Benita Collings remembers John Hamblin

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Former Play School host Benita Collings has paid tribute to former co-host John Hamblin, who died this week at the age of 87.

Speaking to ABC she recalled, “He was great to work with. You never quite knew it was scripted … he knew the script, however, he was deliciously just a little bit off key at times, and that was lovely because it made him a very different presenter and not straight … it was great fun.”

Hamblin spent nearly 30 years as a Play School host, drawing the nickname “Naughty John” for his cheeky humour aimed at the grown ups watching.

Collings says while they didn’t socialise, their rapport on camera was genuine.

“We had our own lives, we had our partners, wives or husbands, whatever it was,” she explained.

“We always rehearsed Play School one week, and then you go home and learn the script, you learn your camera cuts and so you knew what camera was on at what time,…so when you came back to the studio, it was all sorted. I do remember the cameramen were gorgeous because if you were looking at the wrong camera, you looked up and looked at the camera, you’d see this arm coming out of the camera that you should be looking at pointing at it.

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“So – it was great fun. It was a joy to do.”

Asked about favourite moments working with Hamblin, she was hard-pressed to choose.

“I don’t know because there was never a sort of favourite moment …. with John you knew you had to be on your toes- ready for anything. He would make such a joy out of the script. That was the thing, it was a script you learnt and you came in and you did it,” she said.

“Oh my gosh, he would alter something just a tiny bit that it would throw you,  and you’d go with the flow. That was the joy of working with him.”

Like Collings, Hamblin was also busily working as a jobbing actor with shows such as Class of ’74, The Young Doctors, The Restless Years and The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain.

“Initially it was just like a job and I’m not putting it down, but it was a job and we often did other dramas and television and film and theatre and so on, and then came back and did some more Play Schools.

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“It wasn’t until some years down the track, I suddenly thought, ‘Hang on, this is actually having an impact on not only the children, but as you said the parents’, you know.”

Asked how she woukd remember Hamblin, Collings replied, “As somebody who was wicked, was funny, always there for you, you know, you never kind of went, ‘Oh, what is happening?’ You knew if you stumbled or forgot your line or something like that, he would pick up and continue on.

“(I have) very fond memories of him. And last night when I heard the news, it was a shock because you sort of think people just go on forever and they don’t.”

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