The comic whodunit ‘Secondary Cause of Death’ will be coming to Hastings on February 19-17 and stars longtime actor Jeffrey Holland.
He is probably best known for playing lovable Spike in Hi-De-Hi which was all fictional holiday camp Maplins.
He told me: “It was this part that put me on the map and I’m very proud to have been involved in such a wonderful series. It was all filmed at a real holiday camp after the season had finished. Often the weather was chilly and we had to pretend it was hot and sunny. I once nearly died when they threw me into an icy cold swimming pool with next to nothing on.”
When he left school Jeffrey got a job filling shelves in a wine shop. He was persuaded to join a local drama group because his best friend said there were “some pretty girls there.” Although he was “a shy, callow youth, spotty, with big teeth and no self-confidence,” it was here that he found he had the ability to make people laugh, and he went on to drama school.
Although as a student he a few TV walk-on parts, his first speaking role was in Dixon Of Dock Green. “It was a daunting experience; I somehow imagined the camera was like a Dalek, about to kill me.” Other TV credits include You Rang, M’lord?, and Oh, Dr. Beeching.
He’s had guest roles in Coronation Street, Dad’s Army, Crossroads, It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum and Are you Being Served. and said: “TV work is a sheer joy. I have found it quite easy because if you make any mistakes you can do it all over again and the studio audiences are always obliging and laugh again for you.”
But Jeffrey’s first love is live theatre and he has appeared in numerous productions, from Travels With My Aunt, Spring and Port Wine to It’s Never Too Late and By Jeeves. In 2008 he played Renee, the lecherous, but hapless café owner, in the stage adaption of Allo, Allo.
A lifelong fan Laurel and Hardy, Jeffrey has also brought to the stage a tribute called And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel. Co-written with playwright Gail Louw, the touring production opened at the Gatehouse Theatre, Highgate, in 2013. Jeffrey told me: “This was a labour of love because I have never done a one-man show before. It wasn’t a difficult process for me to capture the essence of the man because I felt as if I have personally known him all my life.”
Jeffrey has another string to his very busy bow; for some 25 years he has played panto dames in outrageous costume and make-up, and said: “It’s a great part; I’m a bloke in a frock, with at least one outfit with big boobs to make the mums laugh because they can see a lot of themselves in the character. There’s nothing subtle about my looks, I’m not aiming for glamour...”
“There’s a buzz in live theatre, you get the adrenaline as there’s no second chance. If it goes wrong then the audience share the joke. On a serious note, I would love to have a crack at playing the iconic idiot, Malvolio, from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It’s a great part to play but whether anyone would ever ask me remains to be seen. I never want to give up work and as long as people want me, I’ll be there.”
Elizabeth Wright is a Sussex author who has written Made in Sussex, From Fancy Pants to Getting There, Who’s a Chatty Boy Then? and Belle Tout – The Little Lighthouse That Moved