Twelfth Night, The Aftermath, 17 December 1978

I also have a recollection about the after show party, to add to the voluminous piece on my Twelfth Night Production experience.

I had invited my extant (and soon to be ex) squeeze to the last night and the after show party. She told me she was especially impressed with Nathan Ariss’s Feste – a perfectly reasonable review, as I recall his performance was somewhat of a highlight. But at the party she seemed to put quite a lot of effort into letting Nathan know how impressed she had been. Nathan seemed in no rush to restore the natural dating order of things either. I let the girl know what I thought and I think that might have been my penultimate date with her. And it was a really really serious relationship – it had been going on for at least 5 or 6 weeks by then so was probably our 8th or 9th date.

I’m over it now. I really am.

I shared this recollection with the Alleyn’s Facebook group and made my peace with Nathan Ariss all these years later, not that there was ever an absence of peace at the time; I’m sure he was blissfully unaware of the matter back then. Indeed, he confused my lass with some other lass who had chatted him up/been chatted up by him at that party.   What a carry on – teenagers – honestly.

Twelfth Night, Alleyn’s School, 12, 14, 15 & 16 December 1978

Squeaky Newton (John Newton, the Deputy Head) tapped me up for this production, but I didn’t want to act again after the Andorra experience, which I had enjoyed but which had convinced me that, while I loved theatre, the boards weren’t really for me. But Squeaky persevered and suggested that I help with the production behind the scenes. I realised that I wanted to do that. He also suggested that I take a small part, Valentine, otherwise I’d feel a bit spare on the nights of the actual show.

Then, with various droppings out (Mark Stevens was originally cast as Antonio) I ended up with two parts and a fairly sizeable one in Antonio with only about four week’s notice for that one.

Meanwhile, I was so blasé about this production I didn’t mention it in my diary at all until a passing mention of “rehearsal” on Friday 17 November before going on to the grandmothers’ (yes, that apostrophe is in the right place, I did the rounds that night, “G Jenny for dinner, then on to G Anne”) places.

Occasional mentions of rehearsals for the rest of November, then best part of 2 weeks with no diary entries at all – very rare – but I guess the play and my other commitments were keeping me a bit too busy.

Next entry is 8 December “rehearsal for play till late”, then:

  • 10 December “dress rehearsal went quite well for 12th Night”,
  • 11 December “day of ignoring school play completely” (not really completely, because I mention the play in my diary entry),
  • 12 December “12th Night matinee then on to BBYO (youth club) with makeup on still”,
  • 13 December “day off from play”,
  • 14 December “12th Night first proper night, very good”,
  • 15 December “most important night of play – went brilliantly”,
  • 16 December “went to school with Julie – last night of play – party afterwards which went on until one”.

Two more recollections about the production itself.   Neil Kendrick, who was one of the officers, discombobulated one night and forgot to say the “away sir”…or whatever line it was that got Paddy Gray, me and him off the stage. I recall that Paddy and I needed to concoct some ad lib business to get the three of us the heck off the stage that night!!

Because I was late to the part of Antonio, I had limited time to learn lines and rehearse the part. Squeaky had also choreographed a brief sword fight with Sir Toby Belch (Chris Grant) before the law arrives, for which Chris and I were under-rehearsed.

One night, I think the first proper performance, unsurprisingly the fight went awry. Perhaps I got over-excited and forced too hard, or perhaps Chris wasn’t holding on tight enough to his sword. It’s too late now for blame or recriminations. Chris went on to be head boy and on the Board of Sport England, so let’s guess it was my fault.

Anyway, Chris’s sword flew out of his hand and over the edge of the stage. I remember listening out for a yelp from an impaled member of the audience, but I don’t think the sword had actually gone very far. Still, there we were, Chris and me, all dressed up, no place to go with our fight. The law weren’t expecting to come on to stop the fight for another 30 seconds or so. Another ad-lib classic, mercifully lost to posterity.

With many thanks again to Mike Jones (coincidentally one of Squeaky’s successors as Deputy Head), who preserved the programme and uploaded it to our Alleyn’s Facebook Group.

Twelfth Night Page One Twelfth Night Page Two Twelfth Night Page Three Twelfth Night Page Four

I also have a small recollection of the after show party and its impact on the rest of my life – to follow/linked here.

Andorra, 23, 24 & 25 February 1978

I got involved with “proper drama” at Alleyn’s for a couple of productions.  Andorra by Max Frisch was the first of them, when I was just 15.  Here are my diary extracts.

The first block, from January, show no emotion at having got a decent part in a Bear Pit production:

“Friday 13 January 1978, Got a talking part in the school play – I’m the innkeeper – V pleased, 16 January 1978, should have rehearsed – cancelled, 17 January 1978, first Andorra rehearsal, 20 January 1978, rehearsed for Andorra, 23 January 1978, rehearsed for Andorra, 24 January 1978 Andorra rehearsal, 26 January 1978, rehearsed for Andorra, 27 January 1978, rehearsed for Andorra, 30 January 1978, rehearsed for Andorra, 31 January 1978, Andorra rehearsal.”

Two weeks in, by the start of February, I’m a critic as well as a performer.  Didn’t I know about hubris?  I was way overconfident anyway – “perfected” is not a term I would ever use now:

“Thursday 02 February 1978, rehearsed for Andorra – OK, 03 February 1978, rehearsed for Andorra – OK, 05 February 1978, first Sunday rehearsal for Andorra – not bad, 06 February 1978, rehearsed for Andorra, 07 February 1978, Andorra rehearsal – good, 09 February 1978, rehearsed for Andorra – good – seems to be OK, 10 February 1978, rehearsed in evening for Andorra, 12 February 1978 rehearsal for Andorra in afternoon – a good one, 13 February 1978, rehearsed for Andorra – not bad, 14 February 1978, scene 11 of Andorra perfected.”

Matters were bound to take a turn for the worse after that and so they did:

“Friday 15 February 1978, Dennis [Galvin] rushed to hospital last night with colitis – Mick Lemp [Michael Lempriere] has taken over, 16 February 1978, rehearsed for Andorra – not bad rehearsal but still looks poor, 17 February 1978, field day and rehearsal, 19 February 1978, rehearsal cancelled as Mick Lemp visits relatives in Exeter, 20 February 1978, Mick stuck in snowdrift, Dan [Shindler] in bed with flu, disaster for play, 21 February 1978, Rehearsed all day for Andorra – Mick & Dan & Den all absent, 22 February 1978, flop dress rehearsal this evening – does not look good.”

But the show had to go on:

“Thursday 23 February 1978, Yesterday’s flop dress rehearsal lead to an almost empty house [tonight] watching a great performance, 24 February 1978, 2nd night of Andorra – even better than last night – 3/4 house – enjoyed it, 25 February 1978, Last night of Andorra – 7/8 house – performance good – party afterwards – got drunk.”

With thanks to Mike Jones, who rescued a copy of the programme, here are scans of the pages:

Andorra CoverAndorra CastAndorra Bear Pit Production TeamAndorra PreambleAndorra Acknowledgements

 

Andorra Embarrassment Story, 24 February 1978

I’m pretty sure my parents came to see Andorra on the middle (Friday) night of the run.  And I’m fairly sure the following dialogue (or something like it) took place on the drive home after the show.

 

MUM: I wasn’t very impressed by some of your school chums in the audience behind us.

ME: What happened, Mum?

MUM: Well, during the interval one of them said to his pals, “I’m looking forward to the bit where Harris has to run around the stage yelling ‘I’m not a Jew, I’m not a Jew.”  Then they were giggling.  I wasn’t going to let that pass without comment.

ME: Oh, God, Mum, what did you say to them?

MUM: I turned around and asked them why that was so funny.  One of the boys explained, “because Harris is a Jew.  But he has to run around the stage saying “I’m, not a Jew”.  Then the boys giggled some more.

ME: …and then…

MUM: I said, “I’m well aware of all that.  I’m his mother and I’ve helped him to learn his lines.  I’m just trying to understand what makes it funny.”  They went very quiet after that.

ME: Oh, Mum.  I’m going to get mercilessly teased on Monday when I get back to school.  Or worse.  Why couldn’t you just let it go?

DAD: I knew it.  I could have told you he’d be upset.

 

To be fair on the poor boys involved (and I do wonder who they might have been – any confessions?) it was an ironic, rather funny matter.  Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, my casting in the role of the Innkeeper might well have been based more on physiognomy than stagecraft.  In any case, we cast had all had a bit of a laugh about the irony of me yelling “I’m not a Jew” during rehearsals and I saw little malice in the remarks as reported by my mum.

 

But to be fair on my mum, although I did get some serious ribbing on the Monday (as recorded in my diary), it was not at all to do with my mother’s intervention.  Indeed the poor boys who got my mother’s tongue-lashing were probably more embarrassed than I was about that matter.  No, the ribbing I received resulted from reports of my drunkenness at the after show party on the Saturday.

 

As to the exact details of my ribbing-inducing party antics, I recall very little.  I do remember drinking far too much cheap party cider – a once-in-a-lifetime mistake (drinking cheap cider, not the occasional over-drinking).  I think the party was at Tiggy’s house, mostly in a rather large garage/out-house.  Or perhaps I am confusing the Andorra party with the 12th Night party.  Others who were a bit older (I was only 15-and-a-half) and a bit wiser (everyone else who was there) might recall the after show party better.

 

Still, it was a pretty cringe-making parental intervention.

The Production We Didn’t See – Entertaining Mr Sloane by Joe Orton, Duke of York Theatre, Possibly 7 July 1975

Michael Lempriere had arranged for our drama class to go and see Entertaining Mr Sloane by Joe Orton. It would have been the mid 1970s Royal Court revival production (probably the West End transfer thereof), with Beryl Reid as Kath, Malcolm McDowell as Sloane, James Ottaway as Kemp and Ronald Fraser as Eddie.

Here is a link to some good resources and reviews of that production.  Good reviews from that source, naturally.  It seems that the Spectator hated it though; a harsh paragraph at the end of a lot of stuff about other productions here.

Anyway, when my mum got wind of it that we were going to see THAT play, she went into high horse mode, for reasons I cannot quite work out. I think she just felt that we were far too young for…whatever it was…not that she really knew anything about it, other than the fact that she probably mentioned it to a friend and that friend looked horrified at the thought. perhaps a sample of two priggish friends.

Mum was probably in a grumpy mood generally at that time – she was in and out of hospital for the first half of that year, culminating in a hip replacement in May. Anyway, she decided not merely to ground me from this one – I might have got away with just minor embarrassment for that. She got on to the school and got the outing cancelled. How un-hip was that?

Several of my drama pals were mightily unimpressed with this, as was I. We were all very disappointed as much as anything else. Michael Lempriere handled the matter with great dignity I’m sure, but that couldn’t prevent the ribbing. In particular, I recall Bob Kelly giving me a hard time; not least suggesting my mother’s physical as well as behavioural similarities with Mary Whitehouse. As my mother had chosen to go down the cruel spectacles line during the mid 1970s (illustrated with a 1977 picture below) this was a difficult charge to deny.

Mum 1977

I’m not entirely sure when the theatre trip that never was should have happened. My diary is silent on the whole matter.  I am guessing it was supposed to be an after exams jolly at the end of my second year, but it might just have been a start of the next academic year jolly for our drama group. If the latter, we didn’t miss out on Ottaway and McDowell, we missed out on  Harry H. Corbett as Ed and Kenneth Cranham as Sloane.

I did eventually get to see a production of this play, but not until January 2001 at the Arts Theatre. My moral compass was not adversely affected by witnessing the play, as far as I can tell, nor was Daisy’s, although we were to be seen sunning ourselves in South-East Asia only a few weeks later…

 

Scapino, Young Vic, 23 January 1974

I started to keep a diary in January 1974.  The 23 January entry is my first record of visiting the theatre, although I went with my parents to see pantomimes and children’s shows before then.

This visit I’m sure was my first school trip to the theatre, an Alleyn’s School outing.  I think just for my class; 1S, probably Ian Sandbrook’s initiative.  It was a revival of the first production at the Young Vic Theatre, which I think therefore makes it the Young Vic’s first production as an independent theatre company.  It seems the revival was a precursor to a glittering US transfer.

All the 11 year old “critic” wrote at the time was:

“Scapino v good indeed.  Jim Dale good.  Got to bed very late.”

Yet the evening stays quite clearly in my memory.  I remember liking the patter song about Italian food and I also recall catching a plastic facsimile of a glass of wine and keeping it in a bottom drawer for years and years.  It survived many clear outs, but I think it came a cropper in the end.  Who knows, it might turn up in one of my junk boxes some day.

This Michael Billington piece about that production and the early days of the independent Young Vic is charming, click here.

This archive review from the Columbia Daily Spectator was written only a couple of months after our visit.  The late great Ian Charleson gets an honourable mention in this piece.