Born: 14 January, 1929, in Margate.
Died: 21 October, 2006, in London, aged 77.
HE WAS, with reason, known as "the actor's actor". Peter Barkworth brought a poise and authority to his work that made him a popular and admired member of the theatrical profession. It was principally in television that he became known to a wider public - he was in a host of TV series but co-starred in two of the most popular series of the Sixties and Seventies. In The Power Game, Barkworth played the drink-fuelled son of the boss, and in Telford's Change, he was a banker who gave up the a high-flying post in the City for a calmer life as a branch manager in Dover.
Barkworth gave both a complete credibility, honesty and no mean sense of wry humour. He was never a flamboyant or demonstrative actor, he played it straight and for real.
Peter Wynn Barkworth was brought up in Cheshire where his parents had moved to during the war. He enjoyed performing on stage and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), passing out fourth at the age of 19. After national service he found work in a variety of repertory theatres.
He also worked in television - including the BBC soap Emergency Ward Ten, before joining Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in the Sleeping Prince at the King's in Edinburgh then London's Theatre Royal, in 1953. In 1957, he was in the long-running Roar Like a Dove and the School For Scandal, both in London and New York.
It was in 1965 that he was cast in The Power Game opposite the fire-brand actor Patrick Wymark who played the uncompromising boss of the company. The verbal duels that he and Barkworth had became a highlight of the series, with Barkworth always cleverly trying to hide his character's problem with alcohol. The drama ran for two years before returning in 1969 for a further series.
Throughout this time, Barkworth was trying to get a production company interested in a series he had conceived about a bank manager who renounced the rat race. Telford's Change was turned down by ITV ("too dull") and it was only after a conversation with the writer, Brian Clark, that Barkworth convinced the BBC of its merits.
Over ten Sunday evenings in 1978, Telford's Change was vital viewing. Barkworth's manager had become a branch manager in Dover - much to his wife's annoyance. She (Hannah Gordon, in splendid form) wanted a career in showbiz and had no intention of moving to the south coast. Barkworth invested the character with a humour, sadness and a determined strength that made the series unmissable.
On stage, Barkworth was in the original production of Michael Frayn's Donkey's Years, but is principally remembered for a stunning performance he gave in Royce Ryton's Crown Matrimonial in 1972. He played the shy, insecure and love-struck King Edward in a play that dealt with the Abdication. The play caused considerable controversy as it was the first time a living member of the Royal Family (the Queen Mother) was depicted on stage. The play was a smash hit and Barkworth and Wendy Hiller's Queen Mary were both performances of the highest order.
Barkworth reprised the role when it was filmed for television in 1974. He was often seen in other television programmes (The Avengers, Dr Who etc) but two other roles suited Barkworth admirably. The BBC made Rasputin in which Barkworth played a vacillating Czar Nicholas, while in 1981 he was an excellent Stanley Baldwin in Churchill: the Wilderness Years.
His appearances in movies were limited; perhaps the lengthy process of film-making did not attract him.
However, Barkworth can be seen in Where Eagles Dare (1968), Mrs Smith and Escape from the Dark (both 1976) and in 1997 he was a prosecutor in Stephen Fry's Wilde.
Many actors remember Barkworth with special affection as he was a most accomplished lecturer at RADA from 1955-63. Among his pupils were Anthony Hopkins, Simon Ward and Diana Rigg. He served on RADA's council for 16 years from 1985. He also wrote several books on the craft of acting of which About Acting (1980) has been particularly praised.
After an appearance in Simon Gray's Hidden Laugh (1990) Barkworth retired from the stage and contented himself with his cats, books and music in his beloved Hampstead flat. He would often go to his seaside home near Folkestone, but he preferred to live a rather private life. He never married.