Following a one week break, filming has resumed at "The Pink House" - the set for Solana Hotel reception. It is there that I met up with Francis Matthews, who is the producer of the current series of ITV's hit comedy "Benidorm". He is not to be mistaken with "Hammer Studio's Revenge of Frankinstiens" Francis Matthews - very confusing having two actors with the same name, but this one is far younger and better looking!
|On set in an operating theatre ... wonder who will end up here!|
Francis attended Harrow County School for Boys, London and made up one fifth of what was to be a lifelong friendship and bond with four others, who like Francis also went on to acheive success in their chosen fields - Sir Nigel Sheinwald - now British Ambassador to the United States (very useful having a diplomatic contact Francis told me); Michael Portillo - Politician; Clive Anderson - former barrister and laterly television and radio presenter and the late Geoffrey Perkins - actor, writer and producer.
From Harrow Francis went on to Oxford where he read English and caught the acting bug. He started his acting career back in 1972 and in 1977 accompanied pop group "ABBA" showcasing a pop opera called "The Girl with the Golden Hair" - a mini musical where he was the narrator wearing a glittery black catsuit! Remember, back then it was all the rage! Francis recalled that the tour was sponsored by Johhny Walker Black Label Whiskey and by the end of the tour was using bottles of the stuff for bartering and bribes! I asked whether it had put him off whiskey but the answer was definately no.
From acting he then went onto directing - a natural transition for many actors and one of his memorable plays was directing Sir Alec Guiness in "The Merchant of Venice".Between 1989 and 1998 he was the Artistic Director of the world renowned Greenwich Theatre in London.
|Francis in the studio|
I asked Francis how he got involved in the Benidorm series and it was his old school friend the late Geoffrey Perkins, producer of the first 4 episodes of series 1 that introduced him. You see, its worth keeping in touch ! He told me that the first episode should hopfully be ready for airing late March/April 2012 - it is one of the reasons that second director, Sandy Johnson is being bought back in to do the last 2 episodes.
Sandy is already familiar with Benidorm having directed episodes 2, 3 & 4.This will enable John Henderson, the current director of episodes 1-5 to go back to the UK and start on the editing - hundreds of hours of filming have to be condensed which is a terribly time consuming job. If he was to stay for all 7 episodes then screening would be far later in the year - something that none of its fans want. The fans have been amazing said Francis - every location that they are at they are literally beseiged by fans and groupies - the support has been overwhelming.
So what are his plans after Benidorm ? Well he is directing a play about Vivien Leigh hopefully at the Hampstead Theatre and also has a play on the boil starring Carl Rice - who is actually flying over to be in an episode of Benidorm ... you heard it here first! He likes to work in both theatre and television - some of his acclaimed television productions include "Ladies of Letters" starring Maureen Lipman & Anne Reid; "New Tricks" with Amanda Redman, Denis Waterman & Alun Armstrong; "My Dad's the Prime Minister" of which he directed 13 episodes and even appeared in one back in 2003 and "Gimme, Gimme. Gimme".He's certainly a very busy and tremendously talented gentleman and with that he had to get back to his desk....
I shall be talking with Sandy Johnson once he arrives in November and reporting on his life story so all you Benidorm fans don't forget to keep up with the gossip!