Lockdown Armchair Travel – Israel – Jerusalem – March 2016

I is also for Israel, and we had a couple of days there during our Mediterranean cruise in 2016. We took the ship’s day excursion to Jerusalem, somewhere I had always wanted to go. Incredibly busy, incredibly beautiful, incredibly tense. The day included probably the unhappiest tourist-rip-off moment I’ve ever experienced, but it also included moments of sheer joy.

So what do you think of, when you think of Jerusalem? Maybe this man:

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This picture is just one of many beautiful and emotion-filled works of art in the Church of All Nations that stands on the Mount of Olives beside the Garden of Gethsemane. Here’s more of the Church:

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But my favourite place in the whole of Jerusalem is the neighbouring Garden of Gethsemane. Extraordinary to think that it still exists so beautifully to this day.

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Did Jesus sit beneath this olive tree?

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Standing out in the whole of the Jerusalem cityscape is the incredible Dome of the Rock

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But Jerusalem has its fair share of other stunning buildings. This is the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.

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Perhaps the most famous sight in Jerusalem is the Wailing Wall. It’s split into two portions; one large area for the men to pray and one tiny one for the women.

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The old walls are remarkable

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But the most important place is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Which was one of the least friendly churches I’ve ever been in!

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But the light shining in is amazing

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It’s fascinating – although crowded – to walk down the via Dolorosa, which is believed to be the path Jesus took to his crucifixion.

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Here are some of the stations of the Cross

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The layout of the Jewish Cemetery at the Mount of Olives is fascinating

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There are, of course, modern sights, but you don’t really get to see them in a day trip. This is when our coach drove past the Knesset.

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As in all cities, life is lived on the streets

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And there are always quirky views to enjoy

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Although the security fence is somewhat distressing

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And even the souvenir t-shirts proclaim something of a gallows humour

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So, in short, Jerusalem is beautiful but stressful. We also went to Tel Aviv which is the complete opposite – ugly and relaxed. I guess you can’t have both!

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Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt around Jerusalem. Next blog will be back to the old theatre trips, and some shows I saw between August and October 1980. Stay safe!

 

 

Still More Theatre Reminiscences – July and August 1980.

I hope you’re finding these reminiscences strangely fascinating – I’m certainly enjoying them!

  1. Sweeney Todd – Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 8th July 1980.

image(791)image(801)image(792)I went with the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle for her birthday treat to see Stephen Sondheim’s fantastic musical Sweeney Todd, just a few days after it opened. Unbeknownst to us, the performance we saw was a Gala in aid of Children and Youth Aliyah and Shelter. To be honest, that element of it didn’t make much difference to the show. Denis Quilley and Sheila Hancock were outstanding as the Demon Barber and his partner in crime, but two of my favourite performers were also in the cast – Michael Staniforth (whom I had rated very highly in A Chorus Line) as Tobias and Andrew C Wadsworth as Anthony. Further down the cast list came the excellent Myra Sands who we still see in shows today, and one Oz Clarke, before he jettisoned the acting in favour of the wine-tasting. A fantastic production of a fantastic show that still packs them in around the world.

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  1. My Fair Lady – Adelphi Theatre, London, 9th July 1980.

image(809)image(794)This revival of My Fair Lady had good reviews and I thought it was high time that I saw a production of it. And thoroughly enjoyable it was too! Eliza Doolittle was played by Liz Robertson and she absolutely nailed it – Alan Jay Lerner liked her so much that the following year he married her. Tony Britton was a nicely irascible Henry Higgins, although I wasn’t so certain of Peter Bayliss as Doolittle – it’s such a difficult part to get right, and on retrospect I think his was a plucky attempt. Making a couple of entrances as Mrs Higgins was Dame Anna Neagle, and Richard Caldicot was perfect as Pickering. Looking down the cast list I see Mrs Higgins’ Butler was played by Arthur Tolcher, best known as the “not now, Arthur” character who always attempted to play his harmonica during a Morecambe and Wise TV programme. Grand spectacle and a very good show.

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  1. Amadeus – Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London, 14th July 1980.

image(803)image(804)Here’s another memorably superb production, Peter Shaffer’s new play, Amadeus, about the rivalry between the acceptable face of Viennese music, Salieri, and the new upstart with too many notes, Mozart. This put together a dream team of Paul Scofield as Salieri, at his most stately and masterful, and that young scamp Simon Callow as Mozart, impishly brutal, horrifyingly irritating and devastatingly brilliant. With a supporting cast that included Felicity Kendal, Basil Henson and Andrew Cruickshank, this was the must-see play of the summer, and was as staggeringly good as you could imagine.

  1. Once in a Lifetime – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, 16th July 1980.

image(817)In rep with Piaf (see later) this RSC production of Moss Hart and George S Kaufman’s comedy classic was a hit from start to finish and the laughter never let up. This show had previously opened at the Aldwych in 1979 to splendid reviews, and the 1980 cast was stuffed with magical performers. In his first leading man role in the West End (at least I think it was his first) Richard Griffiths was completely hilarious as George Lewis, the hopeless wannabe film director. His partners in crime were played by Zoe Wanamaker and Paul Greenwood, who was best known as PC Penrose in TV’s Rosie. Elsewhere in the cast was a young Tony Robinson long before any of us had heard of Baldrick. A massive cast in a massive production that left you glowing with pleasure. “The legitimate theatre had better look to its laurels”.

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  1. Holiday Showtime – Victoria Pavilion, Ilfracombe, 24th July 1980.

image(814)image(815)I accompanied the Dowager Mrs C on her summer holiday to the glamorous North Devon coast and whilst we were there, the only show we took in was Holiday Showtime – you know the kind of thing, designed to placate families and appeal to pensioners during a wet summer. I remember very little about this show, which featured ventriloquist Barbara Ray, song and dance duo Carlson and Baillie, and, top of the bill, Edmund Hockridge, a Canadian singer and actor who actually delivered a lot more than he promised – the only thing I do remember is that he was a terrific entertainer. Sadly the Victoria Pavilion was demolished after it was damaged in a gale in the 1990s.

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  1. Tomfoolery – Criterion Theatre, London, 4th August 1980.

image(811)image(812)image(813)They did it with Side by Side by Sondheim; they did it with Songbook. The next episode in this style of revue show was Tomfoolery, an homage to the hilarious songs of Tom Lehrer. Sung by Jonathan Adams (the original narrator in Rocky Horror), Martin Connor (who now teaches drama at the Guildhall School in the City of London), Tricia George and narrated by the late Robin Ray, this was a superbly structured, delightfully performed and very very funny evening of musical nonsense, that I remember very fondly. I’m surprised this show isn’t revived more frequently.

  1. Before the Party – Apollo Theatre, London, 6th August 1980.

image(829)image(830)I was attracted to this production, which had transferred from the Oxford Playhouse, because of its terrific cast – Michael Gough, who had been brilliant in the original production of Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce; Jane Asher, whom I had always wanted to see on stage, and Phyllis Calvert who was one of the Dowager’s favourite actresses. Directed by Tom Conti, it’s an adaptation by Rodney Ackland of a short story by Somerset Maugham. With such a terrific pedigree, I think I was expecting something funnier, and was disappointed, because I found it quite a dull play, stuffy and dated. In retrospect I was probably too young to appreciate its finer points.

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  1. On the Twentieth Century – Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, 8th August 1980.

image(842)image(827)image(828)The Twentieth Century – the luxury liner between NY and CHI – was a train, and this show takes place on the train as it travels from Chicago to New York. This brilliant musical was written by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Cy Coleman, with fantastic sets by Robin Wagner and masterful direction by Peter Coe. It’s the story of failed but never-giving-up musical writer Oscar Jaffee, constantly on the run from his creditors, trying to coerce the star Lily Garland into starring in his new show. Even if Lily decides to do it, her boyfriend Bruce is dead against it. And the money for the show is being put up by little old lady Letitia Primrose. What could possibly go wrong? A cast to die for was headed by Keith Michel, with Julia McKenzie, Mark Wynter, Ann Beach, David Healy, and song and dance supremo Fred Evans. Hilarious but incredibly musical songs, this is a show from which I quote all the time (which can be very embarrassing) and which I’d love to see again. I was only sorry that I didn’t know anyone else who wanted to see it! Their loss!

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  1. The Elephant Man – Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London, 13th August 1980.

image(854)image(855)And the big hitters keep on coming. Bernard Pomerance’s blistering play about John Merrick, which had no relationship with the film that came out in the same year, was given a strong and merciless production by Roland Rees, with David Schofield as the central character, a major attraction in a travelling Victorian freakshow. As well as an extraordinary physical representation by Mr Schofield, there was also a brilliant performance by Peter McEnery as Frederick Treves, the surgeon. Stunningly unsentimental.

  1. Piaf – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, 15th August 1980.

image(850)image(851)Having adored the brilliant Once in a Lifetime (see earlier) in the same RSC season at the same theatre, I had high hopes of Pam Gems’ (whose Dusa Fish Stas and Vi I had really enjoyed) latest play. Where this play really stood out was in the extraordinary portrayal of Edith Piaf by Jane Lapotaire – faultless, emotional, realistic, superb. However, outside of that, I found the play rather stodgy and (dare I say it) boring. With other members of the shared rep cast including Zoe Wanamaker, Paul Greenwood, and Tony Robinson, I admired it in part, but can’t say that I enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure I was a lone voice in that regard, as it was a highly plaudited production.

Thanks for accompanying me on this little souvenir of 1980 theatre. In my next blog, it’s back to the holiday snaps and I is for Israel, and a memorable, if sometimes disturbing day, in Jerusalem back in 2016. Stay safe!

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Ireland – Dublin – June 2019

It was just a year ago that our British Isles cruise set sail to seven exciting ports and Dublin was one of them. Having only visited Ireland twice before, and not for many years, it was high time we had a lovely day in the Irish capital. Unfortunately we had to dodge the raindrops all day!

So when you think of Dublin, what do you think of?

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Other drinks are available of course, but for whatever reason, Guinness always tastes better in Ireland. Maybe Dublin brings to mind this chap? (The one on the left)

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Art is well represented

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This was my favourite picture during our brief trundle around – Caravaggio’s Taking of Christ

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The heavens opened and we took shelter in here – only to discover it was the Parliament Building. They were kind enough to let us in, but were even happier when we left. I offered to sign the vistors book – the offer was refused.

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I can only assume that Molly Malone’s breasts are part of a good luck ritual.

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In the world of Dance, Dublin is responsible for a very important modern classic

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which just so happened to be playing at the Gaiety whilst we were there (but not on that day)

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Meanwhile the city is full of hustle and bustle, like all cities

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with attractive modern shopping and dining areas

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whilst retaining a charming elegance

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and lovely green spaces

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Possibly the most fascinating place we visited was the Masonic Hall – opened up for individual visitors, full of history and very beautiful.

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There was only one person in Dublin whose fashion sense was more outrageous than this character:

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And that’s this character:

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Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt around Dublin. Next blog will be back to the old theatre trips and some more shows in July and August 1980. Stay safe!

 

Yet More Theatre Reminiscences – September 1979 to July 1980

Another twenty, as there are a few student productions here.

  1. Death of a Salesman – Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London, 21st September 1979.

image(685)Michael Rudman’s strong production of Arthur Miller’s fantastic play was an absolute treat. With Alf Garnett himself, Warren Mitchell, I saw how a gifted actor can shake off the role for which he was best known and totally inhabit a brand new role with consummate ease. It was a mighty, emotional and stirring performance. image(686)I also remember very strong scenes between Mitchell and Stephen Greif who was brilliant as Biff. Doreen Mantle’s Linda was very quiet and subservient in a manner that might be seen as old-fashioned today. But it was a superb production and I loved it.

 

  1. Hello Dolly – Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 26th September 1979.

image(683)image(692)image(693)One of the most memorable productions I can remember, I went with the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle because she was a huge fan of Carol Channing, and from this production I could certainly see why. If ever an individual performer dominated proceedings – but all for the right reasons – this was it. From the moment she stepped on stage Ms Channing exuded warmth, fun, style and a determination that we were all going to have a terrific party, and boy did she deliver. With an excellent supporting cast led by Eddie Bracken as Horace and Tudor Davies as Cornelius, this had glamour, musicality and a sheer showbiz swell. Largely copying the original 1964 production, we both loved every minute of it.

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  1. Bent – Criterion Theatre, London, 1st October 1979.

image(687)I saw this with my friends Sue and Nigel because Sue particularly wanted to see it. On reflection it was a landmark production, breaking many boundaries in its serious and sensitive examination of the persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany. That said, it had image(688)plenty of humour too and was superbly directed by Robert Chetwyn with an extraordinary cast led by Ian McKellen. Its most famous scene is the non-touching sex conversation between McKellen’s Max and Tom Bell’s Horst – maybe a salutary tale for the future, it may be the only way people can have socially distanced sex in future! A very fine and emotionally charged play.

  1. Evita – Prince Edward Theatre, London, 2nd October 1979.

image(772)image(773)image(774)Evita had been running for over a year before I finally got around to seeing it; fortunately Elaine Paige was still in the role and I have to say, she was magnificent – I completely understood and agreed with the hype. Harold Prince’s production was on a very grand scale, and you don’t need me to tell you what a great musical it is. Gary Bond was a strong Che, as was John Turner as Peron. I still think the original concept album with Julie Covington is the best recording though.

  1. – Ballet Rambert – New Theatre, Oxford, 13th October 1979.

image(766)This was my first visit to a dance show, having admired dance on TV occasionally but not really enjoying it. I went with my friends Mike and Lin to see this triple bill of works by Christopher Bruce (Night with Waning Moon and Sidewalk) and Siobhan Davies (Celebration) and really enjoyed it. Amongst the dancers were soon-to-become favourites Lucy Pethune, Ikky Maas, Catherine Becque and Christopher Bruce himself. This was the slow start of what would become a love affair with dance!

 

  1. The Undertaking – Fortune Theatre, London, 3rd November 1979.

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I decided to take a few days away from University to go back home, and whilst there decided to take a couple of London theatre trips. First up was to see this curious but actually fascinating little play at the Fortune, with Kenneth Williams as a strangely disturbing undertaker overseeing the arrangements for a weird funeral. It was an extraordinary cast led by Mr Williams, including Reggie Perrin’s CJ, John Barron, Luton Airport’s Lorraine Chase, Mrs Meldrew Annette Crosbie and The Rag Trade’s Miriam Karlin. I had dinner in Covent Garden before the show and whilst having a little walk around afterwards almost literally bumped into Kenneth Williams, who was wearing a very seedy mac and looked down his tremendous nose at me with disdain. I didn’t mind – it was a celebrity bump. I can’t remember too much about the play apart from the fact that I enjoyed it a lot.

  1. Not Now Darling – Savoy Theatre, London, 5th November 1979.

image(724)An all-star cast graced the stage of the Savoy Theatre in this revival of Ray Cooney and John Chapman’s 1967 farce that had also been made into a film in 1973. image(725)This was very much the Ray Cooney show, as he co-wrote, produced, directed and appeared in it! I think this was the first time that I had seen a preview – front stalls at the Savoy for just £5 can’t be all bad. I cannot remember that much about the show – I think perhaps it already felt a little dated but it was performed with incredible gusto by Leslie Phillips, June Whitfield, Sylvia Syms, Derek Bond, and others, as well as the aforementioned Mr Cooney.

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  1. Mother Goose – New Theatre, Oxford, 7th January 1980.

image(782)image(719)Missing out a return visit to the Palace to see Jesus Christ Superstar again, and a Christmas trip to the New Theatre Oxford to see A Night with Dame Edna again (this time the tour), my next theatre experience was my first pantomime as an (albeit only just) adult – Mother Goose. In fact, I think this was the only time I’ve ever seen this particular panto which has rather fallen out of favour. I went with my friend Jon and his girlfriend Wendy, and we sat in the balcony of the New Theatre, which is rather a long way from the stage – but nevertheless it was good fun. Mother Goose was played by John Inman, who was at the height of his TV popularity, with archetypal country bumpkin comic Billy Burden as Farmer Giles.

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  1. Jubilee Too – Hampstead Theatre, London, February 1980.

image(780)I was invited to see this first night by cousin Gill, who was friends with the writer Stephen Jeffreys. Produced by Paines Plough, it contrasted the Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations with the political underworld of the time. The cast were Denise Armon, Alister Cameron, Kate Saunders (now better known as a writer), Trevor Allan and Robert McIntosh.  Gill and I went to the after show party. I felt very privileged to chat to the cast members! Stephen Jeffreys was very helpful when I contacted him a few years later for assistance doing my thesis and he gave me a number of interesting ideas to explore. Jubilee Too, however, in retrospect, wasn’t one of his great successes.

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  1. Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance – Oxford Playhouse, 23rd February 1980.

image(777)image(779)A student production, by the St John’s Mummers, of John Arden’s famous military parable, featured, as Musgrave, a young Jon Cullen who I knew instantly would go on to be a fantastic actor – and so it has proved, better known by his full name Jonathan Cullen. Can’t remember that much about the production though.

 

  1. Salome/The Orchestra – Morden Hall, St Hugh’s College, Oxford, March 1980.

This double-bill of one-act plays was quite the talk of the town, even though I say it myself (I was the Stage Manager for Salome). Oscar Wilde’s play was given a new translation from the French by my friends Sue (who directed it) and Nigel, whilst other friends (Mike, Pete, Steve, Doug and others) appeared in it. My friend Lin directed The Orchestra. Given my involvement in this show, it’s particularly annoying that I cannot find my programme or the official photographs. “A total triumph” (Daily Telegraph). (In-joke).

 

  1. Twelfth Night – Oxford Playhouse, 14th March 1980.

image(734)image(735)An OUDS production, notable for a few interesting appearances. At the time I was good friends with Mark Payton, who played Sir Toby Belch, and I think gave a pretty strong performance. In the fairly uninteresting role of Fabian was a young chap from New College by name of Hughie Grant (it couldn’t have been long before he dropped the -ie from his name). He attended a party held in Mark’s college room that I remember quite vividly. The music for this production was composed by a young Rachel Portman, whose Oscar for the film Emma I saw on display in her downstairs loo about ten years ago (long story). It was directed by Jeremy Howe, currently editor of BBC’s The Archers.

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  1. Middle Age Spread – Lyric Theatre, London, 10th April 1980.

image(783)image(784)Roger Hall’s Middle Age Spread had been a big hit in New Zealand and did quite well in the West End too. Bringing together The Good Life’s Richard Briers and Paul Eddington, the play centred on a headmaster having an affair with a young teacher. Messrs Briers and Eddington were a dream team who gave great performances, but I remember at the time thinking that the play itself lacked a certain spark – it attempted to be Ayckbournian, but it didn’t quite make it. Nevertheless, it was still a good show.

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  1. Accidental Death of an Anarchist – Wyndham’s Theatre, London, 14th April 1980.

image(741)Dario Fo’s superb farce was very much the toast of the town and was given a brilliant performance by the young spirited company, Belt and Braces. Gavin Richards starred in and directed the show, as well as having adapted Fo’s original play. It was fast, furious and very very funny.  Mr Richards went on to have a varied and very successful career in theatre, TV and film. But I also have great memories of the terrific comedy playing by Gavin Muir as the two constables. As you can see, I received one of the Maniac’s calling cards – it was all in the punctuation, if you remember! Fantastic play that certainly deserves a revival.

  1. Born in the Gardens – Globe Theatre, London, 16th April 1980.

image(750)image(751)Determined to see as much Peter Nichols as possible, having really enjoyed Privates on Parade, I booked to see his latest play, Born in the Gardens, a four-hander with an excellent cast. It concerned a mother and son who lived together in a crumbling old house. It was Peter Nichols at his saddest, with some very tragic characters but great performances from Beryl Reid, Barry Foster, Peter Bowles and Jan Waters. Like Maud in the play, I still often refer to the microwave as the Michael-Wave.

  1. Annie – Victoria Palace Theatre, London, 17th April 1980.

image(748)image(749)I didn’t really want to see Annie, and I know that a 19-year-old chap on his own probably stood out like the proverbial spare prick at a wedding, but I thought I ought to, just to satisfy my general knowledge. It is a disarmingly brilliant show that bludgeons you into submission to like the little girls. How could you possibly not enjoy such superb child performances? I’m not sure which cast I saw, so Annie might have been played by Catherine Monte or Tracy Taylor, but she was very very good. The show had already undergone a change of cast so the meaty roles were Stella Moray as Miss Hannigan, Charles West as Daddy Warbucks, and, best of all, Matt Zimmermann as Bert Healy.

  1. An Evening with Dave Allen – New Theatre, Oxford, May 1980.

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