Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Uncommon Talent of Pete Poss

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Uncommon Talent of Pete Poss

Article excerpt


WHENEVER one of Pete Postlethwaite's films came on the box, I would boast to my kids: "I used to know him."

I'd say used to because I had known him a long time before; back when Warrington, the town where we both grew up, was still in industrial Lancashire before the boundaries changed and Cheshire - where the newspaper obituaries claimed he was born - was just a posh place on the soft southern bank of the Ship Canal.

Like me, the lad I only ever knew as Pete Poss - a hard-drinking, lumpy-faced actor who loved life, laughter and lungfuls of cigarette smoke - wouldn't have thanked you for robbing him of his red-rose birthright.

Still, if the Great Man remembered me at all it would have been as a fat kid a couple of years younger than him who occasionally shared fags, pints and his company; after all, I hadn't seen him since the Seventies.

Actually, that's not true: I drove past the actor Spielberg called "the best in the world" on a London street some years ago, slowed down to stop then thought better of it. I did the same when I saw the man the Guardian obituary writer named "a national treasure we didn't know we had" laughing with friends outside a pub in Devon a few years later. That, I reminded myself at the time, was Then; this was Now.

When we last spoke all those years ago, I teased the struggling actor that my stage skills had robbed him of the best roles our local am-dram group could offer.

It wasn't true, of course: Pete Poss had outgrown Warrington and was already startling the likes of Julie Walters, Bill Nighy and Antony Sher with his performances at the Liverpool Everyman.

It was, incidentally, at the Everyman where Pete and his new pals introduced me to the notion that Shakespeare wasn't all togas and BBC pronunciation.

Seeing him perform Julius Caesar in a Salvation Army uniform while cradling a Sten gun in his arms was my theatrical Damascene moment. …

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