Unmissable: Mark Rylance may have an Oscar, but to many children (and their parents) he’ll always be Flop

Flop (voiced by Mark Rylance) and Bing. Photo: BBC

Flop (voiced by Mark Rylance) and Bing. Photo: BBC - Credit: Archant

He may now be an Oscar winner and ready to take on the box office as the star of this summer’s film adaptation of the BFG, but to many children and their parents he is probably more recognisable for a rather more low-key role.

Mark Rylance with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also voices Flop for the BBC child

Mark Rylance with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also voices Flop for the BBC children's show Bing. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire - Credit: PA

After a stellar career on stage and screen stretching back more than 30 years, Mark Rylance deservingly won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at last month’s glittering ceremony.

His award-winning part as Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies capped off a career-defining year which also featured his turn in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, playing Thomas Cromwell with incredible poise and great subtlety.

As a new parent I’m slowly being introduced to new things every day, and struggling to fit in much TV viewing of any form, and trips to the cinema are well and truly at the bottom end of the priority list.

However, part of this period of discovery has been my reintroduction to the world of children’s TV.

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The options are vast (with dozens of dedicated digital channels ranging from Baby TV to Nickelodeon) and although my daughter’s only six months old, from time to time something on in the background can catch her eye and leave her transfixed.

It’s easy and completely non-threatening to have the CBeebies channel on at low volume in the corner of the room as she has a roll around on the floor or enjoys a good old go in her bouncer.

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She seems to like a bit of In the Night Garden at the end of her day, although is just as likely to become distracted by her own toes and go in for a good chew.

But the other morning a familiar voice started coming out of the TV, emanating from a floppy anthropomorphic rabbit character.

It was the soft, authoritative tones of Mark Rylance, and the show was Bing.

Bing is a British CGI animation series on CBeebies aimed at pre-school children that follows a bunny – Bing – and his friends, each of whom are accompanied by a “carer”, in Bing’s case it is Flop, a toy rabbit voiced by Rylance.

The BBC says: “Bing is three years old and like all three-year-olds is energetic, playful and engaged with the world around him. As he encounters new experiences, a combination of enthusiasm and inexperience can sometimes lead to disappointment. Bing’s constant companion is his carer Flop (voiced by Rylance).”

This is an actor of supreme skill, who has won Tony, BAFTA, Olivier and now Academy awards, turning his hand to voicing an diminutive toy in a pre-school programme.

Mikael Shields, Bing producer and CEO of Acamar Films, said adapting Ted Dewan’s Bing books for the screen had really been a “lengthy meditation on how to skillfully love a young child”. He added: “It’s become deeply personal for each member of our team. Working with Mark Rylance to bring Flop to life has been a glorious highlight.”

Rylance clearly sees the value of children’s television and the part it can play in the teaching of valuable life lessons at an early age.

He said: “I love the energy of young people, as well as the entirety of the team involved, who are very true and imaginative and kind, so working on Bing has been a wonderful experience.

“Voicing Flop gave me a second chance to be a good parent, the experience reminded me of many things and people I had forgot which was sad sometimes but ultimately very enriching.”

His next big job will be another voice role – providing the voice of the BFG in Spielberg’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl Classic, which is out in July. I doubt I’ll get to see it, unfortunately.

However Bing seems to be on pretty much every day, at least twice, on the CBeebies channel, and while I wouldn’t exactly recommend it to those without very young children, Rylance completists may find it something of a curiosity.

What do you think of children’s TV? Email me at elliot.furniss@archant.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss

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