Good moaning... 20 years on and Arthur Bostrom's comic copper still brings smiles to faces
MOST actors in touring productions move from hotel to hotel as their production moves around the country from theatre to theatre, but Arthur Bostrom has other ideas about where he stays while on the road.
The actor, who is best known for playing Crabtree in the BBC comedy 'Allo 'Allo, is currently pootling around the country in a caravan while he appears in a seven-month run of Birdsong.
The play comes to the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, later this month.
Arthur is enjoying setting up camp in each area the production stops off at.
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"I had done some work the Caravan Club and they kindly organised for me to have a caravan," said Arthur from his current base, a woodland glade in Surrey.
"I'd never been in a caravan in my life. Now I am on an adventure and it keeps me fresh.
"Two deer went past my window this morning and I thought to myself, 'this isn't a bad life'. It beats staying in digs.
"I thought living out of a suitcase for six to seven months is a bit grim. So far it's working out really well."
The stage show of Sebastian Faulks's best selling novel Birdsong is a mesmerising story of love, courage and sacrifice during the Great War.
Set in pre-war France, a young Englishman, Stephen Wraysford, embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire which turns their world upside down.
As war breaks out, Stephen must lead his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme, clinging to the memory of Isabelle as his world explodes around him.
Arthur plays three characters in the play and stars alongside Hollyoaks star Sarah Jayne Dunn and EastEnders actor Charlie G Hawkins.
"So far we've had a great reaction from the audiences, people get really emotional," he said.
"We've had a real mix of ages come and see the show, including school children as it's on the syllabus now. You hear kids at the end cheering and they love it. They are quiet and listen throughout, which is good."
He deliberately didn't read the book before landing the job.
"I think it's a mistake to learn too much about parts and a story," he said.
"You have to find your own way when it comes to creating the characters," said Arthur.
"Sebastian Faulks is coming to see the show shortly. He came to rehearsals and took us for drinks after, which was rather nice.
"He seemed happy with what he saw then and we hope he'll be happy now, as we've had great reviews."
In the show he plays a sapper called Adams, a Frenchman named Barard and a British colonel called Barclay.
He's really immersed himself in the production and is even compiling a blog about the production from an actor's point of view.
"What I'm trying to do is write what it's like being on tour," said Arthur.
Within the blogs he talks about how the company worked with a military advisor to make sure the characters in the production are portrayed correctly.
"We did military drills and so much more," said Arthur.
"It was a real insight. We thought anyone with a military background who came to see Birdsong would pick up on us if we did the slightest thing wrong."
Arthur's had a busy career appearing in many Shakespeare stage plays, soap operas and radio shows as well as countless theatre performances as Audrey Allington in Tons of Money and Jerome in Three Men in a Boat.
However, even today, more than 20 years after the TV show wrapped, he's still recognised for playing Crabtree in 'Allo 'Allo.
"I'm very proud of it, it was a great series," he said.
"A lot of people in their mid to late 30s have said to me it was their favourite comedy TV show growing up and when they meet me they get quite excited, which I find interested.
"I had comedy heroes as a kid like Dad's Army, which is still being shown today, so I guess it's no different.
"We did a rehash of the 'Allo 'Allo about six years ago, it was a bit like a documentary with some new scenes.
"A lot of amateur groups now perform it and that's been amazingly successful.
"I see posters as I drive around the country advertising the shows and it does make me smile."
Now living in Manchester, he is particularly proud to work at the Royal Exchange in the city.
"I was in See How They Run there and I absolutely loved it," he said.
"I've also enjoyed playing Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night with Kate O'Mara's company, as I think that was one of my best performances.
"Obviously I'm also pleased I got to be in 'Allo 'Allo as Crabtree as it has a place in people's hearts.
"People still say his famous line 'Good Moaning' to me after all these years, I'm very proud of that."
Birdsong runs at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, from March 18 to 23.