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?!

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

image(1271)image(1258)For my summer holidays in 1982, I accompanied the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle for two weeks in the sun of St Brelade in Jersey – and it was a very enjoyable holiday. Whilst there, we caught a few shows, that were all considerably better than they had any right to be. Firstly, we saw Chas ‘n’ Dave with guest comic Roger Kitter (remember him? His song Chalkdust, by the Brat, had just come out and was doing well in the charts). But the first of the two plays we saw was Michael Pertwee’s comedy thriller Find the Lady, starring the redoubtable (and excellent on stage) Mollie Sugden as a self-appointed sleuth trying to find the dead body of a hotel guest that has disappeared. It also starred Crossroads’ Tony Adams, Clare Richards, and Patricia Samuels. Ms Sugden camped the whole thing up rotten and it was great fun.

  1. Big Bad Mouse – Lido de France, Jersey, 18th August 1982

image(1267)image(1268)I had always wanted to see this West End success, but I never expected to discover it at a little theatre attached to a hotel in Jersey. Philip King and Falkland Cary’s Big Bad Mouse ran for three years at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the late 60s and was notable for the fact that its two stars, Eric Sykes and Jimmy Edwards, ad-libbed their way through the play, constantly breaking the fourth wall, and definitely showing Mrs Brown’s Boys how to do it properly. To be fair, the subject matter of this play has dated badly, with women getting turned on by the thought that one of their colleagues, the mousey Mr Bloom (Eric Sykes), might in fact be a sexual predator. What can I say, it was a different era! A theatrical performance like no other really – it was an absolute hoot and I loved it.

  1. Rocket to the Moon – Apollo Theatre, London, 29th October 1982

image(1273)image(1274)image(1279)Clifford Odets’ 1938 play about a dentist’s marital infidelities had arrived from the Hampstead Theatre with great reviews and a great cast, including New Scotland Yard’s John Woodvine, Hair’s Annabel Leventon, David Burke, Mary Maddox and even Skippy’s Ed Devereaux. However, I found it an appallingly dull and dated play and if I remember rightly, I pretty much hated every minute!

Thanks for accompanying me on this jaunt through theatrical history. Next regular blog will be back to the holiday snaps and L is for Laos, an amazing country. Stay safe!

Carrying on with the theatre memories – October 1981 to April 1982

Come on in, the water’s lovely!

  1. The Killing Game – Apollo Theatre, London, 29th October 1981

image(1193)image(1194)image(1199)Thomas Muschamp’s The Killing Game was an intriguing thriller with a military air; it had something of the Conduct Unbecoming to it, if you remember that old play. Given the fact that he apparently wrote dozens of plays, Mr Muschamp’s oeuvre seems to be largely forgotten today. I remember this as being a riveting and exciting drama that kept me guessing throughout. An excellent cast but I particularly remember Hannah Gordon being superb.

  1. The Mitford Girls – Globe Theatre, London, 4th November 1981

image(1185)image(1186)image(1178)Another two-show day, this started off with Ned Sherrin and Caryl Brahms’ musical about the six Mitford sisters, the socialite, not socialist, family who got in with the Mosleys and the Hitlers and suchlike in the first half of the twentieth century. Nicely done, but it left me a bit cold – although, maybe that was the point? A great cast starred Patricia Hodge, with terrific stalwarts including Gay Soper and Julia Sutton – not to mention Oz Clarke. It even had “dances supervised” (whatever that means) by Anton Dolin. I remember feeling grateful that I had another show to go on to; and, indeed, it didn’t last long in the West End.

  1. Anyone for Denis – Whitehall Theatre, London, 4th November 1981

image(1181)John Wells’ Chequers-based farce was a complete hoot, with a fantastic central performance by Angela Thorne as Maggie Thatcher, although I always found John Wells’ own impersonation of Denis as rather over the top.

image(1182)I still cringe when I think of the publicity photo with Ms Thorne and Mr Wells and the real Thatchers – Denis obviously found it hilarious, but The Iron Lady had a smile full of individually gritted teeth.

A fascinating example of political satire that could never have been allowed whilst Theatre Censorship was in action. Creatively different programme, too!

  1. Children of a Lesser God – Albery Theatre, London, 5th November 1981

image(1171)image(1172)image(1175)On a second two-show day, I first saw Mark Medoff’s stunning play about a relationship between two members of staff at a school for the deaf, which garnered several awards on both sides of the Atlantic. The main roles were taken by the deaf actor Elizabeth Quinn and the hearing actor – and Shoestring himself – Trevor Eve. I remember it as a gripping and riveting watch, chock-full of terrific performances, and indeed it was later made into a very successful film.

  1. Roll on 4 O’clock – Palace Theatre, London, 5th November 1981

image(1162)image(1163)image(1168)The Palace Theatre is an awfully big place when there aren’t that many people in the audience so this third night performance of Colin Welland’s amusing but overwhelmingly alarming play about teachers coping with life as teachers and homophobic bullying amongst the boys felt a bit surreal. Primarily I went to see it because I wanted to see what Windsor Davies was like on stage – and he was brilliant. I remember him rousing up the first few rows of the stalls so that we all stood up to sing a hymn just before the curtain fell for the interval. Enjoyable, but I was expecting more. Also appearing as members of staff were Shaun Curry, Bernard Gallagher and Clive Swift, and amongst the boys, Nick Conway went on to have a very successful acting (and teaching) career.

  1. Pass the Butler – Globe Theatre, London, 6th February 1982

image(1156)image(1157)image(1149)A farce by Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle, and with a massive cast headed by William Rushton, John Fortune and Peter Jones, directed by Jonathan Lynn, should have been a thing of joy. But I remember it as being sadly shallow and full of horribly easy laughs, and, whilst it was certainly superficially funny at times, it didn’t have anything like enough oomph to become memorable. Can’t win them all – my next four shows were all sensational.

  1. On the Razzle – Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London, 20th February 1982

image(1152)I saw this with my friend Ian – I’m not quite sure why he wanted to see it, but I’m glad he convinced me. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Johann Nestroy’s 1842 comedy Einen Jux will er sich machen, which was also adapted into The Matchmaker and Hello Dolly, this was a brilliantly funny farce with maniacally lively characters, a superb script and some fantastic performances – Ray Brooks, Felicity Kendal, Dinsdale Landen, Joan Hickson, and above all, Michael Kitchen who was on fire for this show. image(1137)A farce of mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, an actress playing a boy and anything else Stoppard and Nestroy could chuck at it. I note that of the three child actors playing the Ragamuffin, one of them was Adam Woodyatt (aka Ian Beale). As Michael Kitchen said many times during this show: In a word, classic.


  1. Guys and Dolls – Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London, 4th March 1982

image(1138)image(1139)image(1140)A preview production of the show that has never really gone away since. Frank Loesser’s magnificent musical based on the writings and characters of Damon Runyon is full of the stuff of legend – and this incredible production by Richard Eyre quickly entered the annals of history as being Of The Best. I’ll never forget the audience erupting with ecstasy at David Healy’s finest career moment – his performance of Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat – so much so that Harry Towb, who had the next line as Lieutenant Branigan, simply gave up waiting to deliver it and joined the audience in demanding a reprise. With a dream team four main actors of Julia McKenzie, Julie Covington, Ian Charleson and Bob Hoskins, supporting cast including Barrie Rutter, John Normington and a young Imelda Staunton, this was always going to be one of the best shows anyone was ever likely to see. This production fired up some controversy along the lines of “should the subsidised theatre be creating commercial productions like this that could stand on their own two feet on Shaftesbury Avenue?” When it was a production of this quality, the answer was, unquestionably, yes.

  1. Another Country – Queen’s Theatre, London, 10th April 1982

image(1144)image(1129)image(1133)Julian Mitchell’s astonishing play about two social outsiders growing up in the public school system ran for ages and remains a landmark production, not only because it’s a riveting play, but because of the two young stars that were made from it – Rupert Everett in his first West End role and Kenneth Branagh, straight out of RADA. It wasn’t difficult to tell that these two would set the world on fire. Inspired by the real life story of Guy Burgess, the play went on to become a very successful film and is often revived. Another highly memorable and electric theatrical experience.

  1. Noises Off – Savoy Theatre, London, 15th April 1982

image(1135)image(1136)image(1125)Michael Frayn’s best known play had been running for just two weeks at the Savoy Theatre when I saw it, and since then I must have seen it at least another three or four times! A classic farce of backstage shenanigans with a hopeless cast rehearsing a dreadful sex comedy – and we see the first act of this awful play three times from three different perspectives and at three different points of its disastrous tour. One of the funniest plays around – and it still packs them in wherever it plays. With a superb original cast of Paul Eddington, Patricia Routledge, Nicky Henson, Roger Lloyd Pack and many more blistering names – just sensational.

Thanks for joining me down this theatrical memory lane. Next regular blog will probably be back to the holiday snaps and J is also for Jordan, and a week of exciting sightseeing in November 2008. Stay safe!

Still the theatre memories keep coming – July to October 1981

Well? Are you ready to go??

  1. Educating Rita – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, 24th July 1981

image(1045)image(1046)image(1047)I saw this with my friend Rob, and we both really enjoyed it. The original production – although not the original cast – of Willy Russell’s instant smash hit comedy that spawned a terrific film version and endless stage revivals, with many more to come I trust. If you only know the film, then you might be surprised to discover the play is a two-hander, with Mark Kingston’s lecturer Frank getting progressively more drunk and disorderly as the play progresses, whilst Shirin Taylor’s Rita gets progressively smarter. Two superb performances – although my memory tells me that Ms Taylor was on particularly cracking form.

  1. Barnum – London Palladium, 3rd August 1981

image(1058)image(1043)image(1044)One of those shows that rewrote the history of the musical. I saw it with the Dowager Mrs C because we were both still carried away by Michael Crawford’s performance in Flowers for Algernon, so we wanted to see him in a show where he’d been incredibly successful too. Mr Crawford’s skill and showmanship have never been more delightfully expressed.

But this is a terrific show all round – with amazing songs, wonderful circus skills, memorable characters and sheer goodtime exhilaration. Deborah Grant was superb as Charity, but there was superb support throughout the entire cast, and I remember with particular fondness Jennie McGustie’s hilarious Joice Heth (Thank God I’m Old is one of my favourite showtunes) and Sarah Payne’s temptress Jenny Lind.

I even managed to get one of the flyers for Jenny Lind’s free concert. One helluva show.


  1. Childe Byron – Young Vic, London, 11th August 1981

image(1060)From the heights of exhilaration to the depths of sheer awfulness in one fell swoop. I saw this with my friend Claire because she wanted to see how David Essex was in real life and this did, to be fair, sound like an interesting play, with fascinating controversies over the original American performance, and with terrific performers like Sara Kestelman and Simon Chandler in the cast, it couldn’t be all bad. Wrong. It was as bad as they get. To be honest, it wasn’t the play, although it was cumbersome and pretentious. It was David Essex. I’m afraid this was the worst performance I’ve ever seen from a star name. image(1061)He simply had no variety to his speaking pattern, it was that Godspell-style sing-song intonation all the way through. And it wasn’t just me who found him awful. A sizeable chunk of the Young Vic audience was clearly appalled at what they were seeing. In that awful tense moment where an audience has to choose whether to react either by booing or laughing at it (believe me, silence was not an option), we decided on laughter. At one stage Mr Essex stopped the show and told us all that if we weren’t going to take it seriously he wasn’t going to carry on (at which we all had to suppressed a mock ooooh retort). For some bizarre reason we stayed until the end. But it was flat out dreadful, and Mr Essex did himself no favours that evening.


  1. Pygmalion – Young Vic, London, August 1981

image(1074)image(1059)I headed back to the Young Vic a couple of weeks later to see this revival of Shaw’s Pygmalion, directed by Denise Coffey, and with Richard Easton as Henry Higgins and Lorraine Chase as Eliza. It was very enjoyable and good-humoured. So much so that, when Stephen Lewis (Blakey in On The Buses) playing Alfred Doolittle, seriously mucked up a couple of lines, he stopped, turned to the audience and very politely asked “Shall I go off and come on again?” at which point we all cheered and good-naturedly let him go from the top again. All this and the redoubtable Betty Marsden as Mrs Higgins. Highly entertaining.

  1. Quartermaine’s Terms – Queen’s Theatre, London, 14th August 1981

image(1080)image(1081)image(1073)Simon Gray’s new play was a charming and funny look at how teachers interact in the staff room at a Cambridge school for teaching English to foreign students, with an accent on how the good old days are on their way out. With a notable cast led by Edward Fox, including James Grout, Prunella Scales and Robin Bailey. Not too many other memories of this one, but I remember that it was good.

  1. Goose Pimples – Garrick Theatre, London, 19th August 1981

image(1086)image(1087)I have much stronger memories of this production, but not entirely for the right reasons. Devised by Mike Leigh – which will have meant that the cast basically wrote it themselves under his aegis – it’s a very tasteless play where a middle class party gets out of hand and they encourage a non-drinking Muslim to get blottoed so that they can laugh at him. Hilarious if you like poking fun at filthy foreigners, otherwise, even in those not especially PC days, buttock-clenchingly embarrassing at times. What’s most bizarre is that the sheikh was played by a young Antony Sher, in his pre-RSC days. The cast also included the splendid Jim Broadbent. I went to see this because I was hoping for another Abigail’s Party. I didn’t get it.

  1. One Big Blow – 7:84 Theatre Company England at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, 25th September 1981

image(1084)image(1085)Passing over 1981’s visit to the Pendley Festival (Merchant of Venice that year), I went with my friends Mike and Dave, whilst I was staying at their family home in Liverpool during the summer hols, to see John Burrows’ One Big Blow, a moving and beautifully performed story of the health and safety hazards faced by a group of coal miners, who also formed a brass band for their recreation when they were above ground. The actors performed the sounds of the brass band a capella and, yes, these were the actors who went on to become The Flying Pickets. Superb and emotional night at the theatre, and it was fascinating to see the beginning of what was to be a very successful musical career for these actors.

  1. Overheard – Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, 28th October 1981

image(1103)image(1104)image(1094)A new play by Peter Ustinov must have been a source of great joy, but I have to confess, I can’t remember a single thing about this. I even forgot that I had ever seen Ian Carmichael (whom I always admired) and the excellent Deborah Kerr on stage. I had just begun two years’ postgraduate studies at the University of London and I reckon I had enough on my plate. What I do remember, is that I started to blitz the West End now that I was living in London, so I saw a matinee of this play, then an evening performance of the next one – and then I repeated the same pattern the next day. And the same the following week. I crammed a lot of theatre into a short space of time that way!

  1. Steaming – Comedy Theatre, London, 28th October 1981

image(1112)image(1113)image(1100)I remember much better Nell Dunn’s play about the women who used municipal steam baths and how they faced and dealt with its proposed closure. Hats off to Jenny Tiramani for her design which allowed the stage of the Comedy Theatre to be transformed into a real-life steam bath, which the naked ladies occasionally jumped into with total unalloyed abandon. The film that starred Diana Dors changed the emphasis of the original play somewhat, in order to accommodate its star, but the play was a delight, with Georgina Hale, Maria Charles and Brenda Blethyn all giving top rate performances.

  1. The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B – Duke of York’s Theatre, London, 29th October 1981