Let’s see if these jog your memories…
- Two into One – Shaftesbury Theatre, London, March 1985
Another production from the Theatre of Comedy Company, who really dominated the West End comedy scene at this time. Ray Cooney’s new comedy, directed by Ray Cooney, but this time not starring Ray Cooney, concerned a married Cabinet Minister having an affair with the married Personal Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, You can already see where this is going. Typical Cooney fare, in other words a top quality sex farce with a cracking cast that included Michael Williams, Donald Sinden, Lionel Jeffries, Derek Royle and Barbara Murray – although for the performance I saw, Ms Murray was indisposed and we saw her understudy Ginni Barlow. Great fun!
- On Your Toes – Palace Theatre, London, 16th March 1985
Rodgers and Hart’s influential 1936 musical had been given a Broadway revival in 1983 and this UK version had already been going for nine months before I got around to seeing it. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Fred Astaire, it featured three ballet scenes, including the famous Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. This was Tim Flavin’s first starring role, and my memory is that he did a terrific job. Also in the cast were greats such as Honor Blackman and the renowned dancer Doreen Wells (aka the Marchioness of Londonderry). A very successful high quality production.
- Pump Boys and Dinettes – Piccadilly Theatre, London, 16th March 1985
I had no particular interest in seeing this American Country/Rock/Pop musical until a cast change meant that my heroine Lynsey de Paul joined the cast in the role of Prudie. It’s an easy-going homage to 1950s North Carolina with four guys who work at a Gas Station and two girls who work at the local diner. I remember it totally lacked any story whatsoever and was just a sequence of rather tedious songs all strung together. Despite the excellent cast that also included Kiki Dee, Paul Jones and Brian Protheroe, it left me cold.
- Daisy Pulls it Off – Globe Theatre, London, 13th April 1985
Denise Deegan’s hilarious ripping yarn set in a girls’ boarding school, a parody of all those wholesome children’s stories of the early 20th century, was a delight from start to finish. It relied heavily on a terrific partnership between Gabrielle Glaister as the heroic Daisy, and Carla Mendonca as her mischievous friend Trixie. Produced, perhaps surprisingly, by Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Wizard larks!
- Singin’ in the Rain – London Palladium, 7th May 1985
This show was that summer’s theatre treat from the late Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle, who was always a super fan of Tommy Steele – who gave a terrific performance in the Gene Kelly role of Don Lockwood. This was the first time that this heretofore film had been seen on stage, and I guess it was very influential for that very reason, paving the way for other similar shows in the future. A big show with a big heart. The cast also included Roy Castle, the ever-reliable Matt Zimmermann, and the fantastic Danielle Carson, who happened to be a good friend of a young lady whom I rather fancied but who never fancied me. As an aside, at a later date, I arranged to meet said young lady at the Palladium stage door where she said hi and instantly left with some other friends leaving me pretty much heartbroken. Sigh. Sorry for oversharing but that’s what I always think of when I think of this production – nothing to do with the show itself!
- Up ‘n’ Under – Fortune Theatre, London, 17th May 1985
The Fortune theatre was the perfect venue for John Godber’s hilarious comedy about hopelessly unfit and useless rugby league players being trained for an important match by a female coach. Inventive, characterful, beautifully structured and performed, this deservedly won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy that year.
- Wild Honey – Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London, 18th June 1985
Swiftly moving past a performance by the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Barbican Centre, with my friends Paul and Pauline who loved it but I absolutely hated it, (I’m sure they were excellent but just not my thing), we come to Michael Frayn’s translation of Chekhov’s earliest play Platonov, given the name Wild Honey. I have sparse memories of this production – so much so that when I saw Platonov as part of Chichester’s Young Chekhov season a few years ago, I was convinced that I’d never seen it before. It is a very funny play though, in a way that you would never think Chekhov could be; and going through the Frayn strainer it must have been even funnier. Platonov was played by Ian McKellen, Glagolyev by Michael Bryant, Anna Petrovna by Charlotte Cornwell, and Osip by Roger Lloyd Pack. I know that it was a very successful production, that kept getting its season extended.
- Pravda – Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London, June 1985
This was a gritty Fleet Street comedy by Howard Brenton and David Hare that should have been better than it was. A vast, rangey play with a huge and highly talented cast featuring Tim McInnerny, Basil Henson, Harriet Thorpe, Bill Nighy, and Nigel le Vaillant, with whom I was friends as university. Leading the cast was Anthony Hopkins. One of the reasons I wanted to see this play was that I had always been a fan of David Hare and wanted to know more of Howard Brenton’s work; but I’m not sure their collaboration created a play that was any better than if either one of them had written it on their own. Very enjoyable though.
- Red Noses – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre, London, 31st August 1985
With a nod of the head to a performance by the Moscow State Circus at the Dominion Theatre that I saw with my friends Mike and Lin (the great Oleg Popov was still in the cast), my next play was Peter Barnes’ Red Noses, a magnificent play set in the times of the Black Death, featuring a priest by name of Marcel Flote, and his team of followers (the Floties) who travelled around the plague villages of France dispensing holy assistance. The incredible cast was led by Antony Sher as Flote, with Nicholas Farrell, Pete Postlethwaite, Polly James, Nicholas Woodeson, Christopher Benjamin and a young Cathy Tyson. This won the Olivier Award for Best Play of 1985.
- Gigi – Lyric Theatre, London, 23rd October 1985
I’d never seen Lerner and Loewe’s highly regarded and romantic musical film before, but it was made into a stage show in the 70s and this was the first time it had been seen on the London stage. I think I treated the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle to her ticket for a change, and we both really enjoyed this terrific show, with a cast led by Beryl Reid and Jean-Pierre Aumont, a French actor of enormous experience – but of whom I knew nothing at the time. Further down the cast list appeared Sian Phillips, and Geoffrey Burridge whom I had briefly met after seeing him in Banana Ridge in 1976. A slightly lopsided show, in that all the great songs (Thank Heavens for Little Girls, The Night They Invented Champagne, I Remember it Well) all appear in the first Act. Great show, however.