Biography of Roy Skelton


Zippy
Click here to purchase
the official 24" x 34"
Rainbow - Zippy poster

 
Roy Skelton
Photo courtesy
of Roy Skelton


Dalek
Full-size cast resin
fairground ride prop
sighted in Portland,
  OR

The Lord Chamberlain
Assistant to King Rufus
XIV of Rubovia

 

Roy William Skelton (20 July 1931 - 8 June 2011) an English actor and voice artist whose various voices were more familiar to young television viewers than his name. In a successful career that spanned fifty-three years, Roy Skelton played many stage roles, several film roles, and voiced everything from Daleks and werewolves, to Zippy and George on ITV's Rainbow children's television series, to the Lord Chamberlain and King Boris in Gordon Murray's "A Rubovian Legend" (1955-63), a marionette puppet series produced by Gordon Murray, then director of the BBC's Puppet Theater.

After leaving school to tour England with the National Association of Boys' Clubs Travelling Theatre, Roy trained in drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His early acting work in repertory was with the Bristol Old Vic Company. This was followed by four or five West End plays (including Oh! My Papa! and Chrysanthemum) as well as some singing, and a stint on television as Lampwick in Pinocchio. He went on to appear in repertory theatre all over the UK before landing parts in Music for You and Quick Before They Catch Us, with the BBC in London. During this time at the BBC, Roy continued with his theatre work, despite his television career starting to take off.

An opportunity to voice the rather stern and grumpy Mr. Growser character in the BBC's original B&W rod puppet version of Hulme Beaman's "Toytown" led Roy to a successful career specialising in voice characterisations for childrens' radio and television shows. But this was not at the expense of his theatre career. As Roy put it, he "...did much more theatre than television in those days." Of note he played juvenile lead in the West End in Oh! My Papa! In the cast were Peter O'Toole and Rachael  Roberts. Also, a season at the Oxford Playhouse with director Peter Hall, alongside Ronnie Barker. Maggie Smith was the assistant stage manager. 


Roy Skelton played Baron Hardup
in an entirely new version of the
traditional pantomime Cinderella.
Written by Taylor Walker. Directed
by Frances Nelson. Dec. 24, 1964. 

Moving his theatre activities from London's West End to Croydon, Surrey, Roy Skelton played Baron Hardup in the traditional pantomime, Cinderella, at the Ashcroft Theatre. Roy went on to also direct many plays at the Ashcroft Theatre, and said, "Indeed my greatest love is still the theatre." 

After the BBC's "Toytown" puppet series, there was a lot more children's television puppetry voice work for this versatile actor, including "Picture Book" (as the voice of Sossidge the dog), "Take a Chance", as well as Gordon Murray's marionette-based "A Rubovian Legend". This was followed by a later stop motion series called "Rubovia" (for which Roy did all of the voices, while Gordon Murray did the narration), and several one-offs such as The Winkleburg Armourer and The Petrified Princess. One children's television job that Roy expected would last several weeks, but instead lasted well over ten years, was the voicing of the Zippy and George glove puppets on ITV's "Rainbow" (he also wrote about 150 of the scripts). Indeed twenty years later, with the nostalgia boom driving renewed interest in "Rainbow", Roy was still doing the voices of Zippy and George. Indeed, Roy's "Rainbow" recording, MC Zippy & DJ George: It's a Rainbow, which was released in November 2000, reached position 15 in the UK Top 20! (BBC Music catalogue # ZIPPCD001). Roy did comment that 71 years old was a ridiculous age to be starting in career in the pop charts, but Well, you know, that's life. (ibid)  Following in the footsteps of this pop chart success, a dance compilation album was released, notable for an incredible version of Zippy and George's version of the Weather Girls hit, "It's Raining Men". 

Despite a very successful theatre career, Roy Skelton was most well known for his television voice characterizations. His most famous voice, however, was not Rainbow's Zippy puppet, but instead the voice that he gave to Doctor Who's nemesis, the Daleks. Roy's voice was given the perfect grating edge for that role with a bit of help from the BBC Radiophonics Workshop. Classic lines like, "You will be exterminated!" and "That is an order! Obey!" will live long in our memories. Roy voiced the Daleks in almost every Doctor Who Dalek story from The Evil of the Daleks (1967) onwards. An interesting reunion of 'ex-Daleks', which inlcudes Roy Skelton, is available on the BBC Radio Collection CD, My Life as a Dalek, presented by Mark Gatiss, a recording first broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 22 February 2003 (ISBN 0563 49476X).

Notable later work included a reprise of his Dalek voice role in Comic Relief's all-star parody sketch video, Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, and the roles of Henry Swift, Balberith, and the Vauturm in BBCi's animated webcast Ghosts of Albion.

Regarding his early work with Gordon Murray, Roy recalled in a recent BBC interview, ...a girl rang me and said. 'I believe you do wonderful, puppet voices,' and I said, 'No I don't, I've never done them'. She said, 'Well, I'm auditioning some at the BBC. Could you come and have a go?' So I said 'Yes,' went and did them and the BBC hated them! But Gordon Murray, who had come and done the audition, rang me and said, 'I hated the puppets but loved your voice, would you come and do Toy Town's Mr. Growser?' And then it went on from there. Still do a lot more theatre work than anything else, but gradually it sort of took over. (Ghosts of Albion webcast video interviews, BBCi Cult Television website, 2003.) 

In an interview published on the First Person Quiz website, Roy said that his first ambition in life was to be an actor, followed by his first disillusionment over the same. His first stage appearance was in a school play, and his first [real?] screen appearance was in "Z Cars". 

Actor Filmography
"Ghosts of Albion" (2003) (webcast animation series, 5 episodes) ...Henry Swift (voice), Balberith (voice), the Vauturm (voice)
I Love Muppets (2002) (TV) (unconfirmed) ...Zippy (voice)
The 100 Greatest Kids TV Shows (2001) (TV) ...himself 
Carnival of Monsters (1999) (TV) ...himself
Comic Relief: Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death (1999) ..."whispering" Dalek (voice)  VHS
 ... aka Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death (1999) (UK: video box title) 
Doctor Who: Daleks: The Early Years (1993) ...Interviewee
Cybermen: The Early Years (1992) ...Cyberman (voice) / Interviewee
Alice in Wonderland (1986) (TV) ...Mock Turle
"Take a Chance"
(1980) (TV series, 13 x 25 minute episodes, an ITV children's sitcom spun-off from "Rainbow") ...sixteen ventriloquist's dummies (voices)
"Rubovia" (1976) (TV series, 6 episodes, colour,  stop-motion puppets) ...voices of King Rufus, Queen Caroline, Lord Chamberlain, Mr. Albert Weatherspoon, and King Boris
Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) ...(no further details known)
"Rainbow" (1972) (TV series,  live action & glove puppets) ...Zippy (voice); George (voice) (1973-1992) 
There's a Girl in My Soup (1970) (Comedy. Colour, 95 minutes, dir. Roy Boulting) ...reporter (uncredited)  
Joey Boy (1965) (also starred Derek Nimmo as Lt. Hope) ...(no further details known) 
West 11 (1963)  ...(no further details known) 
The Dancing Princess (1962) (TV, B&W, marionette play) ...(voice) (alongside Pamela Binns, Violet Lamb, Eric Shilling, Hamilton Dyce and Noel Coleman)
The Magic Tree (1960) (TV, B&W, marionette play) ...(voice) (alongside James Beattie, Noel Coleman and Derek Nimmo
The Crumpot Candles (1960) (TV, B&W, marionette play) ...puppet player (alongside Audrey Atterbury, John Hardwick, Bob Bura, Dorothy Gordon, James Beattie and Noel Coleman)
The King of the Golden River (1959) (TV, B&W, marionette play) ...puppet player (alongside Audrey Atterbury, John Hardwick, Bob Bura, Violet Lamb, James Beattie and Noel Coleman)
The Petrified Princess
(1959) (TV, B&W, marionette opera) ...singer and puppet player (alongside Dorothy Durow, Trevor Anthony, Raimund Herinex, Howard Davies, Barbara Howitt, Audrey Atterbury, John Hardwick, Bob Bura and James Beattie)
"Toytown" (1956) (TV series, 7 episodes, B&W, marionette puppets) ...Mr. Growser (voice)
"Music for You" (1956) (TV series) ...(no further details known) 
The Winkleburg Armourer (1956) (TV, B&W, marionette play) ...puppet player (alongside Audrey Atterbury, Pamela Binns, Violet Lamb, Noel Coleman, Derek Nimmo, James Beattie, David Sutton, Peter Sutton)
"A Rubovian Legend" (1955) (TV series, starting in 1958 with the 2nd series of 27 episodes, B&W, marionette plays) ...Lord Chamberlain (voice), Prince Rupert (voice), King Boris (voice)
"Picture book" (1955) (TV series, illustrated storytelling) ...Sossidge the dog (voice) 
The Comedy of Errors
(1954) (TV) (William Shakespeare. Dir. by Lionel Harris. Originally presented as an operetta by BBC television 16 May 1954, this version was presented with a somewhat different cast on stage at the Arts Theatre Club, London) ...Shift?, assistant to Angelo
Pinocchio (19xx) (TV) (BBC. no further details known) ...Lampwick  

Notable TV Guest Appearances

"Dan and Dusty" playing "Zippy & George" (voice), episode #1.5: 10 September 2004
"The Bill" playing "Bridesmaid's father" in episode #5.10 : Saturday Blues, 2 February 1989
"Doctor Who" playing "Daleks" (voice) in episode #25.1 (#148): Remembrance of the Daleks, 5 October 1988  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "Daleks" (voice) in episode #22.6 (#142): Revelation of the Daleks, 23 March 1985  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing 'Dalek' (voice) in episode #21.1 (#129): The Five Doctors, 20th Anniversary Special, 25 November 1983  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "Daleks" (voice); K-9 (cough, uncredited) in episode #17.1 (#104): Destiny of the Daleks, 1 September 1979  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "King Rokon"; computer (voice, uncredited) in episode #14.2 (#87): The Hand of Fear, 2 October 1976  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "Marshal Chedaki" in episode #13.4 (#83): The Android Invasion, 22 November 1975  VHS
"Doctor Who" playing "Dalek" (voice) in episode #12.4 (#78): Genesis of the Daleks, 8 March 1975  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "Mr. James" in episode #10.5 (#69): The Green Death, 19 May 1973  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing 'Wester'; 'other Spiridons' (voice, uncredited); 'Daleks' (voice) in episode #10.4 (#68): Planet of the Daleks, 7 April 1973  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "Wilfred Norton" in episode #8.4 (#58): Colony in Space, 10 April 1971  DVD
"Doctor Who" playing "Kroton" (voice) in episode #6.4 (#47): The Krotons, 28 December 1968  VHS
"Softly Softly" playing "Fred Thomas" in episode #4.7: Five Pair O' Hands, 24 October 1968
"Doctor Who" playing "Cybermen" (voice) in episode #5.7 (#43): The Wheel in Space, 27 April 1968  CD
"Z Cars" playing "Tommy Wyatt" in episode #6.102: Out of the Frying Pan: Part 2, 20 February 1968
"Z Cars" playing "Tommy Wyatt" in episode #6.101: Out of the Frying Pan: Part 1, 19 February 1968
"Out of the Unknown" playing "robot #3" (voice) in episode #2.13: The Prophet), 1 January 1967
"Doctor Who" playing "Computer" (voice) in episode #5.3 (#39): The Ice Warriors, 11 November 1967  VHS,  CD
"Doctor Who" playing "Daleks" (voice) in episode #4.9 (#36): The Evil of the Daleks, 20 May 1967  CD
"Doctor Who" playing "Cybermen" (voice) in episode #4.2 (#29): The Tenth Planet, 8 October 1966  VHS, CD
"Quick Before They Catch Us" playing "Punch and Judy voice" in episode #1.3: Season of the Skylark, 9 July 1966
"Quick Before They Catch Us" playing "Danny" in episode #1.2: Mark of Distinction, 4 June 1966
"Doctor Who" playing "Monoids" (voice) in episode #3.6 (#23): The Ark, 5 March 1966  DVD
"Detective" playing "Porter" in episode #1.15: The Case of Oscar Brodski, July 1964

Writer Filmography
"Take a Chance" (1980) (TV series; 3 episodes out of 13) ...(writer)
"Rainbow"
(1972) (TV series) (writer of about 150 of the scripts)


Roy Skelton played in the world
 premiere of Listen to the Wind at
the Oxford Playhouse, Christmas 1954.
A musical play for children of all ages
written by Angela Ainley Jeans.
Music & lyrics written by Vivian Ellis. 

Stage (partial)
Nightingale (1982) (A musical with music & lyrics by Charles Strouse, directed by Hugh Wooldridge. From the story by Hans Christian Andersen, featuring Sarah Brightman as 'Nightingale'. Lyric Theatre, London, UK) ...doctor and/or scientist
Trelawney
(1972) (Opened with a limited run at the Bristol Old Vic, moved later to Sadler Well's and finally to the Prince of Wales Theatre, in London's West End, where it enjoyed a 177 performance run. Adapted from the play, Trelawney of the Wells by Arthur Wing Pinero) ...Mr. Mossop (his wife, Mrs. Mossop, was played by Veronica Clifford) 
(Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon, Surrey, UK) ...director of many plays
Christmas Carol
(year?) (Pembroke Theatre, Croydon, Surrey, UK) ...(no further details known) 
Cinderella
(1964) (Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon, Surrey, UK. (Opened 24th December) ...Baron Hardup (who was Cinderella's step-father)
Chrysanthemum
(1958) (Musical. Prince of Wales Theatre, West End, London, UK) ...(no further details known) 
Oh! my Papa!
(1957) (Garrick Theatre, West End, London, UK. Opened 2 Aug 1957) ...Robert (juvenile lead)
    (click here for photo of the principal cast. LtoR: Sonia Rees, Roy Skelton, Gwen Nelson, Laurie Payne, Rachel Roberts, and Peter O'Toole)
Oh! my Papa! (1957) (A comedy to music. Theatre Royal, Brighton, UK. Opened 1 July, 1957 for 2 weeks prior to its west end run) ...Robert (juvenile lead)
    (Also in the cast were Peter O'Toole, Rachel Roberts, Gwen Nelson, Paul Curran, Phyllada Sewell and Sonia Rees)
Wild Thyme (1955) (West End musical directed by Wendy Toye) ...(no further details known) 
Listen to the Wind (1954) (A musical play for adventurous children of all ages by Angela Ainley Jeans. Music & lyrics by Vivian Ellis. The Playhouse, Oxford, UK. Opened Christmas) ...(no further details known)
Dear Charles (1954) (The Playhouse, Oxford, UK. Opened 18 October) ...Bruno Darvel 
The Merry Gentlemen (1954) (Theatre Royal, Bristol, UK. Opened 18 January) ...(no further details known) 
Crime and Punishment (1953) (Theatre Royal, Bristol, UK) ...(no further details known) 
Christmas in King Street (1952) (Theatre Royal, Bristol, UK) ...(no further details known) 
Macbeth (1952) (Theatre Royal, Bristol, UK) ...(no further details known)