote the first episode of the Survivors series and it was great to catch up with him again.


What also made recording such a treat was the opportunity to work with such a fabulous bunch of actors, including Louise Jameson, Adrian Lukis, Phil Mulryne, Camilla Power and for the first time, stars from the original Survivors television series, Lucy Fleming, playing Jenny Richards and Ian McCulloch as Greg Preston.




I've already posted some of Anthony Lamb's fantastic artwork for the series and this image, recently released by BF, probably represents something close to the actual CD cover:



So for now, Survivors is 'done' and off to post-production to be prepared for release in June of next year.

* * * * *

At the end of the last posting, I mentioned the possibility of some exciting news to come in this posting. Now that wasn't merely a cheap ploy to boost interest in the site; I was just waiting for a final confirmation before saying anything.


So here it is; as every true Dr Who fan knows, November 23rd 1963 is the date 50 years ago, when the first episode of the first series of the four part story, An Unearthly Child, was broadcast. To mark the occasion, on November 23rd this year, The Day of the Doctor will be broadcast in cinemas and on television in 2D & 3D, not only here in the UK, but also in several other countries around the world.

I'm sure there'll be lots more going on to celebrate the world's longest running sci-fi series, but I'm beyond thrilled to say that I've been asked to attend the official BBC 50th Anniversary Celebration event, which takes place in London at the ExCel on 22nd, 23rd and 24th November. Together with colleagues from Big Finish, I'll be 'performing' something live, on-stage during the course of each day, details of which, I'll post nearer the time.


This from the BBC:

Relive 50 years of adventures in space and time with the ultimate celebration of Doctor Who. The greatest show in the Universe comes to London’s ExCeL for three days from the 22nd November!

With just over two weeks to go (and counting!) the excitement is building to the event that will bring you unrivalled access to all things Doctor Who.

With behind-the-scenes demonstrations and workshops, stunts, explosions, monsters, props & costumes, official merchandise and memorabilia – it really is the most exciting celebration a Time Lord and his companion could have. Even if you’ve got 13 lives, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Doctor Who fans young and old.


I'm feeling very honoured and slightly overwhelmed and very excited to have been asked to the event as I'm sure you can imagine. As well as all the Doctors and their Companions, there will be lots of other actors from the series, amazing entertainments and a sell out audience of 15,000 Dr Who fans - maybe see you there!

More news as soon as it's available!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Survivors: update

I couldn't resist posting this incredible image by Anthony Lamb, which will be used as cover artwork by Big Finish for the first series of Survivors, scheduled for release in June 2014.


This update from Big Finish on November 6th:
 
The lead cast members of Terry Nation’s Survivors are returning to play their roles on audio, for a run of new episodes from Big Finish Productions. The series originally ran for three seasons on BBC1 between 1975-77 and told the story of a small group of people who survive a plague that wipes out most of the world’s population.
 
Lucy Fleming plays Jenny Richards, Ian McCulloch is Greg Preston, while Carolyn Seymour is Abby Grant, the leader of a community starting a new life in rural England.




“We’re thrilled to have Lucy, Ian and Carolyn on board,” says producer David Richardson. “Our initial episodes will introduce a new set of characters that will encounter Jenny and Greg as they search for supplies. 

Abby Grant will make cameo appearances, before taking on a major role in later stories.”




Survivors – Volume 1 will be released in June 2014; the box set will comprise four hour-long full cast audio dramas – Revelation by Matt Fitton, Exodus by Jonathan Morris, Judges by Andrew Smith and Esther by John Dorney.

The leading cast also includes: 

 John Banks, Louise Jameson, Sinead Keenan, Caroline Langrishe, Adrian Lukis, Chase Masterson, 
Terry Molloy, Phil Mulryne and Camilla Power.

 * * * * *

Some more exciting news to come very soon in the next posting!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Unquiet slumbers for the sleepers...

" So, did you get there?
  What?
  Did you get there, did you make it? On Monday? 
  Did you get to the recording studio; y'know, for the audio book?
  Nah, called it off; neither of us could get in. Trains.
  So what happened? "

I'll tell you what happened. I finally made it into London at about 4.30, much too late to start work - and checked into a hotel for the night - who was to say the trains would be running properly the next day? And two lost days out of a three day recording schedule would be a bit tricky... a bit tricky. So Tuesday morning, me and producer Chris Sharp, " hi Chris, hi John", sealed ourselves away in Studio 3 and made a start. By late afternoon the next day, the job was done - on schedule.

There was something about the book that I really enjoyed, technically, as a reader. It had flow, it had style. I had fun. I'll post all the details when the final product is released and as I never get to hear any of the work I've done, I might just have to buy a copy and find out what it's all about. Yes, I just might. As we were finishing on Wednesday, I was asked if I'd like to record another audio book written by the same author; only snag, we'd need to start recording the next morning. Record a book I hadn't read; an 'instinctive' read. So that's what happened. " hi Neil, hi John " And we made a start. Because of other commitments, we'll pick up recording in a couple of weeks time - hopefully, no-one will hear the join.

" Other commitments? " Well, yes. On Friday, I was in a different studio on the other side of London doing something else, with some other people, also great fun. And next week is looking interesting too; in fact the next several weeks are looking interesting - and busy. Good. On Tuesday, I'm thrilled to be recording a voice over for a movie; it's called Shadow Industry, directed by Henry Vought and produced by Marie Favre. There's a trailer below:
 


Wednesday and Thursday should be very exciting indeed as we are back in the studio for more... hang on. Sorry. I'm sorry, but as you probably already know, I can't tell you just yet. Would love to, but can't. Not yet. Then, on Friday, another audio book; a biggie - lots of pages and small print; should finish sometime in December - really, December.

And what of the Classic Doctors on Watch Channel that I've been blurbing on about for the last few weeks? Today's episode, Battlefield, originally broadcast from 6 September to 27 September 1989, starred Sylvester McCoy as Doctor number Seven (when Sylvester says that, he usually 'whistles' the 's' - you can imagine) and Sophie Aldred as Ace.

I've mentioned this in previous posts, but perhaps I can get away with a quick repetition; when I was in my early teens, Sylvester, before he became the Doctor, came to our school and led our drama group in a workshop, which I remember enjoying very much - small world!

Coincidentally, I've worked with Doctor Seven, seven times.


Other people I've had the great pleasure of working with from this story include Angela Bruce, who played Brigadier Winifred Bambera and the amazing Jean Marsh, whom I regard as nothing less than A National Treasure.

Tomorrow, it's the turn of Paul McGann to play Doctor number Eight and after that, I think I'll cancel my own series of weekend Classic Who updates, before I become terminally predictable.

To round off today's posting, a bit of a teaser I'm afraid. I'm waiting for final confirmation of something which I have to say, I'm getting very, very excited about. Hopefully, sometime next week, I'll be able to tell you all about it.


In the meantime; just to say that I'll be playing a character called Shafto in a repeat of Street & Lane on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Tuesday morning at 9.30.

                            


Written by Dave Sheasby and Ian McMillan (t' Bard o' Barnsley), the series stars Finetime Fontayne and Nick Lane, so do tune in - it's funny!


More news as it happens!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Wind And Wuthering

'Walking across the sitting room, I turn the television off...' and decide to write a quick blog update instead of being both a 'watcher of the skies' and the 'storm news'. In fact, rather than doing any of these things, at this very minute, I should really be in London for the first day's recording of an audio book, but St Jude's Storm has taken care of that - at least for the time being. If anything like a normal rail service is resumed today, we might go in and make a start. The process of recording only needs two of us; me to read and a producer to do everything else, but at the moment, we're both unable to travel and the executive producer is deciding what to do. It must be a logistical nightmare for him to potentially have to re-schedule a whole day's worth of recording across several studios and I don't envy him the task.

Moving on to other things; there was more Dr Who on TV this weekend, this time featuring Doctors 5 & 6, Peter Davison and Colin Baker respectively. The first story was Earthshock, broadcast originally from 8 March to 16 March 1982 which starred Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Janet Fielding as Tegan. It also marked the final appearance of Matthew Waterhouse who played Adric.


Synopses for this and all the other weekend classic Doctor stories are easily available elsewhere, so I won't go into detail about the story lines. I'm also keen that the postings I've done in response to the stories being shown as part of the 50th Anniversary, don't just appear to be an excuse for a bit of 'name dropping'. The motivation behind this series of updates really lies in my own personal reaction to having grown up with Doctor Who and now, quite unexpectedly, finding myself in a position of actually working with some of the actors I'd only previously seen on television, which is naturally quite a thrill.

I have very briefly met Matthew Waterhouse but never worked with him, although I'm aware that he has been recording quite recently with Big Finish. On the other hand, I've worked with Peter, Sarah and Janet on six productions and feel I know them all quite well, especially Sarah, who has become a good friend. Along with Mark Strickson, we bonded as a company during the severe winter weather a couple of years ago when we were recording three stories over a two week period, which is unusual for Big Finish.

In this weekend's second adventure with the Doctor, Vengeance On Varos, originally broadcast on 19 & 26 January 1985, Colin Baker played the title role and his companion was Nicola Bryant as Peri.



Just checking my CD collection to discover the current 'Colin count' is eleven, with more in the pipeline. Of course, I've also worked on a couple of Dr Who stories with Nicola and most recently, we've worked together on The Mervyn Stone Mysteries.

I must give a special mention to Nicola, because without her, in all probability, I wouldn't be writing any of this and wouldn't ever have worked for Big Finish. We got to know each other on a theatre tour of Don't Look Now, which also starred Peter Amory, Rula Lenska and Shirley-Anne Field.

As the tour progressed, we became good friends, sharing digs for most of our weeks away from home. With great generosity and kindness, Nicola recommended me to the producers at Big Finish and after submitting a slightly lashed together demo-reel, I was invited to work on my first audio drama for them, Paper Cuts, with Colin as the Doctor. So once again, a very big 'thank you' to Nicola Bryant!



Meanwhile, back at today's travel conundrum; if I can get into London somehow later this afternoon, I might have to check into a hotel for the night, as I can't imagine things getting back to normal any time soon and if we have an early start in the morning to catch up on lost time today...

PS: those of a certain generation, might have picked up on various 'musical' references in this posting and if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know what I'm thinking of... otherwise, how cryptic of me!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The National Theatre 1963 - 2013


I couldn't really let the 22nd October 2013 go by without somehow wishing the National Theatre a 'Happy 50th Birthday'.

The Company, created by Sir Laurence Olivier at The Old Vic, is fifty years old today and transferred to its current location in 1976:



'Because of the National Theatre Board's wish to make the building live as soon as possible despite protracted building delays, each of the three theatres within the National was used as it became available, even though not finished. The Lyttelton opened first, in March 1976; the Olivier next in October 1976; and the Cottesloe staged its first public performances in March 1977. The Queen officially opened the building on 25 October 1976. Saturday 1 March 1977 was the first night on which all three theatres were playing.'




 
The summer of '76 was one of the hottest and most prolonged in British living memory. I have vivid recollections of going on a school trip, during the heatwave, to see a production of John Osborne's play Watch It Come Down at the Lyttleton. Apart from seeing a couple of famous actors in the cast, my strongest impression of the event was the joy of being in an air-conditioned building - the first I'd ever experienced!

As a 17 year old, very keen on theatre and hoping to study drama at university, I remember standing outside the magnificent new building and secretly vowing to myself, that one day, I'd work there too. Well, it took a while, but I have worked at the NT, in Henry V and earlier this year with Port and who knows, maybe a glittering career awaits in years to come...?



Right: a view from my dressing room - March 2013

Monday, 21 October 2013

BBC Radio 4: The Father of English Football

Once again, thanks to the recommendation of audio producer Neil Gardner, I was recently offered some very interesting work with BBC Radio 4, to play Arthur Pember, one of the Founding Fathers of The Football Association and its first President.

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the FA and there are numerous events and programs to celebrate such a momentous occasion in sporting history. Along with producer Richard Bannerman, I had great fun working on The Father of English Football with fellow actors Barnaby Edwards and Michael Maloney and I'm very much looking forward to listening to the finished production on Friday 25th October at 11am on Radio 4. 


Here's a synopsis from the BBC:

In this month 150 years ago, a group of sportsmen met at the Freemasons' Tavern in London's Covent Garden. In an age when football teams played by their own rules, each one differing from the other, the aim was to create a standard code. Their first decision in 1863 was to call themselves the Football Association and, over the course of six often dramatic meetings between October and December, they set down what became the cornerstone of the game of football. The prime mover was Ebenezer Morley.

Hardeep Singh Kohli considers Morley's reputation as the founding father of English football, and traces the arguments of those first meetings through the Minute Book, which many now consider the most valuable historical document in the creation of the modern game. The arguments were often heated and ended with a breakaway group dissenting and eventually forming themselves into the Rugby Union.

Hardeep talks to Jane Clayton, of the International Football Institute at the University of Central Lancashire, about the character of Ebenezer Morley and his colleagues. He visits the FA's headquarters at Wembley, and talks to the historian David Barber. They leaf through the pages of the 150 year old Minute Book, which describes the arguments that took place - particularly over the rules on whether the ball should be carried, and whether players should be allowed to kick, hack and trip an opponent. 

Hardeep also meets David Elleray, Chairman of the FA Referees' Committee, who discloses how current rules are discussed and altered and how referees apply them.




Producer: Richard Bannerman

A Ladbroke production for BBC Radio 4

First broadcast: BBC Radio 4 at 11am on Friday 25 October 2013




England Players Joe Hart, Jermaine Defoe and Alex Oxlade hold portraits of Charles William Alcock, Ebenezer Cobb Morley and Arthur Pember.
 
For more information on Arthur Pember and the FA, follow these links: 

                        Arthur Pember                    The Football Association                           


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Dr Who: Spearhead From Space & The Pyramids of Mars

As Watch TV are continuing with their classic Who stories, here's a brief update on what was broadcast this weekend. On Saturday we had a four episode series from January 1970, Spearhead From Space, starring Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor and Caroline John as Liz Shaw. For the sake of 'completeness', I'm including this story here, although I haven't actually worked with any of the cast members in subsequent Big Finish adventures, which was the original impetus behind my posts about last weekend's broadcasts.Of course all of these stories and their various plot lines are recorded in much more detail on other dedicated web sites should you wish to know more and I'm sure they're available to buy on DVD.

Here's some fabulous artwork inspired by Spearhead From Space:



Today's other four-part story, The Pyramids of Mars, from 1975, stars the unique Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith . For many fans of the series, Tom is the definitive Doctor and indeed, he inhabited the role for longer than anyone else.
 
















I've had the great good fortune to work with Tom on a number of Fourth Doctor stories with Big Finish and I can only vaguely attempt to convey the joy of sharing a recording studio with him. He is, you won't be surprised to hear, a fascinating character; funny, inventive, generous and always happy to entertain the rest of us in the green room. I count it a great privilege to have spent time with him and to have witnessed at first hand the great Tom Baker playing Doctor Who at  full power!


The Doctor's chief adversary in this story is a character called Sutekh, an Osirian played by Gabriel Woolf. I'm aware that Gabriel has acted in a number of Big Finish stories, although I've never worked with him at BF. However, my first ever job in a professional theatre (1978 Birmingham Rep & Malvern Festival Theatre) was as a very lowly 'Acting ASM' in a production of Hindemith's 'The Soldier's Tale'. Gabriel Woolf was the star performer and I used to help him apply his quite extensive make-up for the role - small world!


So, all for now but for 'obvious' reasons, I'm already looking forward to next weekend's adventures with Doctors 5 & 6...

Thursday, 17 October 2013

JFK and The Cuban Missile Crisis

Back in early August, I was asked by the fabulous Neil Gardner at Spokenworld Audio if I'd be interested in recording an audio version of Robert Holmes' fascinating book A Spy Like No Other. After a few seconds careful consideration, I leapt at the opportunity and after a very interesting couple of days in the studio, recording was complete.

The fruit of our labour is released today via this link: Spokenworld Audio - A Spy Like No Other


The arms race between the Soviet Union and the USA was the most dangerous confrontation in the history of the world. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to place nuclear missiles in Cuba, and US President John F. Kennedy’s willingness to call his bluff, brought the Soviet Union and the West to the edge of a cataclysmic nuclear war. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Holmes, a British diplomat in Moscow during the early 1960s, provides an answer to one of the greatest mysteries of the Cold War. Kennedy’s confidence in his brinkmanship hung on the evidence provided by Oleg Penkovsky, the MI6/CIA agent inside Soviet military intelligence. 

While working on A Spy Like No Other, Holmes set out to tell Penkovsky’s story. But, in doing so, he stumbled upon an astonishing chain of intrigue, betrayal and revenge that suggested a group of maverick Soviet intelligence officers had plotted the crime of the century. When Penkovsky’s treachery was discovered, in the middle of the Missile Crisis, he was executed and his boss, General Ivan Serov (the head of Soviet military intelligence and a former head of the KGB), was subsequently dismissed. The Soviet propaganda machine then thoroughly discredited Serov and consigned him to obscurity. 


In this extraordinary new study, Holmes suggests Serov’s anger at the West’s ‘victory’ in Cuba and his resentment at the treachery of his protégé and his own downfall turned into an obsessive determination to gain revenge – and reveals the opportunity he had to do so by working with KGB rogue officers to enlist a young American loner, Lee Harvey Oswald, to assassinate the President.

 


We had some interesting and occasionally challenging decisions to make about how to present the book in audio form. The text hadn't been adapted in any way and the difference between reading silently to oneself and reading out loud as a 'performance' can sometimes present quite a challenge. The natural abbreviations one instinctively makes as a reader have to be overcome and yet the text still has to sound smoothly conversational, rather than stilted and expressed simply for the purpose of conveying information. We also did a bit of head scratching about the pronunciation of some Russian names; for example, even a simple name like 'Ivan Serov' requires a decision about where to put the stress - Ivan or Ivan ?, Serov or Serov ? Some of the various Soviet acronyms were also a bit tongue twisty in the context of the narrative flow and as for the Polish Secret Police - try casually throwing 'Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego' into a sentence!

A Spy Like No Other was my first experience of recording a non-fiction book and the performance of it presented quite a steep learning curve. However, with the expert guidance and fulsome support of Neil Gardner, the work was never less than great fun. I must sincerely thank Neil for giving me such an opportunity and for being such a fantastic creative collaborator - thanks Neil!

* * * * *

As a very brief coda to this posting, my excitement is such that I must also say what a truly thrilling time I'm currently having in the studio with some amazing and legendary Dr Who alumni - more of which anon.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dr Who: The Tomb of The Cybermen


And in an almost unprecedented 'two in a row' posting, here's a very quick, yet irresistible follow on from yesterday; Watch channel today broadcast all four episodes of Dr Who: The Tomb of The Cybermen, originally shown between 2nd September and 23rd September 1967, starring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor - how fantastic!

Once again, the story featured actors I have subsequently had the pleasure of working with, this time including Bernard Holley and the brilliant Frazer Hines as the Doctor's companion, Jamie McCrimmon. 


Here are some images from the story.



Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon                                                                           Bernard Holley as Peter Haydon


 Well done to the Watch channel and I'm looking forward to watching more classic Doctor Who!

PS: Exciting news to be revealed asap about working with other classic Whovian alumni...


Fabius Bile

Fabius Bile
WARHAMMER 40,000

Reviews & comments:

The Malazan Empire

Over the course of this 8 book series, the amazing John Banks has had to create and voice 648 distinct characters!

Neil Gardner - producer

Mervyn Stone: The Axeman Cometh


John Banks is a voice genius...

Nev Fountain - writer

Mervyn Stone... played by the note-perfect John Banks.

Matt Hills - Reviews in Time and Space

Dr. Who: The Sleeping City

I also must draw attention to John Banks who is an exceptional voice artist and in this one story performs more characters that I can count. ... it is listening to episodes like this one that really do let his talents shine through.

Tony Jones - Red Rocket Rising

Highlander:

...playing several parts, was the brilliant Big Finish regular John Banks - it was as if there were about 40 different actors in the other booth.

James Moran - writer

I went for the best of the best and brought in voice artiste extraordinaire John Banks.

Paul Spragg - producer

Vienna:

...also features the mind - bogglingly versatile and reliable John Banks

Jonathan Morris - writer

Dead Funny:

The acting is first rate… wonderfully played by John Banks as Richard – his impersonation of Eric Morecambe is worth the admission money alone.

Beverly Greenberg: Bolton Evening News

A Spy Like No Other:

This is the best audio book ever.

The Cult Den

Mr. Happiness:

This early and unfamiliar play by David Mamet is a character study of a 1930s radio counsellor, dispensing suave advice to his devoted listeners. John Banks brings out the wry comedy of this – comedy quite unappreciated by the character – with a clever range of gesture and vocal tone.

Jeremy Kingston: The Times


All My Sons:

This is a beautifully crafted piece ...and it affords a wonderful opportunity for John Readman* to do his All-American Boy act as Chris Keller. This most polished and well observed performance as the blighted son of a blighted father must rank as one of his finest accomplishments yet. ( * see Profile)

The Stage

The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes

Kudos should also go to John Banks. Lestrade can be a thankless part, but Banks rose to the challenge, playing a pivotal role in this decades long arc.

Raissa Devereux - SciFiPulse

The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes

John Banks is multi-tasking, both as the superb Lestrade and also the villainous and no doubt moustache twirling Sebastian Moran. They sound completely different and I bow to his talent.

Sue Davies - SFcrowsnest


Further reviews and comments are included with specific postings throughout the site.

The War Doctor

The War Doctor
December 2015