For a certain generation of television fans, Peter Duncan shall forever symbolise the flagship BBC children’s entertainment series Blue Peter. After turning the role down just two years previously Peter made his debut in 1980 alongside Sarah Greene and Simon Groom. Attempting to recreate the magic of original presenters John Noakes, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves, the producers were looking to cast someone with a theatrical background to fulfil the variety element of the show. By this time Peter Duncan was almost a decade into a varied and successful acting career which brought him into contact with acting royalty including Laurence Olivier.
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Making his debut at the tender age of fifteen, playing the part of Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island at the Mermaid Theatre in the heart of London’s West End, Peter was quick to catch the acting bug. His parents had been involved in vaudeville entertainment ever since Peter was young and frequently held joyful pantomimes which united the whole community. It was here that Peter saw the effects that entertainment had in rallying support and enjoying shared laughter. Through panto his parents got to know some of the icons of Variety and found himself surrounded by performers such as Danny La Rue who would have a lasting impact on him. Despite being in awe of Danny’s style, Peter knew he wanted to do something different.
Peter then secured a two year stint at the National Theatre under the influence of Sir Laurence Olivier. Despite enrolling at the Italia Conti Academy of Music several years previously, Peter admits that this period taught him the most about the business. Making his debut in the production of White Tiger, Peter remained at The National for the best part of two years performing alongside true giants of the stage including Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith. In fact, this was where he met his first girlfriend; the actress Lesley Manville. Despite an amicable split, Peter and Lesley remain firm friends and are always on hand to celebrate each other’s successes. Peter was delighted when Lesley was nominated for an Oscar at this year’s event for her role in Paul Thomas-Anderson’s period romantic drama Phantom Thread. It’s clear that irrespective of his numerous achievements, Peter will forever be grateful to The National Theatre for making him into the all round performer which he is today.
In 1980 Peter was cast as a young treeman in the cult children’s movie Flash Gordon which gained him a new following of fans. Although his appearance was all too brief and resulted in death, he remains synonymous with the film and over thirty five years later he is astonished by the love for the film. This was also the year that Peter finally accepted a presenting role on Blue Peter and for four years defined a generation for eighties school children. Appearing on such a long running programme with so many loved presenters demands you to put your own stamp on it and together with Sarah Greene and Simon Groom, Peter set about doing exactly this. As an actor, Peter isn’t scared to go out of his comfort zone and so was able to embrace the challenges and trials which were put his way, making him the show’s very own action man.
After his Blue Peter days, Peter starred in a series of travelogues for the BBC in which he took his whole family to a variety of locations around the world. Travel Bug which aired in 1999 followed the Duncan family on a six month vacation to some of the most desirable places on Earth. This was followed up with two further series for Channel Five and Sky and is one of Peter’s proudest achievements. To capture your family at a specific moment in time is a very special thing and since then the family have all grown up and got lives of their own so for Peter this is a touching reminder of how things used to be.
In recent years, Peter has returned to the stage and has even dabbled in producing and directing productions for Poole Lighthouse. Most recently writing, producing and directing his interpretation of Aladdin for Christmas 2017. Accolades for his theatrical work continues but one major ambition still eludes him: securing that all important television drama role and Peter hasn’t lost hope of it coming to fruition…so watch this space!
It was an absolute pleasure to meet Peter Duncan and wish him all the best for the rest of his career.