Alison Glennie is perhaps best known for her role as Ingrid Dorf in the BBC thriller serial Kessler. She also appeared in a number of classic TV shows in the 70's and 80's including Z-Cars, Thriller and Just William. Alison's film appearances include Escape from the Sea and The Bunker. We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Alison about her appearance in Blake's 7 as Kate in the Series D episode, Power.
Scorpio Attack: 1981 must have been a busy year for you as you appeared in Blake’s 7, The Bunker and Kessler. Is this a period in your career that you have happy memories of?
Alison: Absolutely, yes. As an actor, offers of employment are a form of validation of one's life choices. It is very hard to stay motivated and productive through periods of unemployment. I also enjoyed the opportunities to travel. The Bunker was shot in a studio in Paris, due to the size of the sound stage there. Having been cast to play Michael Kitchen's German wife, I was surprised to be fitted with a brunette wig by the make up department! For Kessler, we shot the South American sequences on location in Almeria, southern Spain. However, we all succumbed to stomach problems there, so not so much fun when performing!
Scorpio Attack: Your Blake’s 7 episode was shot shortly before Kessler. How did the job come about?
Alison: Mary Ridge, had directed me some years previously in an episode of Z Cars. My character was assaulted on a railway sidings somewhere in Kent. It was a night shoot; not very glamorous!
Scorpio Attack: Were you familiar with Blake's 7?
Alison: Yes, of course, but I wasn't a die-hard fan, so I hadn't watched every episode.
Scorpio Attack: What are your memories of Juliet Hammond-Hill?
Alison: We became good friends. She was an intelligent, empathetic person. We lost touch for many years but then a journalist researching Kessler for the BBC box set release put us back in touch with each other and we had a tearful reunion at Victoria Station, happy to see one another again.
Scorpio Attack: Did you get to know the regular cast?
Alison: The BBC rehearsal rooms were in Acton, so I imagine we must have rehearsed there for a while. My friendship with Juliet was forged on set and I met other cast members both in the studio and on location. I recall finding Michael Keating particularly funny.
Scorpio Attack: Did you enjoy the location filming?
Conditions were horrendous. We Seska wore sandals and silk jersey togas and it was so cold that we had to shoot between snow flurries! It's very challenging to deliver lines in an audible fashion with numb lips and a dripping nose. The crew would have been wearing puffa coats, moon boots, hats and gloves!
It wasn't fun, pretending to be shot by a crossbow while slipping around trying to escape from Hommiks in my leather sandals on the quarry screed. I think I may have had to record a wild track of my screaming back in the studio.
Scorpio Attack: Does working on a science-fiction show present any unique challenges?
Alison: Little or no explanation was given to me as an actor prior to 'green screen' filming in the studio. As an actor, one is required to react to a multitude of things that are invisible, added afterwards in the post production edit. I applaud all the actors that have produced convincing work while using this technology. It is very challenging!
Scorpio Attack: Did you watch the episode when it was broadcast?
Alison: Yes, I have always watched my work afterwards, although I know some actors choose not to. I probably watched the episode with my family, as my brother was a fan of the sci-fi genre but I think my parents were non-plussed. The actors are good, locations questionable but FX have moved on so much in recent decades, it is hard not be critical looking at it now.
The day after that episode aired, my postman asked me for some of the magic salve that restored me!
Scorpio Attack: Are you surprised to find yourself talking about Blake’s 7 35 years after the episode was broadcast?
Alison: I always understood that Blake's 7 had a strong fan base, so not really surprised and I do appreciate the interest in my work.
Scorpio Attack: Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re doing these days?
I relocated to West Cork 23 years ago, after marrying Rob McKahey, an Irish drummer from the 80's indie band Stump. We have two sons, one a sports coach and fitness instructor, the other an actor/musician, Fintan McKahey who released his debut EP Two Lifetimes Late this summer. Some years ago, I returned to the stage to play Gertrude in a production of Hamlet at Cork Opera House and have recorded many titles of The Book on One for RTE Radio 1, among other things. I also work as a drama facilitator and more recently have produced several micro budget short films, several documenting the lives of adults with intellectual disability.