Staging a physical assault

A very interesting email arrived in my inbox three weeks ago from English actor Dean Harris. This is an account of his experience in his own words.

“It happened to me in the early ’70s in Canada.

I was in a production of Peer Gynt,  playing three or four small parts. Because I was a visiting actor from the UK, I was interviewed for the local newspaper and had a decent sized article with a photograph. The leading actor did not take it well. He felt that it should have been him.

There was a scene in the play where a group of young men (I was one of them) ridiculed Peer Gynt and a scuffle ensued. In every performance, the leading actor took the opportunity of deliberately punching me in the face. 

If memory serves, it was eight shows a week for three or four weeks.

With hindsight, I really cannot think why I did not report his behaviour to the management but I didn’t. In over forty years in the business, I have never been so pleased to see the back of another  actor.”

This is an extraordinary story of deliberate physical assault, which went unreported. Most of the bullying experiences people tell me about feature psychological manipulation and sometimes aggression and verbal abuse. Personally, I have never encountered someone who was regularly physically abused outside of the domestic violence or school bullying arenas.

It was a cunning move on the part of this person to use an appropriate moment on stage to physically damage someone he believed to be his rival – sports activities and playground games have, of course, been used in just this way.

If Dean had spoken up it’s possible he might have been ridiculed for claiming he was being injured in a ‘staged’ fight scene, and just plain disbelieved. Perhaps that’s what prevented him from doing so.

Dean Harris is one of the lucky people who went on to have a successful career as an actor with many, many television appearances to his credit over the last four decades. It’s interesting to me, though, that he still remembers the experience after all this time. Bullying and other kinds of abuse can be devastating to individuals, affecting them a great deal and for a long time, as is all too clear from current investigations.
Photo courtesy of Dean Harris


Dean began his acting career in 1966; the early years spent working in weekly and fortnightly repertory theatres, Canadian stock, touring the UK, Canada and Zimbabwe and six months at The National Theatre. His two West End appearances are Judas in GODSPELL opposite Robert Lindsay at Wyndham’s and Dadda Kemp in ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE opposite Alison Steadman at The Arts.

Dean has appeared in 50 television dramas and comedies, including THE SWEENEY, playing his first leading villain as a psychopathic bank robber. TV series are BLOOD MONEY in which Dean played Sgt Quirk and from which Michael Denison’s and Dean’s characters were taken and given their own espionage series called COLD WARRIOR; THE FOURTH ARM as George Macklin – based on a real life safe-cracker released from prison to aid the WWII effort; HOWARD’S WAY as Curtis Jaeger, an animal rights militant and, for children, naive Mr Boyes in BAD BOYES and environment polluter Mr Belcher in EARTH WARP.

Films include CRAZE with Jack Palance, IVANHOE with James Mason, NOT A PENNY MORE, NOT A PENNY LESS with Ed Asner and FOOL’S GOLD with Sean Bean.

Dean has three children and has now put his career on hold to be a full time carer for his parents who share dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The details of this case are printed with the full permission of the individual concerned.


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