“Ready to Knock, Show us Your Cock”

Chris Diamond, Steve Williams, Cameron Borland and Steve Berry interview the Play School presenters

First published February 2006

On 15 May 2004, the National Film Theatre staged a one-off Play School event, hosted by former presenter Stuart McGugan. Also in attendance were Julie Stevens, Iain Lauchlan, Fred Harris, Carol Chell, Brian Cant, Chloe Ashcroft and Ben Thomas. After the show, we were given admittance to the back-stage bar where – aside from the thrill of watching Fred Harris drinking lager – we were given the opportunity to talk to the great man himself, along with his equally fantastic colleagues Brian Cant, Iain Lauchlan and Stuart McGugan. The tapes of this encounter have lain untranscribed for nearly two years. Until now.

FRED HARRIS: I’m not a great fan of practical jokes but Brian Cant and I worked together a couple of times on Play School and on one occasion he was a shopkeeper and I was an angry customer and he kept giving me the wrong thing. At one point I got annoyed with him and threw it back at him. On the dress rehearsal the day before the show, I threw it back so hard it hit him on the top lip and I said, “Oh I am sorry Brian, are you all right?”, to which he replied, “No, no it’s okay, don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” I thought I was going to make him bleed. The following day, it was the actual take and we were in the studio. Brian was late, and he’s never late. When he came in, his lip was swollen and red and it looked absolutely awful. Everybody was really worried and I was so apologetic, saying, “Brian, what have I done?” “Don’t worry, don’t worry!” He wasn’t even speaking properly. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be all right”. The production team were really anxious, saying “What are we going to do?” It looked horrendous. So we came up with the idea of making a running joke of it – we’ll have a different moustache for every sketch. So everybody was panicking about this. Halfway through the day – this was four hours into rehearsals – he suddenly said, “Oh, I’ve had enough of this” and up inside his mouth he’d got a wad of cotton wool, and had put red lipstick on his top lip. I’m not a great fan of practical jokes, as I said, but that one was a classic. I applaud him for that.

OTT: Did you have an audition piece when you joined Play School?

FRED HARRIS: I did yeah. I was asked to bring along something of my own and I decided I was going to do sock puppets. I was really anxious. I brought a long a box of socks of different colours and of course I had made several all at different stages, so it was important that I started with the right coloured sock otherwise it wasn’t going to match. On the stagger-through I was really anxious – I was all over the place. But the producer, Carol Ward, had said to me as I went in to do the take, “Don’t let me down Fred, my money’s on you” and, bless her, that gave me the confidence that when I accidentally pulled out the wrong coloured sock instead of flapping about it I said, “You need an old sock”, then sniffed it and said “Preferably a clean one” and threw it over my shoulder. The cameraman fell over laughing at this. Carol had given me the confidence to do this, and so it’s thanks her that I got the job.

OTT: Why did you audition for Play School in the first place?

FRED HARRIS: I used to be a teacher, and at the end of the school day I would go home past the Radio Rentals shop at 4pm and I’d see Derek Griffiths messing about – 20 of him in Radio Rentals window – being a duck or something bizarre. I thought, “That looks amazing, that programme, I wonder what it is?” One day I was off sick I had the telly on at 4pm and there was this beautiful well-engineered children’s programme, so well balanced. I thought, “That is phenomenal”. Many years later I was working in local radio and one of the DJs said, “Have you ever done telly Fred?”. I replied, “No I’ve never even thought about it”. He said, “What you want to do is look at the last name you see on the titles and write to that person.” I said, “I’d love to do Play School it’s a fantastic programme”. “Well write to the last name”. So I wrote to Cynthia Felgate, and about six months later I was given the job. It was wonderful! So there we are, a 4p stamp.

OTT: How long were you on the show for?

FRED HARRIS: I was on from 1973 to ’88.

OTT: For a programme that you enjoyed doing for 15 years, is it possible to single out a favourite moment?

FRED HARRIS: Oh it’s very hard – there were so many! But I’ll tell you what, one of the most frustrating things was that I always wanted to make Carol Chell laugh. I always wanted to make her corpse, and she’s far too professional to do that. On one occasion, she was playing a lady coming to the door and I was the milkman. In the script it said she says to me, “I’ll have a gold top and a carton of yoghurt.” On the take I decided to throw in an extra line and when she said, “I’ll have a gold top and a carton of yoghurt”, I replied, “Oh we’re trying some new flavours madam, we’ve got cheese and onion or liver and bacon”. I thought she would crack a smile, but not at all. She looked at me and quite intelligently put one hand on her cheek and said, “Oh I think liver and bacon sounds rather nice,” at which point I just fell apart – the way she said it cracked me up. So it backfired that one, I could not make Carol Chell laugh.

OTT: As well Play School you did all the microcomputer programmes as well. Did you get offered that because of Play School?

FRED HARRIS : The actual skill of talking to camera that I learned in Play School I have used in everything I’ve ever done since, whether it’s an adults’ programme or a kids’ programme: You are talking to one individual on a one-to-one basis and you always assume that whatever it is you’re talking about, the person you are speaking to is perhaps as intelligent as you, or even more so. You know, that three-year-old kid surrounded with toys watching Play School could be brighter than me, so you have to talk to them with respect. But they haven’t lived very long so you use the simplest possible words. When it comes to technology programmes you know that the viewer may be very bright but you’ve got to be quite guarded in the way you explain something because you can’t assume they’re with you the whole way. So it’s quite a good grounding.

OTT: Oh here’s Brian.

BRIAN CANT: I’m going to the loo.

OTT: We’ll get you when you come back. So Fred, which presenters did you particularly enjoy working with?

FRED HARRIS: Well there were several: Julie Stevens, Chloe Ashcroft and Carol Chell were certainly my top three. Sometimes – and I’m not going to name names, but I am sure all of us had people we didn’t particularly like working with – there must have been presenters who opened their script and said, “Oh god I’m with Fred Harris! Oh dear God that’s going to be grim.” And there were one or two that didn’t inspire me.

OTT: What was it about the ones you liked that made it good to work with them?

FRED HARRIS: Chloe always made me laugh – in fact we set each other off. We used to play little games with each other. In the early days the music went, “Ready to knock, turn the lock” and so on the first day I was working with Chloe, on the take as we started off it went, “Ready to knock” and I just whispered, “Show us your cock”. She started laughing and I started laughing because she was, so when the camera came to use we were all jollity. The following day she tried to do the same to me. So it went “Ready to knock,” and she said, “Give us a flash – oh no bugger”. So I’m laughing at her getting it wrong. But we did set each other off. But, alas, I could never make Carol laugh, not ever.

OTT: Was there a rota of certain presenters?

FRED HARRIS: No, they tried to stop you making teams. Their thinking was that if you had people pairing up and becoming teams, you would have good teams, but also you would have weak ones as well. They didn’t want that so they deliberately rotated it, and in fact one of the directors said to me, “We must not let them know we are having such fun because they’ll split us up.” So Albert Barber, who I worked with many, many times – for ages we pretended to be very cool about working with each other as if we didn’t enjoy it. Fortunately they fell for it, so we were put together over and over again.

OTT: Do you think the teams worked better boy-girl?

FRED HARRIS: It was always boy-girl, but sometimes you had a guest as well. I think that was very good, because a lot of the kids felt secure with a woman, because perhaps they were home all day with their mum. But it’s important that kids know dads and big brother can be fun as well. It was also important that they had a mix of ages. You’ll notice that some of the storytellers were really quite ancient. I mean you had people coming in who were in their 80s or 90s.

OTT: Who springs to mind who came in to do the stories?

FRED HARRIS: Sam Kydd, a wonderful old actor. And there was a wonderful man called William Mervyn who was a kindly old actor.

OTT: The kindly old gentleman from The Railway Children?

FRED HARRIS: He was great at playing things like kings. Rolf Harris used to come in and tell stories occasionally, and at that time he was a big star and the fee for Play School storytelling was £75. Rolf insisted on having the £75 that everyone else did. He wasn’t going to go for big money – he wouldn’t do it. Everyone else gets £75 so he gets £75.

OTT: For the stories themselves, who did you think was better – an actor, or somebody like Rolf who was a personality?

FRED HARRIS: There was room for everybody really. That was the beauty of the programme: Whatever it was that you did they could accommodate it. And we got musicians in and they were great – they could tell stories as well. You had to be an entertainer of some description really. You had to think bright and bubbly, you had to be able to adapt and also you had to be able to do things like work to time and manipulate the pace of an item. Sometimes you had really difficult transitions to make from something very quiet and gentle – you’d just been looking at a spider’s web – and you build it up into something quite dramatic – you’re about to bounce around being a kangaroo or something. You’d have to manipulate the mood of that and make it work. The music would help but it was largely down to you.

OTT: It’s probably taboo to think about it – you were doing things in an unreal setting – but were there any moments when you felt embarrassed?

FRED HARRIS : I think that if you relied on dignity you were not right for Play School. You had to be able to muck in and get your hands dirty – so I don’t think many of us had thin egos. We would have a go at it. People imagined you’d be embarrassed. It was the teenagers, the 15-year -old oiks. You’d be walking down the street and a group of yobbos would go, “It’s the Play School man. I know you, you’re off Play School“. And then immediately they would realise that their mates had recognised they watched Play School so they started saying, “I think it’s stupid, I think it’s really stupid”. So I learned to jump in before they do and say, “Actually you know when you’re five you can stop watching”. So it kind of backfired but they tried to make you feel embarrassed.

OTT: Brian? We were asking Fred some questions, and discussing his most embarrassing moments. Were there any particular favourite moments you had on the show?

BRIAN CANT: I think my favourite element of any programme was telling stories or doing an acted out story because you were free. We didn’t have autocue, so you had to make it your own.

OTT: So of all the different elements the dancing, the songs, the music, it was the stories that were your particular favourite?

BRIAN CANT: I think so, but only just. I liked it all, it was a wonderful programme to be asked to do.

OTT: We were asking Fred, what made him audition for Play School. Why did you audition?

BRIAN CANT: Well the programme hadn’t started when I went to audition. I was one of the first lot. I was working with Cynthia Felgate on a schools’ programme and we were chatting one lunchtime. and she was telling me that what she was going to be doing next was a programme for BBC2 when it opened called Play School. I said, “How do I get onto that?” and she said, “I’ll put you in for an audition”. So I auditioned for Joy Whitby and got the job. I think we were going to run for three months to start with, and I was there for 18 years.

OTT: Were there any particular co-presenters who you looked forward to working with?

BRIAN CANT: They were all lovely. Everybody had their different traits.

OTT: Was there any particular thing in any of the other performers you responded to?

BRIAN CANT: When I first started, Eric Thompson was doing it. Phyllida Law and Eric were husband and wife and I used to watch Eric and think, “If I can do it like him I’ll be okay”. He had a wonderful, laidback feel to it. Of course then he went on to do Magic Roundabout. So although I didn’t work with him, I admired what he was doing. And Phyllida was good fun to work with too.

OTT: Iain, we spoke to Fred and Brian and they were telling us about how they got involved in the show in the first place. So your audition piece involved …

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Well, I’d just moved to London and was living in a bed-sit with no work.

OTT: Where did you move from?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Perth in Scotland. Someone said Play School were auditioning and I thought, “Oh well I’ll try that”. I didn’t have aspirations to be a presenter, but I went to try it. I don’t usually do a lot of auditions. What I had to do in this one was to be a baked bean.

OTT: And you accomplished this how?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Well it had to be various kinds of beans, so I did lots of different beans like a jumping bean …

OTT: That must have been one of those characters to die for.

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Oh fantastic! My green bean was superb.

OTT: French bean?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: French bean. But best of all, of course, was the has-been. I had to sing – it was a really hard audition.

OTT: So did they tell you right there and then?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: They did! They said they were going to give me five programmes as a try out – and I thought “fantastic”. The money was brilliant. I didn’t know Play School very well as it had passed me by, so I went in and did my first programme with Sarah Long and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to introduce myself to the toys and I had to sing The First Time is Just a Little Difficult. That was my first song on Play School.

OTT: Since you had got into Play School from outside the industry, did you ever – even if it was only in the first week – think to yourself, “This is a bit embarrassing”?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Oh for the first eight years! Even though I did it for eight years and I did the very last Play School I always felt like the new boy, because with people like Fred and Johnny Ball and Brian and Carol and Chloe, they were just so brilliant.

OTT: So what did you say on the last Play School?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: “Goodbye”. It was like, “Fuck off”. You did so many embarrassing things, especially the lads – you know we were elephants, we were wearing tutus. I used to open a lot of fetes, much to the chagrin of my wife. Every weekend I would be opening a fete and I used to keep Humpty and Jemima. There were doubles of Humpty and Jemima but there were no doubles of the teds so you couldn’t take them. So I used to keep Humpty and Jemima at home, and at the end of the series I still had them. So I thought, “What should I do here? Should I give them back?”

OTT: No!

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Well I did! I did! I should’ve kept them, shouldn’t I? But I gave them back!

OTT: You’re not Scottish, man!

IAIN LAUGHLAN: What an idiot. A year after I had joined – it must have been after 1980 – Little Ted got kidnapped. It was kept very quiet. Some students got hold of him and they sent an ear and nose. We had to get another one.

OTT: He was sleeping with the goldfishes. We were asking some of the others about the other presenters who, when you saw the shooting schedule, made you say, “Oh brilliant I’m doing it with …”

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Chloe. Without a doubt. I was in love with Chloe, she was so brilliant to work with. Even today when I see her I think she was brilliant. I never worked with guys much. I loved working with Sarah Long (who is dead now). She was the first lady I worked with, and she was so lovely.

OTT: The other thing we were asking was, was there any part that was your favourite to do?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Stories to camera, because there was no autocue.

OTT: Was it difficult?

IAIN LAUGHLAN : Yes it was. I found it quite hard to begin with. But then you got the technique right. You read the story, learned it and then you just told it. I loved that.

OTT: Were there any stories you did where you thought, “That’s a good one, I enjoyed that”?

IAIN LAUGHLAN : God there was so many of them.

OTT: Was there a favourite moment, or period you had?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: The favourite moment was when you were just waiting to start. You’ve got the whole script going through your head as you are going to record as live. That moment I’ve not experienced since I finished Play School.

OTT: Was it a rush to film?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Absolutely. I don’t know if anyone has gone over the schedule with you of the programmes. Thursday lunchtime you met the presenters you were working with and had lunch with them in the lounge at the BBC. You then went to the music room, which was a cupboard, really, with the MD and the presenter and went through all the songs just standing at the piano. You’d set the keys and you’d put them down in your little tape recorder – maybe 15 songs for the week. The next day you went to the rehearsal rooms and you rehearsed five 25-minute programmes in the same day. If you went past 5pm there was all hell to pay. You went away all weekend to cram it in, and then you recorded two on Monday, two on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. By the time you got to the fifth programme you were knackered. The thing is you had a camera rehearsal, and before you recorded it you had to go for tea. So you had this all in your head and then we went for tea-break! So you were out for an hour and then you came back and sat in make-up, and during make-up the director came in and gave you a list of notes like, “It’s a bit long there, cut that out, go to that caption”, and then you went on the floor and did it. Honestly, it’s the hardest thing I ever did.

OTT: Did you work with talkback or were you just at the whim of the floor manager?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: The floor manager. No talkback, no autocue. You were there and you just had to do it.

OTT: Professionally, from the success you’ve had now, you’ve obviously learned a lot from Play School. But what’s the one thing you would change about how it was made?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: I know exactly what it is. The thing I have to tell presenters is about that contact you have with a child that Fred was talking about. You have to commit right down the camera and that’s something I learned on Play School. The thing I think is totally wrong is the idea that it’s one child you are presenting to. That was drummed into you on Play School – just imagine one four-year-old sitting at home with his toys and play it to him. It’s wrong because it softens it all too much. That’s not reality. The reality is there are three or four of them running around and they are either getting juice and biscuits, or they’re playing with their toys, or they’re jumping around, or they’re totally involved. But you have a battle to get them to the screen and keep them there. Honestly, that is absolutely it, so that’s the thing I disregard.

OTT: The state of children’s television today …

IAIN LAUGHLAN: It’s dreadful and it’s my fault!

OTT: Do you think a programme like Play School would work now?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Yes I do. They’ve got one called Tikkabilla which is very similar. But I don’t think they’ve made enough changes to it. The format will work, there’s no doubt about that. In the Tweenies we do all the things we did in Play School – we do makes, we do songs, we play games, there’s chat – everything’s the same.

OTT: Impossible question in a way, but if you could wrap up your experience of Play School in one word or phrase what would it be?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Umm … that’s a hard one. I think it was …

OTT: “Business plan?”

IAIN LAUGHLAN : … “Difficult”. I am really proud of it now. But it was so hard. Watching it, it just looked like we were all having a good time, but in actual fact there was a lot of work put into it.

OTT: Sometimes when you’re working now, do you think, “Bastards! You just don’t know how lucky you’ve got it”?

IAIN LAUGHLAN: Yes. Because of the way they recorded it when I did it, you had 40 minutes to record a half-hour programme. So you had 10 minutes at the end to cover any little re-takes that needed to be done if things went really wrong. But you never really ended up having to redo things because you were doing five at a time.

OTT: So, Stuart, what about your audition?

STUART McGUGAN: The reason I started on Play School was that I was doing It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and I wandered into one of the offices and said, “See that bloody Play School, I could do that,” and the designer, a lady called Barbara Gosnold said, “Well write to them, and they’ll give you an audition”. It being the BBC, at that time I thought to do a children’s programme you would need to have theatre and education experience – or maybe even a degree. I said this to her and her exact words were, “No, they’re probably looking for a bit of Scottish rough”. So I wrote in and it was like getting into Fort Knox. You were chatted to, to see if you were human, and then they sent me a script for an audition, which was awful. I rewrote the thing – the cheek of the young actor – and I did very interesting stuff about a bean and how I was growing. I passed that and then got wheeled in for a camera audition – this is before they let you loose on the studio. Then they said, “Okay you can be a presenter for three probationary weeks”. After that it was a week at a time. You never got a contract that said, “You’re doing six weeks a year”. It was ideal for me, as my first motivation for doing it was it was a nice little earner – five shows and five repeats every six weeks or so. Fellow actors would say to me, “Are you still doing that kids’ stuff?” and I’d reply, “Yeah – five shows and five repeats every six weeks”. There would be a bit of a pause, and then they’d say, “Who do you write to?” I found in retrospect this was the best way to be, because with a big organization like the BBC, if you are busy doing other stuff that puts you in a better position than if you are available. Because if you are available, big corporations don’t want you. If you’re busy they think, “We must have him”.

There was one time they booked me in immediately before and after It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, as I would have been away too long otherwise. On another occasion they booked me in for Play School two or three days after the It Ain’t Half Hot Mum exterior filming should have finished, and then the dates were moved. I said, “I’m sorry you told me other dates, I’ve signed a contract with Play School” and the AFM, Susan Belbin, who went on to direct One Foot in the Grave, said, “Don’t worry about that, we’ll buy you out.” I said, “Absolutely – if you want to buy me out of Play School then do by all means”. And we got closer and closer to the Play School dates and I heard nothing from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, so I went off and did Play School and came back to It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. There was now a strange respect for me, because they’d discovered how much I made from five shows and five repeats every six weeks and they couldn’t afford to buy me out. So they let me do it.

OTT: As far as other presenters went, who did you like working with?

STUART McGUGAN: You only met the guys at the parties, as you worked with the ladies all the time. If Floella Benjamin was booked up opposite you it was great, because you knew you didn’t have to do any personality stuff – no eyes and teeth because she would take care of that department entirely. You could just get on with doing it. There was one person, who I won’t mention, who put the fear of death in me – she was just a weird lady. She was fine on camera, but a weird lady. But we were actually too busy doing the thing to work up likes or dislikes. We had five shows to get out in two and a half days, which didn’t leave a lot of space for personal animosity.

OTT: You were with the show for a fair period of time. Where you committed to it?

STUART McGUGAN: You had to be. This was an obligation of the show. If you didn’t enjoy doing it, if you were only doing it in a half-committed way, the kids would walk out on you. They used to do a thing where they would take you on a recce to a playgroup. You would get the kids in to watch the telly, they’d put on Play School and you, the presenter, would have the pleasure of watching the kids respond to you on television. They thought this was a good idea. This playgroup thing was great, because the moment you thought you were doing rather well, you were in fact patronising them. Now adults love being patronised, but kids of that age, well, the front row of the group were back out to their sandpit while I was knocking my pan in doing the Woody Woodpecker song. A valuable lesson.

OTT: Of all the things you had to do, what was your favourite?

STUART McGUGAN: Latterly I enjoyed doing stories to camera, but to begin with it was a complete bloody nightmare. They would lob a six or seven-page story at you and it was all on one camera. Once you’d decided not to do it in the words the author wrote there was great freedom, you could make up the middle bit. When I’d learned to do that – to personalise the stories – they were fun to do, and you could get to the end quite happily. Early on you’d be getting to the end of a complex story and your brain would say, “Hey, we’re going to make it to the end of this story” and then – fuck! You were on one camera, so there were no cut-off points and you’d have to go right back to the beginning. Once upon a bloody time! We had occasionally guest storytellers, quite famous. I remember Ruth Madoc came in. Frank Windsor was wonderful. Ruth came in thinking this would be a doddle. She had a story about an actress in front of a mirror, not being able to get ready for the show in time. It took bloody hours because she thought, “I can busk this”. She would dry and say, “Oh dear, oh dear”. There was hours of this.

What made wonderful television were people who were crazy about their subject. There was a grey haired guy with a snare drum – James Blades head of percussion at the Royal Academy. The most fantastic drummer. When he spoke about drums and percussion he was absolutely riveting. Television’s good at that. When Patrick Moore talks, because he’s so crazy about the subject, you’re frightened to leave. Percy Edwards came in and did stories, and you just sat at his feet. My lasting memory of him was there was a Welsh director called Christine something, and she did this director thing of sitting opposite him with the chair turned round, so the back was to him – little power play, stuff like that. She was going,”I want the sound of a washing machine,” and she would do the impression, and Percy said, “That’s a tumble dryer my dear”.

OTT: You did Play School sporadically.

STUART McGUGAN: The only time I did a lot back-to-back was when Maggie Thatcher called an election.

OTT: What were your favourite moments?

STUART McGUGAN: There were always moments of things falling down. Big Ted, for instance – not a lot of people know this – but Big Ted had a speaker in his back, he had a voice thing. So when he fell over, not only did he fall over, but he would be commenting on your performance on the way down. That was always mildly embarrassing. There was one occasion, which was terribly touching and still makes me crack-up when I think about it now. They did an outside broadcast from a hotel in the North West Scotland and it was a Scottish presenter called Liz Millbank and myself. The show was about Christmas and they’d wheeled in lots of the kids from the local school to have a ceilidh. Those children had raised the most astonishing amount of money for the Blue Peter appeal and they thought it would be a good idea for a little boy in charge of that to present me with the cheque in case they wanted to film this for Blue Peter. There were these open-faced, country Scottish kids, innocent as hell, wonderful little kids, and this wee boy came up to me and his mates in the back started humming Kumbaya. This sweet open face said to me, “We would like to give this money to you for the starving people of the world, these Vietnamese boat people who haven’t enough” and I was crying and crying. It took about 20 minutes to get through that, and Nick Wilson who was the director said “Oh for God’s sake McGugan pull yourself together.” But it was just the open-faced innocence of these kids and how comparatively easy they were having it. They’d raised about £1500 from sales and doing jobs and things.

OTT: How has your time in Play School informed your acting?

STUART McGUGAN: Well there’s nothing in the studio that frightens you having done Play School. You’re not scared of anything. Stuff falls over and you chunter on. You don’t work with guys like those cameramen and those sound people and those lighting people without picking up the odd clue. At the end of working on Play School I was able to be of help to technicians saying, “If I took half a step back and turned like that, it’s not going to throw a boom shadow over anything is it?”. And they’d go, “Hey an actor who is willing to help us!”. Just tiny things like that, which made working with a film unit or a studio unit more of a company thing, helping each other. That’s essentially what Play School taught me to do. Rather than being the actor coming in and demanding stuff, you worked as a team.

OTT: This is an unfair question but how would you sum up your experience of being on Play School in a short phrase?

STUART McGUGAN: Most importantly to me, it legitimised me as an actor as far as my mother was concerned. That was very crucial, because up to that point I had been playing hard men and thugs and she was quite embarrassed by all this. That may not sound important to you, but it ticked my star for her.