How about another bunch of theatre memories – November 1982 to April 1983

Some severe memory loss here, but let’s give it a go!

  1. Andy Capp – Aldwych Theatre, London, 4th November 1982

image(1285)image(1286)image(1290)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.

  1. The Real Thing – Strand Theatre, London, 9th November 1982

image(1296)image(1297)image(1300)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!


  1. Windy City – Victoria Palace, London, 19th November 1982

image(1304)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).

  1. The Witch of Edmonton – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Pit, Barbican Centre, London, December 1982

image(1301)image(1303)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.


  1. The Twin Rivals – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Pit, Barbican Centre, London, 4th December 1982.

image(1302)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.



  1. Opera Gala Night – London Concert Orchestra at the Barbican Hall, London, 29th January 1983.

image(1314)image(1315)image(1316)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!


  1. 84 Charing Cross Road – Ambassadors Theatre, London, 1st February 1983.

image(1309)image(1310)image(1313)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.

  1. Trafford Tanzi – Mermaid Theatre, London, March 1983

image(1320)image(1321)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.

  1. Poppy – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre, London, 7th March 1983.

image(1318)image(1319)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.


  1. Run for Your Wife – Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 20th April 1983.

image(1288)image(1289)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?!

Review – The Comedy Crate Comedy Night in the Garden of the Black Prince Pub, Northampton, 6th August 2020

Comedy CrateNot often I get the chance to start a piece of writing with the word “Review” nowadays, but, as we all know, gentle reader, these are strange times indeed. However, with commendable innovation and forward thinking, those clever chaps at The Comedy Crate set up a comedy night in the garden of the Black Prince last night, bringing live laughter back to the people and sticking two fingers up at the virus.


To be honest, we were a little nervous of how the whole thing would work. It was the first time Mrs Chrisparkle or I had been to a pub since early March, although our guests, Lord and Lady Prosecco, are already old-handers at the art of post-Covid public libation. The Black Prince has a big garden, almost completely covered by an extensive set of joined up marquees, with bench tables nicely socially distanced, and I must say it all felt pretty safe. One price for a table – £40 – and for that you could have up to six people sitting there. Your temperature was taken on arrival, with a kind of stun-gun affair, quick and effective, and fortunately we all passed with flying colours.


From where we sat, sightlines to where the comics performed were very good, and the sound system was excellent; everyone’s voices were just at the right volume and clarity. Plus the Black Prince has a good range of drinks – M’Lord and I knocked back the IPAs, M’lady had the Sauvignon Blanc and Mrs C enjoyed a few delicious gluten-free Wainwright beers (which are top quality in the world of gf beer!) All this and comedy too.


Rich WilsonWe hadn’t encountered most of the performers before. MC for the night was Rich Wilson, a lively, ebullient chap who started off with all guns blazing and never let up the energy all night. Of course, everyone came to this gig from a position of not having been involved in comedy for several months – both audience and comics alike. As a result, there was a big emphasis on Lockdown Survival as comedy material – but that works well, as it’s something we’ve all experienced and can all recognise. Mr W had lots of great observations about life during and after lockdown, but also threw in a few other gems, like his experience at working as a straight man in a gay sauna, for example. He has a terrific rapport with the audience, and was great fun all round.


Nathan CatonOur first act, and the only one we’d seen before, was the excellent Nathan Caton. More wry observations on Covid survival, including the pressures of having your girlfriend move in with you just before lockdown, which led to a very funny poem about dealing with said situation. Mr C makes some brilliant observations about latent racism and social distancing, and his winning personality makes his set just fly by. Seemingly effortless, but I bet it’s not.


Kelly ConveyNext came Kelly Convey, who was on cracking form, with her stories about being working class and therefore having relatives living in Spain, meeting the man of her dreams, her encounter with a famous sex pest and a brilliant take down of TV’s Take Me Out. She has a terrific delivery, fantastic timing with some killer punchlines and all-round excellent material. We loved her and want to see her again.


Garrett MillerickOur headline act was Garrett Millerick, who also came on stage frothing with energy and attack and instantly achieved a terrific rapport with us all. I absolutely loved his material about Gordon Ramsey – which was 100% spot-on – and he cleverly turns a sequence about imitating a native Mandarin speaker, which, if wrongly pitched, could be dicing with racism, into a really funny observation about the nature of language and accents. Very quick-witted and full of fun, his act was a suitable culmination to an incredibly enjoyable night, all of us celebrating having made it this far.


Congratulations to the Comedy Crate for setting this up – it might have been a disaster, but it was indeed a triumph, and a full house too. The future of live comedy for the foreseeable future? I think so!

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Laos – March 2013

Whilst we’re not all (currently) still in proper lockdown, travel is still a risky business, so let’s continue with L – which is for Laos, one of the three countries we visited in 2013 as part of our Indochina tour. A gentle, spiritual, welcoming country with some fascinating secrets.

So what do you think of, when you think of Laos? Do you actually think of anything?! Maybe this:


Young novice monks, seen everywhere – but more of them later. We started our five days in Laos in the capital – Vientiane.


Of all the world’s capitals, this must have the least traffic. The statue of Chao Anouvong, the King of Vientiane from 1805 – 1828, welcomes you from his plinth alongside the Mekong.


This is where the President, Bounnhang Vorachith, lives. Laos is a one-party, Communist state, but you wouldn’t really know it from day-to-day life. Not as a tourist, at least.


In the centre of a roundabout is a stupa, which many believe is inhabited by a seven-headed nāga (a snake deity) who tried to protect them from an invasion by the Siamese army in 1827. If it gets in your way you can refer to That Dam Stupa – which is exactly what it’s called.


Our tour took us first to Buddha Park, 25 km out of town, which is a somewhat bizarre place. Opened in 1958, and with so many proper temples around, one wonders why they felt the need to create a kind of Disneyland to Buddha. None of the buildings is sacred.




Weird. But they do sell great barbecued bananas.


Back in to Vientiane, and time to see some temples. Pha That Luang is a reconstruction of a temple that was destroyed in the Franco-Thai War and was rebuilt after the Second World War.





Nearby is the Lao Tripitaka Research Centre, another temple/library where the monks learn and study.



and the temple at Wat Sisaket – built in the early 1800s.




In the centre of the city is the Patouxi Gate, built in the 1960s to commemorate the country’s struggle for independence from France. Amazing view from the top!



Then we had a trip around the food market. At times you needed a strong stomach…







Our final sight in Vientiane was the fascinating – and sad – COPE centre. This is a museum/visitor centre relating to the prevalence of the use of prosthetic limbs in Laos due to the amount of unexploded land mines. It makes for a sobering visit.





The next day we flew to the beautiful city of Luang Prabang for three fantastic days. We stayed at the wonderful Xienthong Palace hotel, which was perfectly located by the banks of the Mekong – and why not, it was the last residence of the Lao Royal Family!


The centre of Luang Prabang is very small and everywhere you want to go is easily visited on foot. Our first port of call was to visit Wat Ho Pha Bang, a Royal Temple completed in 2006 to house the Phra Bang Buddha image.


It’s stunningly beautiful.


With ornamental nagas


exquisite architecture


ornate decorations


moody windows


majestic columns


and picturesque views.


Next we went out of town to visit a silkworm factory – here are the little blighters


and this is where they make clothes and material out of the silkworms’ hard work!


Back in town, we visited the Wat Xieng Thong, a very striking Buddhist temple that’s now over 450 years old.



I particularly like the ornamentation on this pink wall!


One of the fun aspects of Luang Prabang is that there’s a good variety of bars and restaurants for an enjoyable night out!


and I can definitely recommend:


The next day was mainly devoted to a delightful Mekong River Trip. I could bore you with hundreds of photos of the Mekong. Here are just a few.














During the trip we visited the Pak Ou Caves, and had lunch nearby. The caves are full of miniature Buddhist sculptures, and make quite an extraordinary sight in that particular location.



At sunset, we did what all tourists to Luang Prabang do, and that’s to ascend Mount Phou Si and watch the sun go down over the city.



After the sun has descended, so do the tourists, into the waiting arms of the stallholders of the Night Market.



and our favourite watering hole, the Opera Bar. (This, however, is the Xieng Muan Garden Restaurant, also very nice!)


On our final day we got up early to offer alms to the monks. You do this by giving them lumps of sticky rice. Sounds neither appetising nor healthy, but it’s a tradition that goes back a long way. The rice is cooked like this


Then dried like this


And then the monks all file out of the temple



and collect the rice, that has been given to them by the people, in their shoulder bags


It is then taken back to the temple kitchens for the monk chefs to prepare it into something pallatable for breakfast.


This particular temple houses an Emerald Buddha.


It’s actually made of glass but I don’t suppose that matters.



I caught this boy looking wistfully out of the window. I often wonder what he was thinking. I’m not sure he was happy with his lot. I wonder what has happened to him.


There’s a school nearby, which looks surprisingly modern in comparison with the simple lifestyle of the monks.


Later we took a trip out to the Kuangsi Waterfall Park


which also houses the To Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre


and those bears have a great, safe time!






The waterfalls are beautiful and are a great place for people to relax.




Coming for a swim?


At the end of the day we headed to the airport to get our flight to Hanoi, more of which in a few weeks time! On the way we stopped at a rather sad little craft village where desperate villagers made all sorts of desperate attempts to sell you their rather desperately underwhelming products. Wasn’t a great experience, to be honest.


Mind you, it was worse for the rats


And there you have it – Laos in a nutshell. I remember its beauty, its tranquillity, and its sense of humour, which you could see everywhere!



This is where you go for remedial treatment for venerteal disease – nasty!


I didn’t fancy the testes of tea


Two more things – incredible spiders!!



and the usual quirky sights – novice monks everywhere


hard-working fishermen


vintage cars outside restaurants as a promotion feature


egg delivery by moped


beware of the bridge!



Thanks for accompanying me on this lookback of a few days in Laos. Next regular blog will (probably) be back to the theatre programmes and some shows I saw from November 1982 to March 1983. Stay safe!



Have some more theatre memories – May to October 1982

Why not try some, they’re delicious!

  1. Hobson’s Choice – Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, 12th May 1982

image(1228)image(1229)image(1220)Harold Brighouse’s timeless masterpiece was given a charming and truly Haymarket-ian production, directed by Ronald Eyre and starring Penelope Keith affecting a not entirely credible Yorkshire accent in the main role of Maggie. Anthony Quayle (yes, THE Anthony Quayle) was Hobson, and with West End stalwarts such as Belinda Lang, Jonathan Coy, Trevor Peacock, John Grieve, and Bergerac’s Charlotte, Annette Badland, you’d have to be hard-hearted not to have enjoyed it – and I did, thoroughly. Lower down the pecking order of the cast you’ll find Carmen Silvera and Gorden Kaye, working together a few months before Allo Allo hit our TV screens.

  1. Season’s Greetings – Apollo Theatre, London, 25th May 1982

image(1233)image(1234)image(1239)I guess it was part of the fun of Alan Ayckbourn’s newest hit play that it was set during Christmas but presented on the West End Stage just as summer was hitting the streets. A classic Ayckbourn, with a bunch of misfits thrown together over the Festive period, featuring an ostentatiously repulsive old man who gets his kicks from TV violence and a meek and useless doctor obsessed with hosting puppet shows for the kids. A very funny and at the same time cringingly dreadful play, which had a sterling cast, led by Colditz’s Bernard Hepton and Porridge’s Peter Vaughan. Brilliant production of a brilliant play.

  1. Not Quite Jerusalem – Royal Court Theatre, London, 11th June 1982.

image(1248)The one and only time (so far) that I’ve been to the Royal Court, which is a pretty poor state of affairs in itself. Paul Kember’s searing examination of loutish Brits living on a kibbutz is full of brilliant lines and cringeworthy moments – and much better than the disappointing film version that came out a few years later. Fantastic performances from David Threlfall, Selina Cadell and Kevin McNally. This play should be much better known than it is.

  1. All’s Well that Ends Well – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre, London, 23rd June 1982

image(1245)image(1246)image(1247)Trevor Nunn’s magnificent production of this Shakespearean Problem Play, brought forward to the nineteenth century I believe, was a true delight and had a cast to die for. The Countess of Rossillion was played by Peggy Ashcroft, and it was superb to see her perform live. Philip Franks, Harriet Walter, Stephen Moore, Geoffrey Hutchings, Robert Eddison, John Franklyn-Robbins, Cheryl Campbell; an extraordinary assembly of talents. Amongst the minor roles you find great actors like Roger Allam and Julia Hills. It swept you up in its magic and shook you to the core. Amazing stuff.

  1. Henry IV, Parts One and Two – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre, London, 10th July 1982


Part One in the afternoon, Part Two in the evening. Trevor Nunn was having an annus mirabilis with this grandiose and vivid production of both parts of Henry IV. Many of the cast of All’s Well reunited for this production, but with some great additions: Patrick Stewart as the King, Joss Ackland as Falstaff, Miriam Karlin as Mistress Quickly, Timothy Dalton as Hotspur, plus Gemma Jones, Mike Gwilym, James Fleet, Dexter Fletcher and many other great performers. Eight and a half hours of Shakespeare in a day – and I loved it.

  1. Captain Brassbound’s Conversion – Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, 26th July 1982.

image(1262)image(1263)image(1251)The Haymarket had created a mini-repertory company in the summer of 1982 – having seen Hobson’s Choice a couple of months earlier, many members of the same cast now appeared in Frank Hauser’s production of Shaw’s strange play inspired by the life of explorer Mary Kingsley, where a smuggler sea captain has to forego revenge. I have to confess that I have very little memory of this production, and I expect I was probably underwhelmed by the play, but there’s no denying the strength of the cast!

  1. Ballet Rambert at the Battersea Park Big Top, London, 31st July 1982.

image(1259)I went with my friends Mike, Lin and Ros to see an officially fabulous programme of dance from the Ballet Rambert. First up was Robert North’s Pribaoutki (A Telling), set to Stravinsky’s Songs and Three pieces for String Quartet, and with design inspired by Picasso. Next was Richard Alston’s Night Music, with music by Mozart (Notturni for Voices and Basset Horns, Divertimenti for Basset Horns). Finally, the showpiece Ghost Dances – which has long remained probably my favourite dance work of all time – choreographed by Christopher Bruce to a score of South American folk songs – performed by musicians who would go on to form the very successful group Incantation.


The dancers were something of a dream team that included Cathrine Price, Catherine Becque, Ikky Maas, Lucy Burge, Lucy Bethune, Frances Carty, and lead man Robert North himself. A magical night indeed!


  1. Find the Lady – Opera House, Jersey, 13th August 1982