Norman Stanley Fletcher
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|Norman Stanley Fletcher|
Ronnie Barker as Fletcher.
|Porridge/Going Straight character|
|Portrayed by||Ronnie Barker
1978 (Going Straight)
2003 (Life Beyond the Box)
2009–10 (Porridge: The Stage Show)
|First appearance||"Prisoner and Escort (1973)|
|Last appearance||Life Beyond the Box: Norman Stanley Fletcher (2003)|
|Created by||Dick Clement and
Ian La Frenais
|Going Straight (1978)
Life Beyond the Box (2003)
He was sentenced to serve the particular stretch of 'porridge' detailed in the series due to a long and failing attempt to steal an articulated truck. The truck was full of alcohol. His plan was to drive the truck to a nearby field where he would leave the truck and make off with some of the booze. But he had no idea on how to drive the truck and ended up crashing into a garden. He was then arrested after the owner of the house called the police. He was arrested for robbery and dangerous driving. Several other offences were taken into consideration.
His tactics range from the practical (stealing pills from the prison doctor and eggs from the prison farmyard), to the symbolic (finding new and imaginative ways to stick two fingers up at Mackay and get away with it). In return, Mackay's frenzied, neurotic attempts to catch Fletch out, when fruitful, give the warder a level of smugness and satisfaction that is only accentuated by his charge's hostility and skulking.
Fletch is also surprised when this spell in prison finds him taking on the role of the father figure. It is left to him to help Warren when he needs a letter read or written, and to oversee new, younger inmates such as McClaren and Godber.
As Fletch's cellmate, Godber became a close associate, and is frequently involved in his various schemes. The doe-eyed, optimistic Brummie was the perfect sidekick for the grouchy, world-weary Londoner, and the banter between the two became one of the main attractions of the series.
This was best illustrated in the ambitious episode "A Night In", a bottle episode set entirely in relative darkness within the confines of their cell, with only the pair's conversation for entertainment.
Fletch is also manipulative, and can play upon the sympathies and weaknesses of people like the liberal warden, Mr Barrowclough, and the ineffectual prison governor to acquire more pleasant employment, accommodation or special privileges.
In early life Fletcher had fulfilled his post-war National Service in the late 1940s, including service in the Malayan Emergency. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps or RASC, which he refers to in army slang as "Run Away, Someone's Coming".
Upon release from prison Fletch decided to give up his criminal career. In the follow-up series, Going Straight, he took a job as a hotel night-porter, but found himself often tempted back into crime, although he resisted. His wife, Isobel, had left him, leaving him in sole charge of Raymond.
When last seen, in the mockumentary Life Beyond the Box: Norman Stanley Fletcher, Fletch was landlord of a pub in Muswell Hill, alongside his second wife, Gloria (an old flame briefly mentioned in Porridge).
In the 2016 sequel, also titled Porridge, it is revealed that Fletcher died circa 2011.
Personality and traits
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For a man of his age and poor education, Fletch speaks with confidence and a large vocabulary on a wide range of topics including politics, race relations, the justice system and society in general, and appears to possess a considerable degree of natural intellect. Although he is a tolerant man (he is friends with McClaren, a black man, and Lukewarm, a homosexual), he is often cynical about the world, and is generally pessimistic. For the most part his attitude never goes beyond simple complaining and playful teasing of Mr. Mackay, although Fletch occasionally shows a darker side which reflects his true mental state, usually when he is talking about his past. It is clear that he has not lived a happy or constructive life, and that his experiences in and out of prison have left him world-weary. The large amount of time he has spent in prison has left him feeling that he has wasted his life. In the final episode of Going Straight, he is convinced not to go back to crime after walking into a pet shop and seeing the animals in cages, reminding him of his time in prison. He struggles to adapt to life on the outside after his spell in Slade prison, and his frayed nerves have resulted in a quick temper, shown by how quick he is to shout at his daughter Ingrid. He is also something of a drinker - on one occasion, after sneaking away from an outdoor trip, he goes straight to a pub and drinks several pints of beer, one of which he downs in one. In Going Straight, he consumes several pints of beer and a few whisky chasers just on the train from Carlisle to London. In his hometown of Muswell Hill, he mentions an average day involving visiting four different pubs for a 'swift half'. This may be a coping mechanism, to cope with his painful memories and frightening experiences, or of course it could have been just because that is what men of his generation did in that era. He is upset that his wife Isobel has left him, and struggles to cope with the responsibility of holding his family together.
Fletch is a Tottenham Hotspur supporter: In one episode Fletch tells an inmate that while on compassionate leave he had "a sing song at the pub, a Sunday roast and watched Spurs win at home". However, in the movie version, it is revealed that he is a Leyton Orient supporter.