Interview: Brian Blessed

Blackadder king, animal rights advocate, adventurer, Grampy Rabbit – Brian Blessed has many hats – even potential space man! He speaks to Victoria Nangle about his Flash Gordon catchphrase legacy and proper love of Brighton ahead of his show at the end of July.

You seem to have quite a lot of adventures going on around you.
No, no, no – it’s fairly placid. I’ve got about five acres, I’ve got chooks, I’ve got hens, ponies that I save etcetera – it’s idyllic. I love gardening so I’ve got an acre of garden that I garden mostly myself, and one’s got a Buddhist garden, a South American garden – all reflecting my adventures – and an English garden etcetera. It all looks lovely. And there I am sitting now with my two Jack Russells wrapped around my ankle.

That does sound idyllic.
It sounds like it’s very much like the atmosphere you get in Brighton.

Yes, I suppose it is. Are you looking forward to your show in Brighton?
Well I am because I love Brighton.
But I’ve always found being by the sea and sunning there… and nearby in Kemp Town – it’s Kemp Town isn’t it?

One of my great judo teachers, called Joe Robinson – undefeated world champion – used to teach me judo. And I’d go down to Kemp Town, I’d do some judo with him, and then we’d go running along the beach. I’ve always found Brighton & Hove to be just one of the best places on Earth.

Does that mean that you’re likely to bring your own particular stories to the show about Brighton?
Oh yes indeed. The stories about me – and people talking about me. Everywhere I go everybody shouts: “Gordon’s alive”. You know what I’m talking about?

I’d go down to Kemp Town, I’d do some judo with him, and then we’d go running along the beach.

I do. I very much do.
I mean I cannot go into the street, I can’t go to the West End (without being asked)… I went to Number Ten a little while ago. Well, it wasn’t that long ago, it was David Cameron – he was the prime minister. I walked in there, just outside Number Ten, in the summer, to go in with lots of other adventurers and climbers, we were going in there to save elephants.
And he met me outside: “Ohhh! What are you doing here?”
I said: “We’re going upstairs to the fourth floor.”
“Oh are you? Please come inside.” And I went inside and I addressed the whole of the cabinet. “Please say it.”
He said: “That’ll wake the cludbuckers up, Mr Blessed.”
So, prime ministers, taxi drivers, grocers, everywhere I go.
Tomorrow I’m going to Leeds, because I’m a Yorkshireman, it’s my one man show there.
But I was somewhere a short while ago, and I got a bigger applause by saying that I was Grampy Rabbit in Peppa Pig.

I was going to ask you about that. have you got a whole new generation of people asking for different phrases?
Everywhere I go, because of Peppa Pig. Grampy Rabbit shouts – because he runs a lighthouse, and so the boats don’t crash into the rocks he then shouts “HALT!”. And that stops the boats from crashing onto the rocks.
So I shall be talking about Grampy Rabbit of course. I shall be talking about all of my action, and my film career, and I shall talk about my adventures, and Mount Everest, and being the oldest man to go up without oxygen etcetera. And when I went up the North Pole, the oldest man to reach the North Pole, and all my different adventures – and I’ll be giving a touch of theatricality as well.
I look forward to it in Brighton as I’ll be very happy and cheerful – it’ll go down a storm! The Brighton people are always cheerful and lovely in the whole area. So I’m looking forward to it.
We’re in a bit of a dark age at the moment, despite the wonderful weather – so it’ll be an evening of hope, and cheerfulness, and laughter, and gravity. And I shall be talking about space – one of my biggest loves in life is space. And that you’ll know I’m working with Skylog. I’ve flown 900 hours in the last two years, now fully witnessed on Union Island in the pacific, and now I’m a fully trained cosmonaut.

So I’ll be talking about all that! I’ll be telling stories about that and about all the risks and so forth.

An Evening With Brian Blessed, Theatre Royal Brighton, Sunday 29 July, 7pm, £29.15,

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