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!

Review – Hobson’s Choice, Crucible, Sheffield, 4th June 2011

Hobson's ChoiceI last saw this play about thirty years ago, and I confess I don’t remember very much about the production. I was in two minds about booking this time as I assumed my lack of memory about the first show meant that it’s probably not a very good play. But I was wrong. Given the fact that in four years’ time Harold Brighouse’s “Hobson’s Choice” will be receiving its telegram from the Queen, it’s still a remarkably relevant and pertinent play. Set in 1880, Henry Horatio Hobson is a respectable but bullying widower, parent to three daughters all of whom work in his boot and shoe emporium. Eldest daughter Maggie is full of ambition and she chooses the timid but skilful Willie Mossop to be her husband and business partner. The rest of the play follows the rising and falling fortunes of the wider family. And it’s a really entertaining and thought-provoking show.

The flexible space of the Crucible works well to suggest the austere comfort of the middle class shop with its basement workshop, and the six younger main characters sat snugly around the table for Maggie and Willie’s wedding breakfast suggest a desire for upward mobility whilst still being relatively poor. Lighting effects provide all the necessary external scenery and the attention to detail in the set and in the costumes, comfortably evocative of Salford in 1880, are rewarding to take in. I also loved the fact that it was properly blocked! Such basic skills seem to be going out of fashion, but Christopher Luscombe’s direction is smart, clear and allows the text to do the work.

Barrie RutterHobson is played by Barrie Rutter, whom I haven’t seen since he was in the National Theatre’s Guys and Dolls back in 1982. I had read some criticism about the way he reads this role, with the suggestion of too much pantomime bluster and not enough “getting to the heart of the character”. Well there’s no doubt that he plays it for all the laughs – but then again, it’s a funny script, so why not? Personally I thought he got the character spot on. It’s a technically perfect performance, showing great comic timing, and a splendidly physical presence, in which the character’s changing fortunes are well reflected. When his arrogant swagger of the first act is replaced by a worn, tired, sick shuffle towards the end of the play it speaks volumes.

Zoe WaitesThere is also a very powerful performance from Zoe Waites as Maggie. Firm and fair throughout, you slowly see her get what she wants in order to benefit not only herself and her husband but her sisters too. It’s a fascinating character – the ambitious woman, thought by her father to be too old to marry off; having to fight hard for what she believes is right; but always playing fair. When the lawyer Prosser (brightly portrayed by Harry Waller) tries to ask for £1000 as settlement on the trumped-up case they all created to trick Hobson, she is dismayed at the greed and insists that £500 is the maximum that is fair. And when Hobson is sick and needs someone to look after him, despite all the ambition, it is Maggie who stands by him. So although Maggie is the prime mover against the status quo, it is she who retains the moral high ground throughout the play. Zoe Waites is every inch this strong moral woman and completely commands the stage.

Harry Waller There are some wonderfully funny moments. When Hobson arrives at the newlywed Mossops’ basement, all the wedding guests are sent to the bedroom to hide, and Mossop slinks off with them. A simple movement but the impact was hilarious. Also when Prosser tries formally to reply to Mossop’s thank-you speech, the puncturing of his pomposity is beautifully delivered by Cassie Atkinson’s Alice in a sharp one-word retort. Just little moments – but they work a treat.

Philip McGinley The other really strong performance is by Philip McGinley as Mossop. His discomfort at the attention of Miss Maggie in the early part of the play is a delight and he plays the weakly timid character to great effect in the scene with his current “tokened” girlfriend Ada. As his character progresses he grows physically with it, so that when he stands up to his father in law he really is finally a man; and it makes his wife’s face positively burn with pride and attraction. “The younger rises when the old doth fall” says Edmund in King Lear, and it’s true for the contrary fortunes of Mossop and Hobson, in a play which has many nodding acquaintances with Lear.

All in all a most satisfying production, which made me very glad I parted with my £15 for a top price matinee seat. It’s a steal. It’s on at the Crucible until 25th June. There’s no excuse not to go!