Some severe memory loss here, but let’s give it a go!
- Andy Capp – Aldwych Theatre, London, 4th November 1982
Billed as The New Musical, which was always going to get old eventually, Andy Capp was inspired by the Daily Mirror cartoon of the same name that first appeared in 1957 and is still going today, despite original artist Reg Smythe having died in 1998. Book and lyrics were by Trevor Peacock – whom I’d recently seen in Hobson’s Choice – and music and lyrics were by Newcastle’s very own Alan Price. Mr Price also appeared in it, as a kind of Everyman narrator – a bit of a forerunner to Blood Brothers’ narrator character – and Andy was played by the inimitable Tom Courtenay with huge bravado and unswerving cheek. I can’t remember much about the show itself, nor the music; but I do remember enjoying it hugely and also thinking that the performance by Val McLane as the long suffering Florrie was worth the ticket price alone.
- The Real Thing – Strand Theatre, London, 9th November 1982
Tom Stoppard’s newest play had an engaging star cast led by Felicity Kendal and Roger Rees, as well as Polly Adams and Jeremy Clyde, a direct descendant of the Duke of Wellington. A clever examination of the balance between reality and fiction, it’s one of Stoppard’s best works and was hugely successful. I enjoyed it a lot!
- Windy City – Victoria Palace, London, 19th November 1982
Tony Macaulay and Dick Vosburgh’s musical adaptation of the old newspaper hacks’ play The Front Page, was given a glamorous, no-holds-barred production by Peter Wood, and starred Dennis Waterman as Hildy Johnson and Anton Rodgers as newspaper editor Walter Burns. An officially fabulous cast included Jeff Shankley, Matt Zimmermann, Neil McCaul, Victor Spinetti, Diane Langton, Shaun Curry and Amanda Redman, which is where she and Mr Waterman first met and got to know each other quite well.
It spawned an excellent cast album that I still play occasionally, my favourite songs being the opening number Hey Hallelujah and a wistful ballad that closes the show, Water under the Bridge. I note that my Front Stalls ticket cost £10 which was the most I’d ever paid to see a show – the equivalent of £10 today is £25. That just goes to show how the cost of theatre tickets has rocketed. Terrific show – many happy memories of it (and of enjoying the songs over the last forty years).
- The Witch of Edmonton – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Pit, Barbican Centre, London, December 1982
I went with my friends Mike and Lin to see two shows performed by the RSC in The Pit – the only two occasions I’ve been to that theatre. I have very fleeting memories of the two productions. The first, The Witch of Edmonton, by Dekker, Ford and Rowley, is a savage tragicomedy dating from 1621 about pauper Elizabeth Sawyer, accused of witchcraft. My programme includes a piece of straw which I think I collected off the floor at the end of the show. Don’t ask me for any more details about what happened! Shame I can’t remember more, as the cast included Harriet Walter, Robert Eddison, Juliet Stevenson, Miriam Karlin and James Fleet.
- The Twin Rivals – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Pit, Barbican Centre, London, 4th December 1982.
The second RSC show we saw in The Pit was George Farquhar’s less well-known Restoration Comedy The Twin Rivals, which I remember as being a joyously funny, and a complete triumph – but, again, I’m short on details. A very similar cast to the Witch of Edmonton, plus Mike Gwilym and Dexter Fletcher, Roger Allam and Jane Carr.
- Opera Gala Night – London Concert Orchestra at the Barbican Hall, London, 29th January 1983.
I must have been swayed by promotional material I had picked up at the Pit to buy a ticket for this concert, which I think was probably only the second classical concert I had ever attended. The London Concert Orchestra was conducted by Alexander Faris, who I would have known then as being the composer of the Upstairs Downstairs theme. Valerie Masterson was the soprano soloist, and I can see that it was a wonderful programme of Opera’s Greatest Hits. However, I regret that I can barely remember the occasion at all!
- 84 Charing Cross Road – Ambassadors Theatre, London, 1st February 1983.
James Roose-Evans’ stage adaptation of Helene Hanff’s highly popular book of the time was a charming, gentle comedy but it sure packed an emotional punch. Doreen Mantle was excellent as Helene, and Ronnie Stevens also gave a brilliant performance as Frank, the antiquarian bookseller with whom she struck up a singularly fascinating penfriendship, but who sadly died before she was able to meet him. I think this was already on at least its second cast by the time I saw it. Very enjoyable, and surprisingly teary.
- Trafford Tanzi – Mermaid Theatre, London, March 1983
I remember the Mermaid being transformed into a wrestling ring for this knockabout, battle-of-the-sexes play about the fearless Tanzi pitted against arch-rival Dean Rebel. Shamelessly feminist (all the promotional material described it as such), it was an exciting and engrossing play that made you think hard about the subject matter and was probably a little uncomfortable for a 22 year old chap who probably hadn’t analysed his feelings about sexual inequality much before. Very enjoyable. Toyah Willcox later joined the cast – but I saw Noreen Kershaw in the role.
- Poppy – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre, London, 7th March 1983.
Definitely a contender to be among my top ten shows of all time, this brilliant musical, by Peter Nichols and James Bond’s Monty Norman, takes the Opium Trade Wars of the 19th century and sets it against a traditional pantomime setting to blistering effect. Hilarious but savage pantomime stereotypes, cunning lyrics to devastatingly clever songs, and audience participation to die for. I saw this by myself but later went again with my friends Mike and Lin, ensuring I sat on the “Ker-pow, splatt” side of the audience rather than the “rat-a-tat-tat” side. An amazing cast was led by Stephen Moore, with Jane Carr, Julia Hills, Geoffrey Hutchings, Geraldine Gardner, Bernard Lloyd and Roger Allam. Even though Mrs Chrisparkle has never seen this show, she knows all the words to The Blessed Trinity (Civilisation, commerce and Christianity all go together, and all begin with C) and if ever there as a show that is crying out for a revival once things get back to normal, this is it.
- Run for Your Wife – Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 20th April 1983.
The next show I saw, with my friends Mike, Lin, and Dave was called Viva ’83 and was a Dance benefit show at Sadler’s Wells in aid of the Chilean Solidarity Committee (ah, those were the days, comrades) but unfortunately the programme has been misfiled, so I can’t bring you all the details. I’ll have to fire the admin clerk for this. If and when it shows itself, I’ll add it in to the lists. Meanwhile the show I saw after that was Ray Cooney’s Run for your Wife, presented at the Shaftesbury as part of his Theatre of Laughter Company. Massively successful, running in various theatres for the next seven years, it was a typical Cooney farce with Richard Briers playing a bigamist taxi driver; when he sustains an accident the truth of his two wives becomes revealed, a little like a less glamorous version of Boeing Boeing. Mr Briers was on top form, and the supporting cast had such luminaries as Bernard Cribbins, Peter Blake, Carol Hawkins, Royce Mills and Bill Pertwee. Everything you could want from a modern farce.
And that’s it for now. Who knows what the next blog will be?!