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Alan Igbon - An Obituary

Alan Igbon – Actor

Born May 29, 1952; died December 9, 2020

 

 Alan Igbon, who has died of pneumonia aged 68, was an actor who made his mark on television with charismatic swagger. He did this latterly through a short tenure in ITV soap, Coronation Street (2003), as Tony Stewart, the estranged father of regular character Jason Grimshaw.

 

Arguably Igbon’s most significant appearance, however, came in Alan Bleasdale’s play, The Black Stuff (1980) and its seismic five-part sequel, Boys from the Black Stuff (1982). Charting the fortunes of a gang of Liverpool labourers on the dole, all but one of the plays was written prior to Margaret Thatcher’s election as UK Prime Minister. They nevertheless chimed with a rise in unemployment and a calculated ideological assault on working class communities.

 

Igbon played Loggo Logmond, the cocksure cynic of the group, who works the system, even as he mouthily squares up to the authorities. While Igbon appeared in all five episodes, Loggo’s personal travails weren’t showcased individually as other characters were. Michael Angelis as Chrissie Todd, Tom Georgeson as Dixie Dean and Bernard Hill as an iconic Yosser Hughes all received their own stand alone episode. Igbon’s presence as Loggo nevertheless remained a key part of the collective dynamic that drove the series.

 

As Bleasdale told the Liverpool Echo in 2002 in an interview marking the programme’s twentieth anniversary, “I thought Alan Igbon's performance was so underrated. It wasn't an easy part to play. Here was a character who could only get through his problems by putting a brick wall around himself. He WAS hurt and he WAS upset. But he didn't want to articulate it. He was going to pretend nothing had happened. He would never show his true feelings.”

 

Igbon first came to prominence alongside Ray Winstone and Phil Daniels in Scum (1979). Alan Clarke’s big screen version of Roy Minton’s script about the violent world of a young offenders institution had originally been made for BBC TV’s Play for Today strand two years earlier, but was withdrawn from the schedules following internal pressure regarding its violent content. 

 

In the film, Igbon played Meakin, a street-smart inmate, who, like Loggo, works the system while continuing to question it. In one of the film’s key moments, Meakin launches an angry tirade after he learns that his best friend has killed himself in another prison. One of Scum’s most iconic images is of Igbon as Meakin, putting two fingers up to an institution about to explode around him. 

 

Alan Olanrewaju Igbon was born in Hulme, the inner city district of Manchester blighted by post World War Two planning decisions, but which grew into a strong community and a ferment of local grassroots artistic activity. 

 

Igbon’s mother Mary was Irish, and his father Lawrence was Nigerian. Igbon grew up loving music and art and boxed in over 60 fights before training as an actor in London. Back in Manchester, he hung out at Moss Side’s multi-cultural Reno club. As a black working class actor in the 1970s, work didn’t come easy, though he inspired other artists who followed in his wake. Both former Brookside actor Louis Emerick and Moss Side born musician and composer Barry Adamson paid tribute to him on Twitter.

 

Early stage work came at Liverpool Playhouse in the title role of a Toxteth youth who believes himself to be a descendent of the famed sea captain in Philip Martin’s play, Nelson Lives in Liverpool 8 (1974). 

 

Igbon’s early TV appearances included a brief first run in Coronation Street in 1974. Igbon played a soldier who helps fellow squaddie Martin find his mother, Bet Lynch, who had him adopted. Igbon returned to Weatherfield the following year to break the news to Bet that Martin had been killed in a car crash. While in the Rovers’ Return, he was engaged by the pub’s regulars in a conversation about war, religion and the conflict in Northern Ireland.  

 

Igbon appeared in Crown Court (1975), and in a couple of episodes of sitcom, Life Begins at Forty (1978).  He played a small role in Alan Bennett’s TV play, Me! I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1978), and appeared as a student in Willy Russell’s ITV Playhouse, Daughters of Albion (1979).

 

Igbon was a policeman in mixed race marriage comedy, Mixed Blessings (1980), and had a small role in Babylon (1980), Franco Rosso’s portrait of racial tension and police brutality against a reggae sound system backdrop. He also appeared in an episode of The Professionals (1980).

 

Following Boys from the Blackstuff, Igbon acted in three episodes of Channel 4’s first sitcom, No Problem! (1983). Scripted by Farrukh Dhondy and Mustapha Matura of the Black Theatre Co-operative, it was also the first TV comedy to focus on the black British community. Igbon went on to star in The Front Line (1984-1985) as Sheldon, the Rastafarian half brother of Paul Barber’s policeman elder sibling.

 

Igbon worked with Bleasdale again, appearing in all seven episodes of G.B.H. (1991) as Teddy, the ever-present factotum of Robert Lindsay’s crazed populist city council leader, Michael Murray. On stage, Igbon appeared at the National Theatre and on tour in Bleasdale’s high rise set play, On the Ledge (1993).

 

On radio, Igbon appeared in Monday (1993), Liverpool writer Jeff Young’s contribution to serial, The Crack. Igbon played Eddie, aka Edward the Confessor, a petty thief with ambitions for something bigger. 

Igbon worked again with Angelis in the 2002 revival of Auf Wiedersehn Pet (2002), the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais scripted comedy drama about British construction workers. Igbon played Addey, the bodyguard of crooked nightclub owner Mickey Startup. 

 

Igbon’s second stint in Coronation Street was his last regular role. As with everything else he appeared in, he inhabited his character with Manchester attitude aplenty.

 

He is survived by his partner, Sam, his son, Maximillian, his sister, Brenda, and his brother, Lawrence.


The Herald, February 24th, 2021

 

ends

 

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