O'Brien, Maureen 1943-
O'BRIEN, Maureen 1943-
PERSONAL: Born June 29, 1943, in Liverpool, England; daughter of Leo and Eileen (Connolly) O'Brien; married Michael B. Moulds (a photographer). Education: Attended London Central School of Speech and Drama, 1961-64.
ADDRESSES: Home—Lady Margaret Road, Kentish Town, London, England. Agent—Kate Feast Management, 10 Primrose Hill Studios, Fitzroy Road, London NW1 8TR, England.
CAREER: Actress, playwright, and mystery writer. Actress in stage productions, including (as Lady Mortimer) Henry VI, Part I, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, England, 1964; (as Beauty) Beauty and the Beast, Hampstead Theatre Club, London, England, 1965; (as Celia) Volpone, Garrick Theatre, London, 1967; (as Sibley Sweetland) The Farmer's Wife, Chichester Festival, Chichester, England, 1967; (as Dorinda) The Beaux' Strategem, Chichester Festival, 1967; (as Miranda) The Tempest, Chichester Festival, 1968; (as Gladys) The Skin of Our Teeth, Chichester Festival, 1968; (as Isabelle) Ring around the Moon, Haymarket Theatre, London, England, 1968; (as Portia) The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, 1970; (as Imogen) Cymbeline, Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, 1970; (as Rana) Arms and the Man, Theatre Royal, Windsor, England, 1972; (as Emilia) The Director of the Opera, Chichester Festival, 1973, Greenwich Theatre, London, 1974; Rape, Basement Theatre, London, 1974; (as Molly) The Iron Harp, ICA Theatre, London, 1974; (as Vivie) Mrs. Warren's Profession, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, England, 1975; Woodpainting, Young Vic Theatre, London, 1975; (as Rosalind) As You Like It, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 1976; (as Evelyn Daly) Waters of the Moon, Chichester Festival, Chichester, 1977; (as Leotine) 13 Rue de l'Amour, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, England, 1977; (as Ann) Treats, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 1977; (as Beth) Confession Fever, King's Head Theatre, London, 1977; Six Characters in SearchofanAuthor, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 1978; (as Levidulcia) The Athiest's Tragedy, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 1979; The Merchant of Venice, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1980; Getting In, Islington, England, 1984; and Candida, Arts Theatre, London, 1988; also appeared in plays The Breadman, Othello, The Master Builder, The Garden Girls, Dressing Up, The Archbishop's Ceiling, Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale, Womberan and Clients, Babylon Has Fallen, Terra Nova, Exiles, Duet for One, Citizen Ilyushin, The Relapse, Just a Social Visit, The Seagull, Beauty and the Beast, and Founding Season.
Actress in films, including (as Joan) She'll Be Wearing Pink Pajamas, 1984; (as Natalya) Zina, 1985; (as Mrs. John Lawrence) The Land Girls, Gramercy Pictures, 1988; (as Vicki; archive footage) Doctor Who: The Missing Years, 1998; (as Vicki) Doctor Who: The Crusade, 1999; (as Dollie) The Closer You Get (also known as American Woman), Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2000; and (as Mrs. Smythe) The Blind Date, 2000. Also appeared in films A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mr. Dickens of London, Mummy Mummy, Nocture, Untitled Irish Comedy, and Ordinary Decent Criminal. Actress in television series, including (as Vicki) Doctor Who, 1964-65; (as Alayne: The Whiteoaks of Jalna, 1972; (as Morgan LeFay) The Legend of King Arthur,Public Broadcasting Service, 1985; (as Morgan LeFay) King Arthur, syndicated, 1987; and (as Elizabeth Straker) Casualty, 1987. Actress in the television programs Taste (also known as Thirty-Minute Theatre: Taste), 1967; The Lost Boys (miniseries; also known as J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys), 1978; On the Shelf, 1984; (as Sister Bridget) The Sculptress, 1996; (as Lady of Edinburgh) A Royal Scandal, 1996; Falling for a Dancer, 1998; Le Medecin Malgre Lui; Steve; Light Blue; The Double Agent; The New Life; The Gift of Life; Victorian Courtesan; Squirrels; The Duchess of Duke Street; The Serpent's Son; Tales of the Unexpected; The Doll's House; C25OH; Watching; Head over Heels; The Bill; Taggart; The Pan Loaf; Cracker; Jonathan Creek; Heartbeat; and McReady and Daughter. Former storyteller on BBC-1 children's show Jackanory; frequent performer of radio plays on BBC Radio 4.
Close-up on Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Deadly Reflection, Headline (London, England), 1993.
Mask of Betrayal, Constable (London, England), 1998.
Dead Innocent, Constable (London, England), 1999.
Revenge, Little, Brown (London, England), 2001.
Unauthorized Departure, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
The Great Gobstopper Show (also known as The Clowns), 1977.
Also author of plays Going On and The Cutting.
SIDELIGHTS: British actress Maureen O'Brien first entered British consciousness as Vicki on the cult classic television show Doctor Who in the mid-1960s. Throughout her twenties and thirties O'Brien was a seemingly permanent fixture on British stages, performing at the prestigious Chichester Festival and in London. Over the years O'Brien also had other roles on television, became a storyteller for the BBC's Radio 4, and appeared in a few films, but she still found herself with time on her hands. So, to fill the time between parts, she turned to writing mystery novels.
O'Brien's novels are set in Kentish Town, the neighborhood of London in which she and her husband live. They center around the character of John Bright, a detective investigator with the Kentish Town police. In Mask of Betrayal, actress Kate Creech receives a telephone call from Bright telling her that a badly decomposed body has been found in her bathtub in her home in Kentish Town. Creech has been away in Coventry for the past seven weeks, playing the title role in the Greek tragedy Medea, and it appears as if the woman's body has been in the tub about that long. The body is so rotted that Creech cannot identify it, but she suspects that it may be one of her friends. Creech does not tell Bright about her suspicions, however, because Creech wants to discourage him from interrogating her friends and disrupting their lives. As Creech searches for this friend by herself, Bright follows her, hoping that she will lead him to the killer. These two characters "should both be on the side of the angels," Frances Hickey noted in a review for Tangled Web, and it is the fact that they are trying to deceive each other "as much as the excitement of the pursuit and final revelation that gives the story its constant tension."
O'Brien was inspired to write her fourth novel, Revenge, when she saw the headline "Gangland Shooting in Kentish Town" in the newspaper. A murder witness was killed to prevent him from testifying in court about that crime, and the shooting happened only a few streets from O'Brien's home. In Revenge, professional gardener Jude Craig is having an affair with one of her clients, Lee Han. One night, after Craig slips out of Han's apartment, it is set on fire and Han is killed. Craig is hesitant to tell the truth about her relationship with Han, because she doesn't want her husband, Dan, to know that she has been unfaithful to him. Bright suspects that Craig might have killed Han, but he also knows that Han had many other enemies: he did investigative journalism as a freelance reporter, and some of his articles displeased certain criminals, including ones with connections to the worldwide gangs that operate out of Hong Kong.
O'Brien has received some assistance from the Kentish Town police in making her books as realistic as possible: they allow her to hang around the station and observe what she can about how they attempt to solve crimes. "I can't bear the idea of someone reading [my book] and thinking 'hmm she's not quite got that right,'" O'Brien told Amanda Blinkhorn of the Hampstead & Highgate Express. However, O'Brien also has a "dread of people skimming through it—going 'yeah, yeah, yeah,'" she continued, so she is careful to cut out details which do not help to move the story forward. "As a result Revenge is not only readable but also hugely believable, laced, rather than packed, with detail that shrieks realism," Blinkhorn wrote.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 33, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
New Statesman, October 3, 1980, Benedict Nightingale, review of The Merchant of Venice, p. 29; April 27, 1984, Paul Allen, review of Getting In, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, July 28, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of Close-up on Death, p. 208.
Times Literary Supplement, January 22, 1988, Neil Taylor, review of Candida, p. 86; January 29, 1988, John James, review of Candida, p. 30.
Variety, February 2, 1998, Emanuel Levy, review of The Land Girls, pp. 30-31.
Casualty Files,http://www.casualty.me.uk/ (February 14, 2003), "Actress: Maureen O'Brien."
Hampstead & Highgate Express,http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/ (February 14, 2003), Amanda Blinkhorn, "Maureen's Home Truths."
Radio Wales Web site,http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/ (February 14, 2003), Phil Rickman, review of Revenge.
Tangled Web,http://www.twbooks.co.uk/ (February 14, 2003), Frances Hickey, review of Mask of Betrayal; review of Revenge.*