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Robert Bathurst

Robert Bathurst (born 1958) is a British actor. Bathurst was born in Ghana and raised in Ireland and England. He took up amateur dramatics while at boarding school and continued acting with the Cambridge Footlights at university, alongside reading for a degree in law. After finishing university he took up acting full time, appearing in Michael Frayn's Noises Off, before joining the National Theatre. He supplemented his stage roles in the 1980s with minor appearances in Red Dwarf and The Lenny Henry Show.

In the early 1990s he was cast as lead character Mark Taylor in Steven Moffat's semi-autobiographical sitcom Joking Apart. Although only twelve episodes were made, the role remains Bathurst's favourite in his whole career. After Joking Apart concluded he was cast as David Marsden in Cold Feet, a series that ran from 1998 to 2003. Since Cold Feet concluded he has portrayed a fictional prime minister in the childrens' series My Dad's the Prime Minister, and Mark Thatcher in the fact-based drama Coup!. He also returned to the theatre for the first time in many years, appearing in The Three Sisters, Whipping it Up and Alex.

Early life and education

Bathurst was born in Ghana in 1958 to a physiotherapist and a management consultant. He is the second of three children, having an older brother (Nicholas) and a younger sister (Charlotte). In 1966 his family moved to Dublin, Ireland and he and his brother were sent by their parents to an Anglican boarding school in County Meath. Bathurst recalled the time he and his brother, Catholics, spent at the school as "ghastly" and "very Lord of the Flies". The family moved to England some years later and Bathurst transferred to the Worth Abbey boarding school in Sussex, remaining there until he was 18. At the age of 13 he took up minor acting but did not consider a career in the profession.

At the age of 18, Bathurst began studying law at the University of Cambridge, where he joined Footlights, appearing alongside Hugh Laurie, Rory McGrath and Emma Thompson, and eventually becoming Footlights President from 1978 to 1979. He graduated from Cambridge and took the Bar Vocational Course in London, which allowed him to go on to become a practising barrister. He did not continue with a career in law, however, instead spending a year touring Australia in Botham, The Musical.


1980s: Early career

Bathurst's first role for television came in 1982 when he appeared as Prince Harry in the unaired pilot episode of Blackadder. The character was recast and downgraded when the series received a commission. Bathurst's professional stage debut came in the early 1980s when he joined the second cast of Michael Frayn's Noises Off at the Savoy Theatre. After a year at the Savoy he joined the National Theatre and appeared as a background artiste in Saint Joan. He regards this as "the most demoralising" job he has ever had. He continued making minor appearances in television throughout the 1980s, and auditioned for the role of Dave Lister in the BBC North science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf. The part eventually went to Craig Charles, but Bathurst was given the role of Frank Todhunter in the first episode of the series, "The End". The character was killed off in the first ten minutes. Ten years later Bathurst was invited to reprise the role when a storyline in the series allowed former characters to return, but filming commitments prevented him from appearing.

In 1989 Bathurst appeared in Malcolm Bradbury's Anything More Would Be Greedy for Anglia Television, playing Dennis Medlam MP. The programme was released on video in 1990, to little fanfare.

1990s: Joking Apart and Cold Feet

In the early 1990s, Bathurst performed on Up Yer News, a live topical programme broadcast on BSB. He noticed that a fellow performer on the show was also reading a script for an audition for a sitcom called Joking Apart. Bathurst recalls that his colleague said he would break his legs if he got the part, a threat that seemed not to be "entirely jocular".

Bathurst appeared as sitcom writer Mark Taylor in Joking Apart. The show was punctuated by fantasy sequences in which his character performed his thoughts as a stand-up routine in a small club. In the commentary and the interview on the DVD, Bathurst says that he was told that they would be reshot after filming everything else, an idea abandoned because of the expense. He has an idea of refilming the sequences 'now', as his older self, to give them a more retrospective feeling. He has also said that he believes Mark was too "designery" and wishes that he had "roughened him up a bit". The role remains his favourite: he has described it as "the most enjoyable job I will ever do", and considers several episodes of the series to be "timeless, beautifully constructed farces which will endure". Bathurst is often recognised for his appearance in this series, mentioning that "Drunks stop me on public transport and tell me details of the plot of their favourite episode". As punishment for arriving late for the series one press launch at the Café Royal in Regent Street, London, writer Steven Moffat pledged to write an episode in which Mark is naked throughout. To a large extent, this vow is realised in the second series.

In 1996 Bathurst appeared in The Rover at the Salisbury Playhouse. During his stint he auditioned for Cold Feet, a Granada Television pilot that had the possibility of becoming a series on ITV. He arrived at his audition "bearded and shaggy" and did not expect to be cast in the role of David Marsden, the upper-class management consultant. He got the part and played David in the series until 2003. The character was originally written in a one-dimensional way, with the only character note in the script relating to his high salary. Over the course of the series the character engaged in extramarital affairs and faced redundancy. Bathurst suggested a storyline for the third series in which David gets a Harley-Davidson motorbike, and the producers duly paid for him to take lessons.

2000s: Return to theatre

In 2001 he appeared alongside Caroline Quentin in Goodbye Mr Steadman, playing a headmaster who has been declared dead after one of his pupils erases all computer records relating to him. After completing the final series of Cold Feet Bathurst went straight into filming My Dad's the Prime Minister, a children's series in which he portrays Michael Philips, a British prime minister. The series was initially broadcast in a Sunday afternoon slot in the CBBC strand. A second series went out in 2005, this time moved to a Friday night timeslot to take advantage of the adult humour present in the programme. He watched debates in the House of Commons to prepare for the role, but did not base his portrayal on Tony Blair.

From March to June 2003 he appeared alongside Kristen Scott Thomas and Eric Sykes in The Three Sisters at the Playhouse Theatre. The role marked his first time on stage in four years; after his previous performance, he had vowed never again to do a "theatre job". In 2005 he appeared in the ITV thriller The Stepfather, playing a man whose daughter goes missing. He took the role to distance himself from his Cold Feet character, an "emotional cripple", and because he could relate to how a father would feel if his daughter went missing. Following this he planned to scale back the number of "suits" he played on television, intending to spend more time at the theatre to avoid being typecast. The same year he played Mr Sesseman in an adaptation of Heidi, and Dottore Massimo in The Thief Lord.

The following year he played Mark Thatcher in Coup!, about the Equatorial Guinea affair. In November 2006 he appeared in Whipping it Up at the Bush Theatre, alongside Richard Wilson. The production transferred to the New Ambassadors Theatre and went on a national tour from September to November 2007. To research his role as a government whip he watched more Commons debates, going back to Parliament more often than he did for My Dad's the Prime Minister.

The tour coincided with his appearance as the titular character in Alex, based on the comic in The Daily Telegraph. The play, which ran at the Arts Theatre between October and November 2007, features Bathurst interacting with other characters that are projected onto a screen behind him. He was attracted to the role because of the "duplicity and guile" Alex uses to get himself out of tight situations. The role won him a nomination for Best Solo Performance at the What's on Stage Awards. He continued his association with the character when he was quizmaster at the "Alex City Quiz" at the London Stock Exchange in April 2008. Bathurst will reprise the role in an international tour from September 2008, and for a film adaptation that will mix animation and live-action.

Personal life

Bathurst met artist Victoria Threlfall in 1985 when they were lodging together with mutual friends in London. They married in 1987 and have four children: Matilda, Clemency, Oriel, and Honor.



Year Production Role Theatre Other notes
Noises Off Savoy Theatre Second cast
Saint Joan National Theatre Background actor
1986 The Swap Roger Boulevard, Soho
1988 Dry Rot Lyric Theatre
The Importance of Being Earnest Jack Nottingham Playhouse
Lady Audley's Secret Lyric Hammersmith
A Comedy of Errors Nottingham Playhouse
1990 The Next Best Thing Nuffield, Southampton
1992 The Choice Consultant Salisbury Playhouse
1993 Getting Married Hotchkis Chichester Festival
1995 The Nose Kovalyov Nottingham Playhouse
1996 The Rover Willmore Salisbury Playhouse
1998 Alarms and Excursions Gielgud Theatre
2003 The Three Sisters Vershinin Playhouse Theatre
2006 Whipping it Up Alistair Bush Theatre National tour in 2007
2007 Alex Alex Arts Theatre Nominated, What's on Stage Award for Best Solo Performance
National tour in 2008


Year Title Role Other notes
1984 The Lenny Henry Show Cast member
1986 Whoops Apocalypse Damien, Getting His Leg Sawn Off
1986 Who Dares Wins 1 episode (Series 3, Episode 6)
1987 The District Nurse Christian 1 episode ("Myths and Follies")
1988 Just Ask For Diamond Vicar
Red Dwarf Frank Todhunter 1 episode ("The End")
Chelmsford 123 Gaius 1 episode ("Arrivederci Roma")
1989 Anything More Would Be Greedy Dennis Medlam
1991 About Face Dave 1 episode ("Briefcase Encounter")
Lazarus & Dingwall Justin De Jong 1 episode ("You Expect Us To Believe That?")
Twenty-One Mr Metcalfe
Comic Asides: Joking Apart Mark Taylor Pilot for Joking Apart
1992 No Job for a Lady Tony 1 episode ("Lobby Terms")
Early Travellers in North America William Makepeace Thackery 2 episodes ("Bed and Board" and "Slavery")
The House of Eliott Hector Furneux 1 episode (Series 2, Episode 10)
1993 Joking Apart Mark Taylor 2 series (1993–1995)
1994 The Detectives Thomas 1 episode ("Never Without Protection")
A Breed of Heroes Major Edward Lumley
1996 The Wind in the Willows St John Weasel
1997 Get Well Soon Squadron Leader Fielding
Cold Feet David Marsden Pilot for Cold Feet
1998 Hornblower Lt. Eccleston 1 episode ("The Even Chance")
Cold Feet David Marsden 5 series (1998–2003)
1999 The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything English Ambassador
Sir Francis Drake
2001 Goodbye, Mr Steadman Alan Steadman
2002 The Secret Alex Faraday
White Teeth Marcus Malfen
The Safe House Dr Adam Daley
2003 My Dad's the Prime Minister Prime Minister Michael Phillips 2 series (2003–2004)
2004 New Tricks Martin Lombard 1 episode (Series 1, Episode 6)
2005 The Stepfather Christopher Veazey
Heidi Mr Sessemann
Agatha Christie's Poirot Gilbert Entwhistle 1 episode ("After the Funeral")
The Comic Strip Presents... Charles 1 episode ("Sex Actually")
2006 The Thief Lord Dottore Massimo
Coup! Mark Thatcher
My Family James Garrett 2 episodes ("The Art of Being Susan" [2006] and "Dutch Art and Dutch Courage" [2007])
Scheduled to make third appearance in a forthcoming series.
2007 Kingdom Philip Collins 1 episode (Series 1, Episode 5)


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