Are You Going To Do That Little Jump?

Local actor Robert Gillespie writes memoir about his life in the theatre


Sign up for our weekly Chiswick newsletter

Comment on this story on the

Chiswick-based actor Robert Gillespie, who has recently appeared in BBC drama Broken (Jimmy Mc Govern) with Sean Bean, Lost in London with Woody Harrelson and has just finished filming in Mike Leigh’s next movie, has found the time to write a book for his daughter Lucy.

Robert is mainly known for his starring role as Dudley Rush in five series of ITV’s Keep It in the Family, but has also appeared in Porridge, Rising Damp, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Reggie Perrin, The Good Life and dozens more comedy shows.

Robert's father was Canadian and was working in Budapest before the Second World War, where he met and married Robert's mother. They set up home in Lille, France, where he was born. When war broke out, they made a dash across France and managed to escape on one of the last passenger boats out of France. Helped by family friends, they set up home in Manchester where he attended school. He became interested in acting in local drama groups and eventually attended RADA (1951-53). His first job was at the Old Vic.This was followed by work with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and a move into television with an illustrious career, and family life in Chiswick.

book cover of robert gillespie memoir

Robert says: ‘Lucy was a late arrived child, so she’d missed a lot of what I’d done in television and theatre, and knew almost nothing of my side of her family background’.

As Lucy ate ice-creams in Hungary on holidays, she never wondered why she’d been taken all the way there so her father could ask his old aunt to reveal some long-held family secret. She knew he’d been born in France, but was too busy growing up to wonder why he wasn’t French, wasn’t still living there, or to add up the dates and ponder Hitler’s role in his family’s dash for the last boat out of France.

Robert was finally persuaded to set down some of his stories, and they have just been published. With a career spanning seven decades and counting, and which has encompassed working with stars such as Richard Burton, Claire Bloom and Michael Caine, and directors such as Joan Littlewood, George Devine and Peter Hall, there are plenty of theatrical tales for Robert to tell. The title of the book is inspired by theatrical jargon, a reference to an actor 'upstaging' others on stage by attracting attention to their own performance with added actions or quirks.

‘I wanted Lucy to have a book that would be a pleasure to hold, and fun to read’, says Robert. ‘I found a wonderful designer who has packed the pages with illustrations from the attic of my life – from original sticks of grease paint, Punch cartoons of my theatre roles, Press cuttings, and stills. Today Lucy is a long way away in the USA, but now she’ll know a bit more about her dad, and the pivotal time in British theatre I lived through’.

The book is a lively, pacy – often funny, sometimes provocative - memoir which will also nudge readers into reappraising their views on the golden age of British theatre.

Lucy is now reading it in the New York subway on her way to work – in the theatre.
Robert will be telling tales from his book at Chiswick Library on Monday 20th November, 6.30pm, admission free.

Robert’s book ‘Are You Going to do That Little Jump?’ is available (signed by the author) from the publishers, hardback, £15.95 + p

November 13, 2017

Bookmark and Share