School punishment put actor on path to stardom

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TODAY he’s the star of one of the most successful programmes on TV.

But South Yorkshire actor Neil Dudgeon reckons he has an act of punishment at a Doncaster school in the 1970s to thank for his rise to stardom.

Neil, now 51, is back for a second series as DCI John Barnaby in Midsomer Murders, which starts tonight.

But he revealed to The Star it was his former English teacher at Danum School, in Intake, who put him on the path to success.

His first taste of the stage came in a panto version of Snow White while he was still at school.

But he really picked up his interest in drama after being caught messing about in an English class.

He said: “There was a teacher called Mr Drury, and he caught me misbehaving in his lesson. The result was he made me read out a piece to the whole class for the Christmas carol concert at church as a punishment.

“That turned out to be good fun. He said to me, ‘You enjoyed that, didn’t you?’. So he said he had more punishment for me, and put me in the school play.”

Neil caught the acting bug and went on to do another production before joining the South Yorkshire Theatre of Youth in Rotherham, aged 15. He landed a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream after another youngster dropped out due to a Saturday job.

It led to drama school, and an agent, and the career path which has brought him to his current big name job, which he took over from John Nettles.

He said: “I think Mr Drury was probably responsible for the whole thing.”

Neil has not lived in Doncaster since 1979, but returns to visit his mother who still lives in the borough.

Although he was a regular at Belle Vue in the 1970s when Doncaster Rovers were struggling in the lower reaches of the league, he said he had yet to go to their new home, the Keepmoat Stadium.

“I would like to see them playing in the Championship, having seen them in the fourth division,” he said.