He was astonishingly good at acting, right from the first year. RADA and onwards seemed a birth-right. He won the Reading Prize when he was twelve or thirteen with a passage from Three Men in a Boat. Most of my schooldays passed me by in abject misery, as I have mentioned elsewhere. But I can place myself in the exact scene of his reading. It was in the Friend’s Meeting House, to a hundred bored boys, kicking up dust into the afternoon sunlight that was straggling into the room. Several timid readings had only heightened the listlessness. I was cross that my own offering of Alistair Maclean’s The Way to Dusty Death had not been deemed worthy of the final showdown, not least because we all now seemed to be condemned to our own dusty death.
And then Chris started telling the tale of how the three idiots struggled to open a tin without a tin-opener. The part that ends with “It was George’s straw hat that saved his life that day.” Oh, how we laughed. But what I remember was the actorly pause that preceded the punch-line. I remember it like it was yesterday. I thought it was genius, indeed the first time I had ever encountered genius and, yes, I was young and impressionable. I wonder if Chris remembers the day like that, or indeed at all.
And, as it happens, Chris wasn’t even the person in my class I thought most likely to be famous. That honour fell to Anthony Ryan, who I was in awe of from the moment he threw his biology stool into the glass cabinet containing pickled parts of animals and stuff. Anthony Ryan, who at around the same age that Chris was having us rolling in the aisles, declared to the same Friends’ Meeting Room crowd that the best way for mankind to proceed was for us all to kill ourselves.
Anthony and Chris were best friends. I spotted Chris on telly many years ago, and have followed him from afar since – strangely proud. Of Anthony, not a murmur. My own guess as to his life, has him dying tragically young in the Aids epidemic of the eighties, the world robbed of his greatness. For all I know, he could actually be a corporate lawyer, or an accountant in Penge...