John Antrobus
Born (1933-07-02) 2 July 1933 (age 90)
Woolwich, London, England
  • Playwright
  • screenwriter
  • Comedy
  • drama
  • adventure
SpouseMargaret McCormick

John Arthur Antrobus (born 2 July 1933) is an English playwright[1] and screenwriter. He has written extensively for stage, screen, TV and radio, including the epic World War II play, Crete and Sergeant Pepper at the Royal Court. He authored the children's book series Ronnie, which includes Help! I am a Prisoner in a Toothpaste Factory.[2]

Early life

John Arthur Antrobus[3] was born at Woolwich, London.[4] His father was a regimental sergeant-major in the Royal Horse Artillery, and the family was stationed at the School of Artillery in Larkhill, on the edge of Salisbury Plain. After attending Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Selhurst Grammar School, Croydon, and King Edward VII Nautical College, London, where he was an apprentice deck officer in the Merchant Navy from 1950 to 1952,[4] Antrobus attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, serving with the East Surrey Regiment from 1952 to 1955,[5] but rebelled and dropped out of the Army.[2][6][7]


After leaving the Army, spending time also working as a supply teacher and waiter,[5] Antrobus pursued a future writing comedy, and went to Associated London Scripts (ALS), the writers' co-operative set up by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes.[8] Antrobus states "I met Spike in 1954 or 55. I had sent a sample script to Galton and Simpson and they took me on at Associated London Scripts". Antrobus and Milligan "wrote a couple of Goon Shows together. I wish I had done more of them with him but I wanted to be a playwright. I didn't realise they were golden times and how they gave life".[9] The two shows were The Spon Plague, and The Great Statue Debate, both broadcast in March 1958.[10][11][12][13]

At ALS, Antrobus also worked with Johnny Speight on The Frankie Howerd Show in 1956,[8] After contributing material to the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant (1958), he wrote his first movie screenplay: for Idol on Parade (1959), starring Anthony Newley.[8][14] During 1960 he worked with Milligan and Sykes in the second series of Sykes and A... (August- September 1960).[8] He was also a contributing writer to the television series The Army Game, in the 1958 and 1961 shows, along with Larry Stephens, Maurice Wiltshire, and Lew Schwarz in 1958, and Brad Ashton, Barry Took, Marty Feldman and Wilshire in 1961.[15] During the 1960s and 1970s, he provided scripts for television series as diverse as That Was the Week That Was,[6] Television Playhouse and Spike Milligan's Milligan in...[citation needed] Antrobus wrote for Milligan's last radio series, The Milligan Papers, a BBC Radio Collection released in 2002.[2] Milligan said he did not actually like Antrobus.[citation needed]

Antrobus' best known play is the surrealist The Bed-Sitting Room (1963) (co-written with Milligan).[16] A film version was released in 1969 and a sequel from 1983. His other plays include Cane of Honour (1965), Captain Oates' Left Sock (1969), An Apple A Day (1970) and City Delights (1978). In October 2005, Antrobus and Ray Galton (with whom he had collaborated on the 1986 sitcom Room at the Bottom and Get Well Soon from 1997) unveiled their play Steptoe and Son – Murder at Oil Drum Lane at the Theatre Royal, York. In 2010, Antrobus and Ray Galton's production of Not Tonight Caligula, originally written for Frankie Howerd, was recorded as a live radio play at The Leicester Square Theatre by The Wireless Theatre Company directed by Antrobus and starring Clive Greenwood in Howerd's role. Although largely retired, Antrobus still writes and is involved in fringe productions and talent scouting.

Personal life

In 1958, John Antrobus married Margaret née McCormick. They had two sons and a daughter.[4][17]

Writing credits

Production Notes Production company / Distributor
or Broadcaster
Son of Fred Associated-Rediffusion / ITV
Early to Braden
  • Unknown episodes (1957)
BBC Television
The April 8th Show (Seven Days Early) BBC Television
Carry On Sergeant Peter Rogers / Anglo-Amalgamated
Idol on Parade
  • Feature film (1959)
Warwick / Columbia
Jazz Boat Warwick / Columbia
Sykes and a...
  • "Sykes and a Library Book" (1960)
  • "Sykes and a Cheque Book" (1960)
BBC Television
The Army Game
  • "The Kindest Man in Britain" (1960)
Granada Television / ITV
Bootsie and Snudge
  • "The Cemetery" (1961)
Granada Television / ITV
ITV Television Playhouse
  • "The Missing Links" (1961)
Associated-Rediffusion / ITV
That Was the Week That Was
  • Unknown episodes (1962)
BBC Television
The Wrong Arm of the Law
  • Feature film (co-written with Len Heath and Ray Galton, 1963)
British Lion Films
Room at the Bottom
  • "A Show for Monty" (1964)
  • "It Came from Outer Hollywood" (1964)
  • "The Show That Died of Shame" (1964)
  • "A Job with the Other Lot" (1964)
ABC Weekend TV / ITV
A World of Comedy
  • "Don't Bank on It" (1965)
Rediffusion / ITV
The Big Job Peter Rogers / Anglo-Amalgamated
  • "Episode #1.4" (co-written with Neil Shand and Spike Milligan, 1969)
The Bed-Sitting Room
  • Feature film (1969)
Oscar Lewenstein / United Artists
The Dustbinmen
  • "Episode #3.7" (1970)
Granada Television / ITV
Oh In Colour
  • Unknown episodes (1970)
Some Matters of Little Consequence
  • Unknown episode (1971)
Ronnie Corbett in Bed
  • Sketch show (1971)
An Apple a Day
  • Television film (1971)
Milligan in... BBC2
Too Close for Comfort
  • "No Deposit, No Return" (1985)
D.L. Taffner / Metromedia for American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Last Laugh Before TV-am
  • Television film (1985)
Ravel Productions / Channel Four
The Ratties
  • 26 episodes (narration, 1987)
Central / ITV
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  • "The Impatient Patient (1987)
Michael Sloan Productions / Universal Television
Room at the Bottom
  • 13 episodes (co-written with Ray Galton, 1986–1988)
Yorkshire Television / ITV
The Dreamstone
  • "The Nightmare Stone" (co-written with Martin Gates, 1992)
  • "Albert's Ailment" (co-written with Martin Gates, 1992)
  • "Return of the Nightmare Stone" (co-written with Martin Gates, 1992)
Central / ITV
Carry On Columbus
  • Feature film (co-written with Dave Freeman, 1992)
Island World / Comedy House / Peter Rogers
Get Well Soon
  • 6 episodes (1997)

Awards and nominations

Year Award Work Category Result Reference
1970 Hugo Award The Bed-Sitting Room Best Dramatic Presentation (with Richard Lester, Charles Wood and Spike Milligan) Nominated


  1. ^ "Plays by John Antrobus". Doollee. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Antrobus, John (2002). Surviving Spike Milligan: A Voyage Through the Mind & Mirth of the Master Goon. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-246-12275-7.
  3. ^ "John Arthur ANTROBUS - Personal Appointments (free information from Companies House)".
  4. ^ a b c Contemporary Dramatists, ed. Kate Berney, St James Press, 1993, p. 19
  5. ^ a b Contemporary Dramatists, ed. James Vinson, St James Press, 1973, p. 36
  6. ^ a b McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7.
  7. ^ Herbert (1981) page 21 also mentions Sandhurst
  8. ^ a b c d McCann (2006) p. 156
  9. ^ Ventham, Maxine (2002). Spike Milligan: His Part In Our Lives. London: Robson. ISBN 1-86105-530-7. p. 68
  10. ^ McCann (2006) pp367-368
  11. ^ Antrobus (2002) pp. 16, 32
  12. ^ "The Goon Show Site - Script - The Spon Plague (Series 8, Episode 23)".
  13. ^ "The Goon Show Site - Script - The Great Statue Debate (Series 8, Episode 26)".
  14. ^ Antrobus (2002) pp.44
  15. ^ McCann (2006) pp. 350, 351. This article previously referred to him contributing to the spin-off show Bootsie and Snudge. However, McCann lists Antrobus amongst the writers for The Army Game, but not Bootsie and Snudge.
  16. ^ Milligan, Spike, & Antrobus, John (1973) The Bedsitting Room. Tandem: London. First published in Great Britain by Margaret & Jack Hobbs, 1970. Published by Universal-Tandem Publishing Co Ltd, 1972.
  17. ^ Ian Herbert, ed. (1981). "ANTROBUS, John". Who's Who in the Theatre. Vol. 1. Gale Research Company. p. 21. ISSN 0083-9833.