The Many Faces of Nigel Planer; as an Actor, His Roles Range from the Hippie Neil in the Young Ones to Insufferable Actor Nicholas Craig. He's Also Written Self-Help Books and Novels. Patrick Marmion Reports

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NIGEL Planer comes in many guises - both personally and professionally. He is currently to be found on stage playing his lavishly pompous alter-ego, "actor" Nicholas Craig. This was the character he invented with writer Christopher Douglas in the late Eighties and who featured in the television series The Naked Masterclass. His most famous guise is as hippie Neil in the TV series The Young Ones. But he's also been in other television shows such as Shine on Harvey Moon and acted in musicals, including Evita and Chicago. Less well known is his incarnation as novelist - a persona which allows him to invent entire galleries of alter-egos.

Personally, Planer's life has been equally changeable. Although now happily married, it was not ever thus. Born in 1953 to an Austrian inventor father and speech therapist mother, he was brought up in Richmond and went to Westminster School. He dropped out of Sussex University and then Lamda drama college. Through much of his twenties he lived with an older woman, a psychotherapist, then in his thirties he married Anna Leigh and had his son, Stanley. They split and she emigrated with Stanley, launching Planer, in his forties, into a period of peripeteia. This ended in 1999 when he married actress Frankie Park by whom he now has a twoyearold son, Harvey.

Art and life seem to mirror each other in Planer's complicated existence to an unusual degree. Like the fictional Nicholas Craig, he is first and foremost a professional actor. His most recent appearance on stage was in last year's Evening Standard Best Comedy, Feelgood.

His next turn in the West End is in Ben Elton's Queen musical We Will Rock You, which opens in May. The show is set in the future when live music is banned and Planer plays Pop, an acid-casualty barman.

There are shades of his Young Ones character, Neil. But Planer details a major difference between them: "Pop's the guy you'd see at the free festival having a good time, whereas Neil would get drenched and not get a lift home."

Which is what you call character development.

Despite his notoriety as a comic actor, Planer has a serious, more introverted side. The outlet for this is writing - albeit comic writing.

Besides collaborations with his comedy partner Peter Richardson and then Christopher Douglas, he wrote a play at school with Stephen Poliakoff and worked with playwright Doug Lucie. He has always written poetry and stories, plus there's "a film script in prose" and "a journal of what happened when I was 18". …


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