reunion - firepower 2008
Sat 31st May:
Another smallish reunion took place at The Royal Artillery museum, the second time the SAS had used Firepower in Woolwich after the success of the first event in 2005. This year however was a much larger and more varied event. Yes, on the inaugural event we had Bernard and Michael Mears, two stars of the Sharpe firmament, but this year there were additional stalls, more actors and many more Sharpe devotees.
The museum interior felt as if it had expanded but it was down to the fact we had an extended Harris table, Garry Cartwright (Sharpe's artist) had a stall and we were joined for the first time by the Sharpe's chefs girls, giving the day a sort of convention atmosphere.
Of course the success of the event was also down to the extensive publicity campaign embarked upon from early in the year by the museum, including a massive billboard on the road to Woolwich. So I set out for the Artillery Museum expecting something a little more special than usual and that expectation was met by the appearance on the first day of one Daragh O'Malley.
Daragh looked his usual impressive self in an all black suit ensemble replete with a visage burnished bronze by the Indian sun. While playing Harper on the sub continent Daragh was unfortunately injured in the line of battle and was due to have an operation after an Indian tent pole collided with his face on set. The operation had been put back and he was therefore able to attend today's event at Firepower.
As I was there a good deal earlier than the big man, expectation had built up with the prospect of seeing Harper reunited with Mr Nock. Just after everybody stopped asking when Daragh would arrive the place seemed to empty, possibly due to a presentation in the cinema, but maybe not. Across the entrance way I saw a tall, large figure, sporting black armadillo-hide cowboy boots, strode into the museum. Quicker than you could say 'God save Ireland', news spread and the crowds instantly flocked back to greet the Honourable gentleman for Dublin.
After a good sustained signing session, Daragh and I said our goodbyes, stopped for a hot dog and preceded cross London in my car. As we hugged the southern underbelly of the Thames Paddy World availed me of news from the Indian Sharpe and other matters. I even gave Daragh the honour of being the first person to smoke a cigarette in my car before dropping him off.
Upon arriving at Harris Cottage (just made that up), I found a weary Perkins standing picket after a long march from Cheltenham. We spent the evening having a glass or two, digesting all that had been divulged by Paddy World News earlier that day and trying not to let our Bacchanalian tendencies get the better of us stay the right side of the Bacchus.
Sun 1st June:
Not too early, Sunday morning, I loaded the Harris mobile with an additional Chosen man and one Sharpe child, Lyndon and my son respectively.
We arrived at Firepower late Sunday morning with the prospect of a fuller roster of Sharpe veterans due to attend. First in attendance was our esteemed exec producer Muir Sutherland with the lovely Mercedes, mother of two Sharpe veterans' Alejandro and Stuart at his side. And a little after that, in glided Hugh Fraser with Martin Glynn Murray (Dogget) in tow, accompanied by their two partners, it was a truly regal entrance befitting of Wellington's lofty status.
Shortly after, Tim Bentinck (Capt Murray) and Paul Bigley (Dobbs) turned up at the Artillery Museum making it one of the largest actor reunions we've had since Autographica 06. An equally important couple of veterans, though not thesps, quietly slipped in while the actors were chatting [being adored.
Guy Pugh and his wife Tanya who between them have four Sharpe tours under their belt kindly took up the invitation to the bash. Guy was Sean's Russian interpreter/assistant on the second and third series, while his girlfriend of the time, now wife, Tanya was makeup artist to the Chosen men on those same years. Two people who didn't wear a costume and (unless you've seen the Harris Diaries) won't be recognisable to Sharpe fans but two unit members who were vital to the smooth running of life on and off set. And they are another Anglo/Russian Sharpe marriage.
It was a shame Guy arrived after the excellent Q&A had taken place as his constant place at Beano's side for two Sharpes would have provided an interesting insight into Sean's world. Nevertheless, the viewing theatre was packed for a discussion with all actors plus Muir on the panel. Usually faltering affairs, this Q& A was far more engaging for the variety of questions asked and the way they were fielded with authority, specifically by Hugh, Paul and Tim in. Their knowledge of militaria and other non Sharpe related matter of the period was both stimulating and fascinating even for 'seen it all, heard it all' chaps like me.
In particular the question "if you didn't play your character, who would you most like to play?" got an intriguing response from the panel. I modestly declared I'd have liked to have played Sharpe, Lyndon would have settled for Harper, Paul Bigley, Hagman, Muir, a Chosen Man and most touchingly, Tim Bentinck would liked to have played a character who didn't die.
Full marks to Firepower's organisers, their museum perfectly housed our little event; a full house that confirmed Sharpe's enduring appeal. As proceedings wrapped up, I was left thinking perhaps it was a good thing all Sharpe veterans contacted didn't take up the call, had everyone arrived there might not have been space for them. I'll have to make sure they take up the invite for the rumoured Sharpe convention in 2010.