... and this is my friend Mr Laurel

 

 

Jeffrey Holland was born and brought up in Walsall, in the heart of England’s Midlands.

 

Educated at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Jeff had no real aspirations to act until his late teens when a friend suggested they go to local drama group for something to do. Here, Jeff quickly fell victim to the acting bug and as a result, he subsequently joined The Minster Players Amateur Dramatic Society where, at the age of nineteen, Jeff decided it was to be an actor’s life for him. He went on to formally train at The Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art and made his professional debut as Frank Mullins, the Judges clerk in Henry Cecil’s play No Fear Or Favour at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham in 1967 appearing alongside Richard Greene of Robin Hood fame, Dermot Walsh and Walter Fitzgerald.

 

Four and a half years of repertory work followed at The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry during which time Jeff gained a vast amount of experience in all forms of performing genre from Shakespeare and drama to comedy, musicals and pantomime.

 

Also during this time, Jeff married his first wife, actress Eleanor Hartopp. The family was completed by the arrival of a daughter Lucy and son Sam.

 

Next came seasons at the Chichester Festival in which he played the Pastrycook and Gascony Cadet in Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac and the Edinburgh Festival where he portrayed the two Shakespearean roles of Snug the Joyner in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Stephano in The Tempest before his first encounter with London’s West End and an introduction to the now legendary comedy writers David Croft and Jimmy Perry. In the autumn of 1975, Jeff joined the cast of the musical stage version of Croft and Perry’s hit sitcom Dad’s Army in which he took over the role of Cockney spiv Private Walker. Although at the time this did not appear to be Jeff’s big break, it did prove a major catalyst for his being cast in future Croft and Perry roles which ultimately did lead to stardom.

 

Another vital turning point in Jeff’s career came during the big freeze of 1980 while Jeff was appearing in the pantomime Robinson Crusoe at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. Leading the all star cast was the much loved comedian Frankie Howerd who slipped and fell on some ice breaking his hip while on the way to the theatre to perform. As a result, Jeff found himself taking over Frankie’s role of Billy Crusoe at the eleventh hour to much critical acclaim making Frankie’s misfortune, quite literally ‘the break’ Jeff had been waiting for. Further leading theatre roles followed including West End productions and pantomime in which Jeff is now heralded as one of the UK’s top five leading Dames.

 

His TV debut came in the form of a small role in the popular Saturday night police drama series Dixon of Dock Green and was quickly followed by a guest appearance in some episodes of the original ATV soap Crossroads. Other performances of note came in The Mayor of Casterbridge with Alan Bates, Richard II, Henry V, Secret Army and several supporting roles in Croft and Perry’s Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum which undoubtedly contributed to Jeff’s  invitation to audition for the role of Spike in Hi de Hi. Jeff’s creation of the lovable, well meaning and somewhat naive camp comedian, was to make him a household name. He went on to follow Spike with the completely contrasting and wonderfully pompous and pious portrayal of the stuffy footman James Twelvetrees in the equally popular Croft and Perry sitcom You Rang M’Lord and the starchy station master Cecil Parkin from the David Croft, Richard Spendlove series Oh Dr Beeching.

 

On the light entertainment front, Jeff has made regular appearances on such shows as Russ Abbott’s Madhouse, the Kenny Everrett Show and The Les Dennis Laughter Show, creating many memorable characters and establishing himself as a renowned impressionist not least for his interpretation of HRH the Prince of Wales.

 

Radio performances are many and varied and include regular spots on such shows as Radio 2’s Russ Abbott Show, Week Ending, and Goon Again, the 50th anniversary celebration of The Goon Show in which Jeff assumed the mantle of the late, great Peter Sellers. Jeff is particularly proud to have taken part in this production and considers it among his greatest achievements to date.

 

Touring is an integral part of any stage actor’s career and Jeff has toured both nationally and to exotic foreign climbs, in a variety of productions such as the Ray Cooney farces Run for your Wife, It Runs in the Family, Caught in the Net and Funny Money, Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking and Confusions, Arnold Ridley’s The Ghost Train and Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hilarious musical comedy, By Jeeves. It was during one such tour that Jeff met and ultimately married his second wife and soul mate, actress Judy Buxton.

 

More recently, Jeff has completed a number of UK tours. First as the Reverend Humphrey in the hilarious Philip King farce See How They Run which he immediately followed with the hugely successful eight month, 25th Anniversary stage tour of Allo Allo. Playing alongside wife Judy as Michelle of the Resistance and Vicki Michelle reprising her original TV role as waitress Yvette, the show afforded Jeff the opportunity of performing in the only Croft, Perry, Lloyd collaborative production that had hitherto eluded him. It also resulted in him receiving great critical acclaim for his portrayal of Rene.

 

Following his exploits as war hero Rene Artois, Jeff was delighted to star as George Findley in Victoria Wood's play Talent. Directed by the author herself, the show previewed at The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness before transferring to The Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark where it enjoyed a successful two month run.

 

Equally acclaimed were a national tour as Peter Bridges in Ron Aldridge's It's Never Too Late in which he also starred alongside wife Judy Buxton, as the tyrannical Rafe Crompton in the classic Spring and Port Wine again with Judy, as George in Guilty Secret and Mort and Marvin in Neil Simon’s California Suite.

 

His latest TV role was as tax inspector Clive Drinkwater in the ever popular soap, Coronation Street and he also appeared as the tenacious journalist Dick Holland in the film version of Ray Cooney’s hit stage farce, Run For Your Wife.

 

In 2014 he appearred at The Menier Chocolate Factory as Jeffrey, the hotel manager in another Cooney farce, Two Into One while, on his days off, fulfilling a lifetime ambition of playing the iconic Stan Laurel in his own one-man show …and this is my friend Mr Laurel, a one act play he co-wrote with award-winning writer Gail Louw. Jeff took the show to the Edinburgh festival where it received rave reviews and sell-out audiences.

 

Jeff is currently celebrating an amazing 47 years in show business.

 

When not performing, Jeff is in great demand to appear at events such as the recent Hi de Hi Reunion in Dovercourt, Essex and the forthcoming 40th Anniversary Dad’s Army Reunion. He also regularly supports a number of charity events and for two years served as Vice-President of The Heritage Foundation, hosting a number of events alongside President Vicki Michelle.

 

In what little spare time Jeff and Judy have together, they like nothing better than to travel on short breaks around Europe. Jeff also loves to read science fantasy books and freely admits to being a major Star Trek fan owning a complete video library of the series.