One of the Argo Shakespeare Project’s luckiest breaks was obtaining the long term participation of comic actor Michael Bates as a kind of Shakespearean clown in residence. Bates would later become a constant presence in TV and film, most memorably as Field Marshall Montgomery in Patton; as the barking martinet who helps re-program Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s film of A Clockwork Orange; and as the inspector investigating hapless Stanley Moon’s apparent suicide in the Dudley Moore/Peter Cook cult masterpiece Bedazzled. On British TV, he gained immortality as an original cast member in the long-running series Last of the Summer Wine as the imperious Cyril Blamire, ex-army corporal and one of a trio of aging idlers ranging about in a Yorkshire town in the 1970s. Simultaneously, the hard-working Bates appeared as the beloved (and controversial) Rangi Ram in the comedy series “It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum”. The controversy had to do with Bates darkening his skin to portray an Indian character, though it was countered that Bates had been born in Jhansi, spoke Urdu fluently and even served in the Nepalese Brigade of Gurkhas during World War II.

After war service, Bates was heavily employed as a stage actor, specializing in Shakespeare. He seems to have acted in most of the plays and for most of the Shakespearean repertory companies – the Old Vic and the Stratford Memorial Theatre in England, and in Canada, the Stratford Festival in Ontario. Perhaps he found the Argo Shakespeare project a welcome return to his roots as a Shakespearean comic. He certainly seems at home in most of his roles, efficiently, even dutifully providing a good deal of the comic heavy lifting for the series.

Michael Bates (Grumio, Dromio, Costard, Launcelot Gobbo, Autolycus, The Porter in Macbeth, The Clown in Antony and Cleopatra, Lord Sands in Henry VIII)

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