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Jonathan Cecil on Himself


Jonathan Cecil's many recordings of the works of PG Wodehouse have made him one of the best-loved voices in audiobooks.


A vastly experienced actor, he has appeared in adaptations of Wodehouse's works, including the BBC's Centenary Tribute Thank You PG Wodehouse as Bertie Wooster, two Comedy Playhouses and the Radio series What Ho! Jeeves.


After graduating from Oxford, Jonathan trained at LAMDA. Following extensive repertory experience he became television's favourite 'toff', co-starring in numerous comedy series. He has been seen in Murder Most Horrid, as Gulliver in Lilliput and in The Taming of the Shrew.


He is a well-known stage actor and West End successes have ranged from Halfway up the Tree to Uncle Vanya. He also writes regularly for the Evening Standard and the Spectator.


As his recording of PG Wodehouse's Ukridge joins the ABC list, we asked Jonathan which of his many film roles was his favourite. "Ricotin in Fellini's And the Ship Sails On – a small but telling part as a white-faced crypto-homosexual film clown. It was wonderful to work for a genius!"


On television, his favourite role was "Hastings to Peter Ustinov's Poirot in three Agatha Christie TV movies. It was great to work with Peter; he was delightful company and we made up our own dialogue!"


Jonathan's favourite stage role is Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night, which he has played four times – "A record? Comedy, pathos, style – everything in one role."


The actor he has most enjoyed working with is "My wife – award-winning actress/singer Anna Sharkey. We met in Cowardy Custard (1972). She has played Maria to my Sir Andrew and Miss Prism to my Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest. We do a show together, Plum Sauce. We help and understand each other."


Jonathan enjoys audiobooks and before recording undertakes extensive preparation and casting. "I always take care in choosing voices, sometimes those of other actors. I enter the studio and go into another world – the book takes over. I've always had fun with the producers and it is only afterwards that I realise what hard work it has been."


He has enjoyed reading the Jeeves and Wooster books because "I identify with Bertie, the narrator, completely. If this means I'm a twit – who cares?"


If he could record any novel of his choice it would be Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time sequence. "That would almost see me out! – and they're marvellous novels." Among his favourite authors he includes Chekhov, Turgenev, Jane Austen and Max Beerbohm, and he is currently appearing in Chekov's The Sneeze, "a series of brilliant one-act plays" in which he is touring. He recently played Sir Bounteous in A Mad World My Masters at Shakespeare's Globe theatre: "another wonderful part – a silly foppish old dupe."


Jonathan's future plans include possibly writing a humorous memoir of his long enjoyable actor's life. After such a career we wondered if he still harbours unfulfilled ambitions. "In some concrete way I would like to bring happiness to others, especially the deprived, since life has treated me so well."