PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release
PURSUED BY BISHOPS
THE MEMOIRS OF EDWIN APPS
‘Bishops and other species of clergy have loomed large throughout my life’
PURSUED BY BISHOPS is the autobiography of Edwin Apps, actor, writer and painter, who together with Pauline Devaney created ‘All Gas and Gaiters’, the influential hit BBC comedy series about the Church of England, which aired between 1965 – 1972, and paved the way for many of the UK’s most popular TV sitcoms, including Yes Minister and Dad’s Army.
Starring the popular actors William Mervyn, Robertson Hare, Derek Nimmo and John Barron ‘All Gas and Gaiters’ was the first sitcom to make fun of the church and played on the farcical rivalries between the different clergy members with great comic effect. A huge success with both viewers and critics alike it ran for five series and at its peak it was the third most watched programme on BBC television, with weekly audiences of 10.5 million viewers.
In many ways more like a novel than an autobiography, Pursued By Bishops has an artfully constructed, fast-paced narrative featuring a colourful cast of characters. Apps’ vivid recollections offer insights into traditional Kent life and his Church of England schooling during the 1930s and 40s, his life as an actor in repertory theatre in the 50s and the world of radio and television in the 60s and 70s, whilst set against the backdrop of the changing social landscape of post-war Britain where a revolution was taking place, “a very English form of revolution which was quite as sweeping as the French Revolution but without the bloodshed. The middle and upper middle classes, instead of being guillotined, were held up to ridicule”.
A familiar face on British television and in the theatre during the 1950s, 60s and 70s Edwin Apps has met and known a lengthy list of famous figures, including Christopher Hassall, Glenda Jackson, Frank Muir, Dorothy L Sayers, Derek Nimmo, Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Compton Mackenzie and Sir Peter Hall to name a few, and his memoirs are punctuated with many anecdotes that reveal unexpected perspectives on their character, as well as his own unusually democratic approach to celebrity.
Born in 1931 into the traditional world of auctioneering and hop farming in Wingham, East Kent, a family quarrel led to his being sent to the St Edmund’s Clergy Orphan School in Canterbury in 1940, an experience that has subsequently influenced much of his life and work.
At the age of seventeen he joined a weekly rep company in Lancashire. Championed by the dramatist and librettist Christopher Hassell, the 1949 Canterbury Festival saw him spend a week making angels’ wings with the legendary Dorothy L Sayers and pulling her out of a bomb crater that she fell into following a sherry party. The Central School with Harold Pinter ‘whose premature departure had allowed me to move up a year’, performing in Sir Peter Hall’s first professional theatre production (‘All theatre people are ambitious….Hall’s ambition was almost indecently naked’) where he got to know a ‘very pretty and witty’ Assistant Stage Manager called Maggie Smith, visiting Christopher Hassell when ‘he was trying to write a funeral oration’ for his friend and colleague Ivor Novello, drinking whisky in front of the fire at the Edinburgh flat of Sir Compton Mackenzie who tells him of his efforts to dissuade D.H. Lawrence from writing ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, live television comedy with Jimmy Edwards and Harry Worth, friendship with Glenda Jackson and her then husband Roy Hodges, who helped with childcare and let Edwin’s son play with Glenda’s Oscar, visiting Corsica with Frank Muir and writing ‘All Gas and Gaiters’ are just some of the experiences that form part of the amusing narrative.
A problem for all autobiographies is that there is no obvious ending. Here the problem is solved when, leaving England for good, Edwin Apps moves to France to begin a new life as a painter.
“Bishops, and other species of clergy have loomed large” throughout the life of Edwin Apps, as has comedy. In France, he is well known for his narrative driven paintings of bishops in unconventional situations. To coincide with the publication of Pursued by Bishops a selection of his paintings, seen for the first time in Britain, will be exhibited by Genty Fine Art at the Tyger’s Head gallery and at the neighbouring 12th century Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul in Tonbridge, Kent from 18th – 25th May 2013.
Edwin Apps will be signing copies of Pursued by Bishops at Mr Books on Tonbridge High Street in Tonbridge, Kent. (www.mrbooks.co.uk) on Sat 25th May from 2pm – 6pm.
Pursued By Bishops is published by Durand-Peyroles (www.edp-publishing.co.uk) and will be available from 14th May 2013 at independent book sellers and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Foyles and Waterstones (ISBN: 978-2-915723-94-6).
For more information or to arrange an interview with Edwin Apps please contact:Anna Christoforou on 07818 035 690 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
All Gas and Gaiters
All Gas and Gaiters was the first sitcom to make fun of the church and was a huge success with both viewers and critics alike, running for five series on television before being adapted for radio. Commissioned by Frank Muir, the then BBC Head of Comedy, at its peak it had weekly audiences of 10.5 million viewers and was the third most watched programme on BBC television.
Within the rebellious context of the 1960s the show exposed the unreformed Trollopian backwater of the Cathedral Close with its gaitered prelates.* Starring the popular actors William Mervyn, Robertson Hare, Derek Nimmo and John Barron the show played on the farcical rivalries between the different clergy members with great comic effect. Although it initially caused controversy the clergy soon became the show’s greatest fans. Set in the fictional St Oggs Cathedral a number of French cathedrals were initially used for fear of upsetting the clergy. By the third series the deans of Chichester, Winchester and several other cathedrals were ‘falling over each other to have their cathedral become St. Oggs.’
Stuart Allen, the veteran TV comedy producer, who produced All Gas and Gaiters and then went on to produce some of most successful TV comedy series of the seventies and eighties, comments: “All Gas and Gaiters was an influential landmark for television situation comedies. It broke away from the convention of shows that were solely starring vehicles for a single performer like Arthur Haynes, Harry Worth and Tony Hancock, by featuring a team of actors who were all equally important. It’s format inspired many of the UK’s best-loved series of the seventies and eighties, including Yes Minister, Dads Army and On the Buses.”
Following an unhappy attempt at economy at the BBC, where tapes were wiped so as to be used again, only 11 episodes of All Gas and Gaiters remain. They continue to be popular and were most recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra in 2012.
Following a successful career performing in repertory and West End theatre in the 1950s and early 1960s Edwin Apps first came to prominence on British television as Mr Halliforth in 'Whacko' with Jimmy Edwards, written by Frank Muir and Dennis Norden in 1957, subsequently appearing in almost all the well-known comedy shows of that time: 'The World of Wooster', 'Harry Worth', 'Steptoe & Son', 'Benny Hill', as well as successful series such as 'Danger Man' and 'The Avengers'.
Turning to writing in the '60s, he did several successful adaptations for television, such as 'Charlie's Aunt', starring Richard Briers and co-wrote' the classic comedy series about the Church of England, 'All Gas and Gaiters', with his then wife Pauline Devaney.
In 1976 he left England and moved to the Marais Poitevin in the west of France and began to paint. "People seem to find it puzzling that I changed direction and left the theatre to paint. To me, it seems a perfectly logical development. Painting, acting and writing are all forms of communication, but painting seems to me to have the edge on the others. When you think that with a bit of colour and piece of cloth you can communicate directly with the spectator, you can transmit feelings and thoughts impossible to express in words.”
He is well known and critically acclaimed in France for his narrative driven paintings of bishops in unconventional situations, which he continues to paint and exhibit.
A short film of Edwin Apps talking about the influences on his work can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqClkyglz9g
Information about Edwin Apps’s paintings can be found at: http://apps.cyberscope.fr/