You’d know him if you saw him, but you’d certainly know him if you heard him. For some four decades, the voice of PATRICK ALLEN was among the most well-known in Britain.
His booming, authoritative tones made him a natural choice for voiceover work and, if the worst had happened, he would indeed have been the last set of pipes we ever heard.
But reassuring though his toffee-brown tonsils were, we’re glad it wasn’t.
Allen was born in Malawi before being evacuated to Canada where he stayed during his formative years. He moved to the UK in the 1950s and became a hard-working character actor, excelling in square-jawed macho roles in tales of derring-do that were popular at the time, such as the adventure series Crane.
Though he continued to act as he got older, Allen increasingly picked up work from voiceovers.
He was blessed with fantastic diction and an ability to make even his shopping list sound authoritative – qualities that led ultimately to umpteen adverts, most famously Barratt Homes, and endless public information films.
But he wasn’t just hired for the quality of his voice. Of equal attraction was his immense professionalism. Simon Bates once recalled that he booked Allen to read the whole of Jurassic Park on the radio, only for the actor to rattle it off in an hour and a half, changing character throughout and not making a single fluff.
In later life Allen even set up his own voice-over studio, such was his skill at the form.
But one of his most famous roles was in something we weren’t even supposed to see. These were the uber-scary Protect and Survive films, intended to educate the nation about how to prepare for nuclear attack.
Thankfully they have never (yet) needed to be officially broadcast. However even Allen’s reassuring and authoritative tones couldn’t make the ideas of shitting in a bucket and wrapping a corpse in cellophane anything less than terrifying. Far more fun was the re-recorded version he did for Two Tribes.
In later life Allen was happy to send himself up. He narrated The Black Adder, provided voiceovers for The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and bellowed demented slogans for E4.
He died in 2006, since when a host of other people have tried to replicate his style. But for the nearest thing we’ve surely ever had to the voice of God, Patrick Allen demands respect.
THE DEFINING ROLE: Protect and Survive illustrates Patrick’s marvellous ability to deliver any line, no many how appalling; however a nicer example of his work remains his many years spent as the face, and voice, of Barratt Homes.