A talented character actor, Christopher Stanton will be best remembered as the slightly daffy headmaster in the long-running CBBC children’s spy series MI High.
Appearing in all 88 episodes, he played headmaster Kenneth Flatley – on the surface easy-going but with a determined if slightly obsessive streak, a description that could easily have been applied to Stanton himself who, acting apart, immersed himself in a dazzling number of sports including real tennis, triathlon, swimming, rowing and cycling. He was also an enthusiastic authority on all things filmic, Orson Welles being one of his favourites.
Born in London and educated at St Paul’s School in Barnes, Stanton studied English and Drama at Hull University. After graduating, he worked in several theatres as an assistant stage manager or deputy stage manager before moving to the BBC in 1983 as floor assistant, assistant floor manager, then location manager.
What he once described as “the dream job” working on “everything from Blue Peter to Top of the Pops, Grandstand and Newsnight, it was appearing in the topical comedy satire NewsRevue in London’s Little Venice in 1988 that convinced him acting was where he belonged.
But it was in panto that he really excelled. Although fans still remembered him years later in Only Fools and Horses with David Jason (1988), watching him in recent years was to see a master at work.
Stanton had immaculate timing, a perfect understanding of comedy pacing and always a sly but affectionate way of sending up a line or delivering it straight, so that it landed in your lap like a warm puppy.
“A friend once described me as the ‘John Lewis’ of the acting profession – ‘never knowingly underacted’,” he once admitted. But whether a wicked uncle in Ipswich, compering one of his beloved swim galas sartorially dapper in county check, or writing lyrics for a wonderfully funny ode to lido swimming, Stanton was the epitome of gentlemanly style and fun: big-hearted, witty, wise, erudite, gallant and kind. He will be sorely missed.
Christopher Stanton was born on June 25, 1957, and died on March 9, at the age of 62, from mesothelioma.