As regular readers will know, I try to keep up to date with most of the sad departures in the entertainment world but one which has regrettably passed me by was the death of a much admired character actor Bill Wallis in September last year. It was only whilst watching House of Cards (the original 1990 BBC adaptation) this week that I was reminded of Bill and his performance as the wonderfully named Prestatyn Powell, the twee and parochial political reporter and spurred into a search for him online, I learnt of his demise aged 76 from multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer which he had been suffering from for 15 years.
One of Robin's Merry Men in Not Only But Also's Alan A'Dale sketch
Bill's career was a rich and varied one. As a child in the 80s and 90s I knew him as a rather eclectic presence on TV,putting his fruity basso voice to good narrative use as Boz in the children's series A Bear Behind, appearing in dramas such as the aforementioned House of Cards from 1990 and, on either side of that, a recurring role in the first series of Casualty in 1986 and later a role as the somewhat reckless yet avuncular Dr Nick Mackenzie in Dangerfield from 1995 to 1998
As the bureaucrat Smith in Casualty, 1986
Also at that time, I couldn't help but notice what a comedic talent and presence he was with appearances in Just Good Friends and a succession of roles in three series of Blackadder - Goaler Ploppy being particularly memorable - as well as vintage appearances in BBC2 repeats of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Not Only But Also.
As Ploppy in Blackadder II
From here I learnt what a figure he was on the satire circuit of the 1960s, portraying Harold Wilson on stage in Joan Littlewood's Mrs Wilson's Diary based on the spoof Private Eye column of the time, a role he would subsequently reprise for the Pete and Dud film The Bedsitting Room, as well as taking over the Alan Bennett role in the Beyond the Fringe revival.
20th Nov 1936 - 6 Sept 2013. RIP