Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Vere Lorrimer

Vere Lorrimer was the writer of 'Billy Bean' for TV Comic in the 1950s, a series of stories about an eccentric inventor and the endless problems he faces when his Funny Machine goes wrong.

For Lorrimer this was something of a minor sideline as his main output was as a writer, director and producer for TV. Billy Bean and His Funny Machine was a BBC puppet show that ran for 24 episodes from July 1953, written by Lisa Lincoln and produced by Lorrimer. The puppets -- Billy Bean (voiced by Peter Hawkins) and his assistant Yoo-Hoo (Ivan Owen) -- were designed by John Wright and operated by Jane Tyson and Elizabeth Donaldson. Other voices were provided by Gaylord Vavallaro and Dick Vosburgh.

Vere Lorrimer was born on 8 June 1920 and, after starring in a school play, trained at Fay Compton School of Dramatic Art before entering the theatre, thanks to a friend of his father's, as an assistant stage manager and small part player at the Palace Theatre, Watford. Joining up at the age of 20, Lorrimer served with the tank regiment but did not see any action as he was offered a chance to join the Stars in Battledress entertainment unit, directing and acting in several revues.

Back in civvies, he worked as a pianist, actor and stage manager before finding a regular role as artistic director at the Royal Artillery Theatre, Woolwich. After a few seasons producing and directing touring plays, he joined the BBC in 1953 where he made his directorial debut on children's programmes such as The Sooty Show.

Lorrimer left puppetry for live action before long, directing episodes of The Eggheads (1961), Compact (1962), Dixon of Dock Green (1965-76), Z-Cars (1965-67), Softly, Softly (1969-76), Counterstrike (1969), Comedy Playhouse (1970), Doomwatch (1970), Trial (1971), The Mackinnons (1977), When the Boat Comes In (1977) and Blake's 7 (1978-80) and The Enigma Files (1980). He returned to Blake's 7 as the producer of the fourth and final series (1981), a role he also had on Tenko (1982) and the thrillers The Dark Side of the Sun (1983) and Maelstrom (1985), both written by Michael J. Bird.

Retiring from the BBC, he continued to write, produce and direct plays as well as teaching film and TV at drama schools. He appeared in a late episode of Doctor Who as a tour guide in the Sylvester McCoy series 'Silver Nemesis' (1988) and attended a number of Blake's 7 conventions. He lived in Worthing and died on 1 October 1998, aged 78.

(* An interview with Vere Lorrimer appears at Horizon, the official Blake's 7 fan club website alongside a bibliography by Andrew Pixley. Very useful they were too when I was putting the above together.)

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