Michael Chaplin (writer)
Writer Michael Chaplin outside Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne for his play Tyne
|Education||Heaton Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne|
|Alma mater||Magdalene College, University of Cambridge|
|Relatives||Sid Chaplin (father)|
Michael Chaplin (born in 1951 in County Durham) is an English theatre, radio, television and non-fiction writer and former television producer and executive.
He later moved to London, becoming successively a researcher, producer and executive producer in London Weekend Television's current affairs and documentaries department. Among his many credits there was editor of the cult arts/lifestyle show South of Watford which helped to establish the TV careers of its successive presenters, Ben Elton and Hugh Laurie. He then produced the ITV drama series as Wish Me Luck about female secret agents in France during World War II which aired on ITV between 1988-1990.
In 1989 he became Head of Drama and Arts at Tyne Tees Television and was Executive Producer of the early Catherine Cookson adaptations, which ran on ITV with great success for a further decade or more.
In 1991 Chaplin moved to BBC Wales as Head of Programmes where he was responsible for transforming the BBC's output in English on both television and radio. By this time Chaplin had begun to write for Live Theatre the acclaimed new writing company in Newcastle upon Tyne, collaborating first with Alan Plater on 'In Blackberry Time' (1988-9), a play about the life and work of his late father, Sid Chaplin.
His first credit on television was the ITV mini-series 'Act of Betrayal' about an IRA super-grass on the run in Australia, co-written with his friend and former LWT colleague Nicholas Evans (author of The Horse Whisperer and other novels).
His first radio writing credit was Hair In The Gate (1990) for BBC Radio 4, based on a play of the same name staged the year before.
In 1994, having just completed the acclaimed ITV mini-series Dandelion Dead directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Kitchen, about the notorious Hay on Wye poisoner Herbert Armstrong, Chaplin became a full-time writer and since then has chalked up many credits across various genres.
In TV he has created the original series Grafters (1998-9) starring Robson Green and Stephen Tomkinson for ITV; and for the BBC Drovers Gold (1997) about a group of Welsh cattle drovers in the 19th century; and then Monarch of the Glen (2000-2006) starring amongst others, Richard Briers and Susan Hampshire; the series ran for 69 episodes and has been screened in many countries around the world.
Chaplin also adapted novels by the crime writer Reginald Hill for four films in the BBC series Dalziel and Pascoe (one of these, 'On Beulah Height', won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America); and also P D James' 'Original Sin' for an ITV mini-series.
Other TV work includes the ITV drama screened in 2006 - 'Pickles - The Dog Who Won The World Cup' and his TV adaption of Michelle Magorian's novel Just Henry screened in 2011. Chaplin also worked on the BBC series Robin Hood and the ITV series Wild at Heart.
Chaplin's radio work for BBC Radio 4 encompasses single plays like 'Hair In The Gate' (1990), 'One-Way Ticket to Palookaville' (1992), and 'The Song Thief' (2008), later adapted for the People's Theatre, Newcastle, during its centenary year in 2011. There have also been three contributions to 'The Stanley Baker Baxter Playhouse' : 'Flying Down to Greenock', 'Fife Circle' and 'A Dish of Neapolitan', with two more to follow in the summer of 2015. Chaplin created and wrote all 13 plays in the much loved series 'Two Pipe Problems' (2006-2013) about life in a retirement home for faded theatricals with a Sherlock Holmes trope, starring Richard Briers and Stanley Baxter. This came to an end in 2013 following the death of Richard Briers.
Since returning to Newcastle in 2006 with his wife Susan Chaplin, a silversmith and teacher, Chaplin has written two books of non-fiction about icons of the area: Come and See (2011), an affectionate memoir of the beautiful Tyneside Cinema where Chaplin received his cinematic education in the late 60s. In 2013, 'Tyne View - A Walk Around the Port of Tyne', an exploration of the social history, culture and soul of the river, appeared with contributions from artist Birtley Aris, photographer Charles Bell, and poet Christy Ducker. Both books are published by New Writing North; in January 2014 'Tyne View' went into its 2nd edition. Chaplin has also advised South Tyneside Council on a programme of public art in the borough themed around its shipping and maritime heritage.
Since writing his first stage play 'In Blackberry Time' in 1987, Chaplin has written seven other full-length plays for Live Theatre and sundry other shorter pieces. These include two plays written with his son Tom about the travails of their football club Newcastle United, 'You Couldn't Make It Up' and 'You Really Couldn't Make It Up' (2009); 'A Walk-On Part', a dramatisation of the best-selling diaries of Chris Mullin MP, which also ran at the Soho Theatre and then the Arts Theatre, London (2011-12), and then the play with music 'Tyne' based on Chaplin's book 'Tyne View', which enjoyed a sell-out run at Live, before proving equally popular at the Customs House, South Shields and then the Theatre Royal, Newcastle (2013-14).
He is currently working as a co-writer of Tommies, a four-year project for BBC Radio 4 telling the story of the First World War from the point of view of a group of British Army signallers. The first series of 'Tommies' was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the autumn of 2014, the second in the spring of 2015, and two more series are in preparation to be transmitted in the autumn of 2015 and summer of 2016.
In January 2015 Radio 4 broadcast two plays by Chaplin with the generic title 'The Ferryhill Philosophers' about the collision between moral philosophy and life in the small town in County Durham where Chaplin spent the first three years of his life. Two further plays in this series, starring Alun Armstrong as retired pitman Joe Snowball and Deborah Findlay as Durham University philosophy lecturer Hermione Pink, will be broadcast in 2016.
For the Durham Book Festival 2014, Chaplin was commissioned to write 'There Is A Green Hill', an updating of his father's guide to the North-East, 'The Lakes to Tyneside', published in 1951 for the Festival of Britain.
Michael Chaplin is a Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of Newcastle, President of the People's Theatre and, since 2010, writer in residence for the Port of Tyne.