To mark 45 fun-filled years of the iconic ABC children’s show, Craig Bennett catches up with our favourite presenters (plus Big Ted and Little Ted, of course!).
There are loads of laughs, hugs, a birthday cake, outrageous stories and a rowdy rendition of the famous theme song as Play School’s favourite stars reunite to celebrate the TV classic’s 45th anniversary.
“I can’t believe Play School has hit middle age! What a milestone, and how time flies,” says Lorraine Bayly, one of the original hosts. “It seems like yesterday I was singing the catchy song about ‘bears in there, and chairs as well’, turning egg cartons into caterpillars and playing with the likes of Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty and Jemima.
“My 12 years with the show are a true career highlight. I loved every moment, and if The Sullivans hadn’t come along, I’d still be there now,” enthuses the actress, now 74. Play School first lit up our TV screens in 1966. More than 40 years on, it is averaging more than a million viewers per week and has employed around 110 actors as presenters. Don Spencer, who was with the show an amazing 31 years, also hosted the UK version.
“Play School was a British concept and I was blessed to have hosted both versions. I notched up 17 years co-presenting Play School on the BBC,” says Don. “It was a sheer joy to work on, and I think the secret to its tremendous success is that it was – and still is – so beautifully scripted. We didn’t just flop in and make it up, although there was always room for plenty of ad libs.
“And as the show was taped as if it were live, things invariably went wrong – from animals running amok to the set falling down!”Benita Collings, a regular for 30 years, says the magic of the show is its broad appeal. “Millions grew up watching Play School, and it wasn’t just the tots. John Hamblin was the king of double entendres, and the mums and dads loved it. They felt he was secretly winking at them, which he was, with his often outrageously risque humour,” admits Benita.
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