Parachuting? It's All in a Day's Work; Star Simon Takes an Active Role

By Norris, Fred | Birmingham Evening Mail (England), October 27, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Parachuting? It's All in a Day's Work; Star Simon Takes an Active Role


Norris, Fred, Birmingham Evening Mail (England)


FOR Simon Williams, it is all in a day's work. For starters, he jumps off the Forth Bridge. Then he leaps on a horse, takes a minute's breather and then, calmly proceeds to climb a mountain.

Following this he is trapped in an aeroplane and is even attacked as he falls to earth by parachute.

By way of compensation, he also spends a reasonable degree of time handcuffed to the lovely Katie Rabbett, a young woman whose name was once romantically linked to that of the Duke of York.

On regular occasions he even does all this twice a day, by which time the curse on his normally sealed lips is something about the 78 steps.

Small wonder, the onetime dashing James Bellamy, darling of British audiences and subject of cult worship by the Americans as one of the leading figures in that indelible landmark in British TV Upstairs, Downstairs staggers back to his digs at night and collapses in a heap.

He is, after all, no chicken these days - all of 54, as he confesses, pretending to mop his brow.

All this activity involves his leading role in the latest version of the great British adventure story, John Buchan's celebrated The 39 Steps, currently on tour and making a stop next week at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre.

Cult

It is a play which, although based on a near-century old novel, he believes is rapidly becoming a cult entertainment of the 21st century. Once it arrives in the West End early nearly year, he predicts it will become something like Art, the reigning cult comedy on the West End stage where actors queue up for three month stints in the play.

In his turn Simon had to queue up for his role as the stiff upper-lipped British hero Richard Hannay in pursuit of Simon Ward in The 39 Steps. In the event, producer Charles Vance told him to get fit.

'I certainly went into serious training and lost an amazing stone a half at the gym and by jogging. I am not complaining. I am loving every minute of all this.'

There have been at least three major cinema versions of The 39 Steps. The first, always the favourite, and the one which inspired this new stage version is the celebrated Alfred Hitchcock 1935 version starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, the young girl from West Bromwich who took Hollywood by storm in the 30s.

Next came the 1959 version, this time with Kenneth More - an 'Old Boy' of Derek Salberg's rep company days at the Wolverhampton Grand, by the way.

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