The New Statesman - a British sitcom
The New Statesman -a British sitcom made in the late 1980s and early 1990s satirising the United Kingdom's Conservative Party Government of the period. It was written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran as a starring vehicle for its principal actor Rik Mayall. He played Alan B'stard the selfish, greedy, dishonest, devious, lecherous, sadistic, self-serving ultra-right-wing Conservative backbencher, a sociopathic schemer who occasionally resorted to murder to fulfill his megalomaniac ambitions. I was cast as Sir Piers Fletcher-Dervish, Baronet, who was essentially a very kind-hearted and hard-working MP, albeit one who rarely spoke in the house and was completely under Alan's control. B'Stard's sidekick in his machinations I was upper-class and old school (but incredibly dim-witted). Usually Piers was conned into Alan's schemes through trickery or bullying although he would inevitably cock up the simplest of instructions. It was even claimed that Piers only became a Barrister at Law and MP (for the Wiltshire seat of Devizes, in his family for generations) through the intervention of his Teddy bear. Even when Piers married the redoubtable Clarissa he remained in B'Stard's power despite occasional flashes of rebellion. It was Piers' intervention in Alan's fake shooting that led to B'Stard being sentenced to death and his ability as a lover that helped persuade Sarah to rescue Piers and abandon Alan in Siberia. Upon Alan's release from the gulag and return to the UK, Piers (tipped to become the next Chancellor of the Exchequer) lived in fear of the vengeful B'Stard. B'Stard exploited this fear to the full and even threatened Piers' newborn baby in order to get him to resign his seat to accommodate Sir Greville. In return however, Alan ensured that Piers rose to become European Commissioner for Internal Relations, but even in this exalted role Alan would hold the reins of power and used Piers' position to expand his fortunes.
Rik mutilated three bears in the studio but a thoughtful props manager managed to save the fourth and gave it to me. Bear sits in my workshop very relieved !
Story of the Statesman
Marcia Fitzalan-Howard who played Rik's wife Sarah is the third daughter of Miles Fitzalan-Howard, 17th Duke of Norfolk and Anne Fitzalan-Howard, Duchess of Norfolk. When I first met her at rehearsals I didn't know whether to bow or curtsy!
The New Statesman sitcom was one of the most critically successful ITV comedy series of its day, and developed a strong following: the audience laughter was so loud and persistent that it often caused the show to overrun and the writers had to shorten the scripts to compensate. In 1991 we won the BAFTA for best TV comedy.
Rik Mayall said of the audience reaction he received "In the first series people were saying 'Gosh, isn't Rik Mayall good-looking?' but by the second they were saying 'Gosh, isn't Rik Mayall a good actor?' and that's all I ever really wanted."
I think many people didn't realise what a very good actor Rik was and that he was able to inhabit the characters he played so well. As a person, he was kind, generous and considerate. He is missed.