Features » People and Places
Badger, a Busy Sort of a Chap
Jill Attfield / 2005-07-04 15:52:28
Last week we met up with Badger Gaunt, in the garden of his home at Formentera, with his cat 'Pablita'. In his own words he told us, "I seem to be quite a busy sort of a chap". He continued, "It began when I was around five years of age, when my father having been a professional actor in his younger days propelled me with force and trepidation onto a Salvation Army platform somewhere in darkest Middlesex, I performed, or perhaps executed would be a better word, the recitation which my parents had crammed into my unwilling brain. Enthusiastic (or sympathetic) applause greeted this recital and I exited hastily and fortunately just in time, to be violently sick. In fairness it could be said that this was due at least as much to unwise consumption of sardine sandwiches and cream buns, as to stage-fright".
Apart from that, his childhood acting days continued with the portrayal of several shepherds and half a donkey in nativity plays, although he never made it to Joseph. At last in the 6th form year at boarding school, he was awarded a starring role in William Shakespeare's 'Scottish Play' - as Lady Macbeth!
It was during this time that he took his first step into journalism. He won the House, and then the school prize in their Literary Composition and was appointed Deputy Editor of the School Magazine.
After leaving school he became an assistant stage manager for a repertory company, with broom, graduated to tea boy, suffered a short lived acting debut when as a butler he said "Sinner is served, my Lord" and then not long afterwards he parted with the company. He then almost gained success with a mobile theatre company and during this time was able to take piano and ball room dancing lessons.
"Then came the day when the inevitable buff envelope, ominously inscribed OHMS, dropped through the letter box. National Service had summoned!" Badger told us.
His primary army training was at Devizes in Wiltshire in February 1947, which was a bitterly cold winter but relief came to Badger when it was suggested that he took a short service commission on the understanding that he would have to serve a minimum of three years, instead of the usual two. Badger told us, "With the possible alternative of two years white-washing coal, I hesitated not and eventually passed out as a 2nd Lieutenant in my father's old regiment, the 7th of Foot, City of London, Royal Fusiliers".
His name Badger came from his army days when at the Regimental Depot of the Royal Fusiliers one morning, he and a few other high spirited mates violated the military dress code by turning up at breakfast roll call in dinner jackets, which was frowned upon. Later at dinner the Colonel had obviously been told of the breakfast event and shouted, 'that's right, isn't it Gaunt?' "Replying with a mouthful of food I managed to splutter 'Sir?' and the colonel said, "You're like a bloody badger", so Badger I became".
For a while Badger lived in the Tower of London and was a ceremonial guard and then posted to Germany he became an entertainments officer and met famous people like Vera Lynne, Gracie Fields and George Formby, who took part in camp shows he organised. After almost four years in the army he opted for the civilian life, resumed ballroom dancing instruction and became an Associate of the International Dancing Masters' Association (AIDMA), and was assistant teacher at the Mayfair School of Dancing.
Keeping busy then, as he does now, he was in the church choir, a drama group, was a rover scout and compiled, wrote, produced and directed his first ever stage production an 'intimate' Revue called RSVP.
During the next few years Badger was asked by the London Borough of Hillingdon to organise a competitive One-Act Play Festival, where he met Rosemary (who was later to become Mrs Badger!) was writing feature articles and dramatic criticisms, freelance, for local newspapers and had full-time employment as an Area Sales Manager for a storage equipment company. This made it necessary for him to relocate to rural Gloucestershire.
In no time Badger had joined the local Dramatic Society and was cast in their next production as the Judge in 'Toad of Toad Hall'. Many memorable productions followed, including the Tin Man in 'The Wizard of Oz', Fagin in 'Oliver', Sir Anthony Absolute in Sheridan's, 'The Rivals' and he received a 'Best Actor' award for his part of Golliwog in 'Ritual for Dolls'.
He also became a columnist for the evening Gloucester Citizen with a column entitled 'On Stage with Badger Gaunt'. Writing on theatre generally, he covered the numerous amateur theatrical events throughout the county, and Bristol and Bath for the professional productions.
Sponsored by two eminent existing members Badger applied to become a member of the professional Guild of Drama Adjudicators.
By this time his full-time employment was as Managing Editor for the local Zero One Publishing Company, but he joined the Gloucestershire Drama Association as a representative of his local society, became Chairman and was involved in mounting their first annual open-air county production at Hidcote Manor, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon.
During his time with the GDA he appeared in productions such as 'Measure for Measure', 'The Comedy of Errors', and for his penultimate performance before departing to Spain, he played Malvolio in 'Twelfth Night'. His last pre-Spain 'stage' performance was not on stage at all, but in the nave of the great Cathedral Church of Gloucester. The occasion was the 900th anniversary of the Cathedral and Badger had been approached by one of the Cathedral Canons for advice on presenting a specially written play.
Badger left the U.K. behind, as well as his nine children, and arrived in 'sunny Spain' via the Pyrenees, December 1989 - (in a blizzard!) and for a time he was too involved in setting-up house to have time for theatrical or musical activity, but eventually he joined the then recently formed 'Torrevieja Showgroup' appeared in several productions, and when someone at a September meeting said that producing a Christmas show for production in November was impossible, he foolishly argued that it was possible.
And inevitably the 'someone' said, "OK, so produce it!" And produce it, he did. In the two months from start to final curtain he compiled, produced and directed it. The revue was called 'Christmas Cracker'.
Then later, with a small group of buskers calling themselves the 'Marina Minstrels', they toured bars on Urb.La Marina with a little show called' Our Pleasure'.
What followed was a year or two with the Torrevieja Barbershop Harmonisers, then as a founder member in 1996 of the Torrevieja Gilbert & Sullivan Society.
In the first production Badger played the Judge in 'Trial by Jury', then Major General Stanley in 'The Pirates of Penzance', and Ko-ko, The Lord High Executioner, in 'The Mikado' and most recently as 1st Yeoman Warder in 'The Yeomen of the Guard'.
Hearing in 1998 of someone interested in forming a new drama group, he was involved in the formation of the Premier Players. Their first production was J B Priestley's drama, 'An Inspector Calls' in which he played former Mayor, Arthur Birling. Premier Players has since expired.
Presently, Badger is enjoying singing with the Crescendo International Choir, in acting as their Press & Publicity Officer, and recently in assisting in the Front of House team for the newly-formed Dramatic Licence theatre group's successful inaugural production, 'Don't Dress for Dinner'.
To sum things up, young at heart 77-year-old Badger said "What next, one may ask? Oh, well, I learned a long time ago that when there's someone around who knows what they are talking about it is a very good idea to shut up, and listen. I was fortunate enough to be able to 'shut up, and listen' when a lot of wise and knowledgeable people spoke and having learned thereby, I put much of what I learned into practice. So knowledge became experience. As long as there are people around who wish to take advantage of that knowledge and experience, I suppose I might go on being a 'busy sort of Chap'! What do you think?"
Badger has just been filming for a Trevor McDonald programme for ITV1. He plays a fellow who sees intruders around his house, arms himself with a stick and send them off. The rest you can see by switching onto ITV1 on July 22nd at 8 pm.