Saturday, November 11, 2023

Redcap (1964-6): John Thaw's first starring role

What would Inspector Morse really have been like in his twenties? For the answer, don't watch Endeavour, watch Redcap. Because this drama about a detective in the Royal Military Police gave John Thaw his first starring role.  

It ran for two series and 26 episodes between 1964 and 1966. All but three of the episodes still exist and many of them have been posted on YouTube.

I've been binge watching these over the past few days with some interest.

Thaw is very good, and must have been to be cast in this part aged only 22. Sometimes, in his exasperation with authority, he sounds almost comically like the middle-aged Morse. but there are few hints of The Sweeney's Jack Regan.

The series as a whole is a reminder of how many overseas commitments Britain still had in the mid-Sixties: Germany, Cyprus, Aden, Malaysia.

But the real joy of Redcap is the supporting cast in each episode: you never know who will turn up next. In an episode about bullying in a cadet establishment, for instance, the cadets include Richard O'Sullivan, Barry Evans and a young actor called John Mitchell who was about to reinvent himself as Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

And here are Ian McShane and Leonard Rossiter. Rossiter's platoon also includes John Noakes, sporting a dodgy Welsh accent, which is a reminder that he was a promising actor before Blue Peter came calling.

Yes, there's much to enjoy in Redcap.


Phil Beesley said...

When the streaming TV service BritBox was announced, I thought it would deliver programmes like Redcap. I know that the video quality doesn't scale up well on huge TVs, and that some of the language and social attitudes are outdated, but the acting and story telling justify distribution. Rather better than some of the 1980s sitcoms.

John Thaw also makes an early appearance in the series Bat Out of Hell, one of the BBC's Francis Durbridge Presents dramas. It pops up on You Tube periodically.

Anonymous said...

I believe among the writers was one (Richard) Arden Winch (husband of Phoebe)

Jonathan Calder said...

That's right. I think he wrote just one episode: "The Pride of the Regiment." It's on YouTube.