My acting years were behind me. After advancing through the ranks of Shepherds and Angels to be Joseph (Goffs JMI c. 1970), I spend three years at Junior School in a variety of roles. My next door neighbour always remembers me as the chubbiest skeleton ever seen in the Wizard of Oz. I prefer my dramatic costume change after Daverell Curson kissed me and I ripped my green stockings, mask and top off to reveal the Prince I was below. Although that is just vanity for in acting terms I think my Griffon was really the pinnacle of my career.
“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”
Badoom. Thank you, I’m here all week.
At Secondary school I lost my nerve and opted to go back stage, dressing in black and shifting props about on stage. Maybe a curtain opening or two but that and lighting was reserved for the upper school. My interest waned. I don’t even remember which productions I assisted with. The Italian Straw Hat? I may have even been front of house for that.
And that was that, until once gain the Youth Club intervened. Let’s do a pantomime says Richard. So do a pantomime we did.
I was backstage again but then all the parts were taken by our young people. That first panto in December 1988 (I think) would be Dick Whittington. We bought the script from one of the London houses. I couldn’t believe how expensive it was. About £400 as I recall. It’s no wonder we went on to write our own.
At least I knew the story. This was one of those I saw at the Palladium when I was younger. Tommy Steele was supposed to play Dick but I believe he was ill the night we went. We saw the understudy who we didn’t know from Adam. Found out later it was a young actor by the name of David Essex. Alice was played my Mary Hopkins. I remember her. I had a crush on Mary.
Our rehearsals took place on a Sunday. The old gym was converted into a drama room eventually getting its own stage and lighting. We had such a laugh.
Northaw Village Hall was booked and we began preparing back drops and props. It was a big learning curve for us all but we were driven as usual by Richard. He didn’t know the meaning of the word can’t. So faced with the impossible we just got on and did it.
Mick was in charge of back drops, basically because the man can paint. I don’t remember where Richard blagged the cloth from but soon all our scenes were painted by Mick onto the back cloths and nailed to huge lumps of timber to hang them by. Costumes came together thanks to Francis and Jackie. It’s amazing what you can achieve when everyone pulls together. That was a very special time for me as I didn’t feel I was achieving much else in my life.
And so, to the show. Me, Mick and Gary were up ladders switching back drops in record time. We had everything timed to perfection. We even had time to get down to the Two Brewers for a pint during the interval and be back waiting when the lights came on for the second half.
It was tremendous. I was so proud of all our young people taking the acting and singing to heart. Sadly we didn’t get Dick Whittington on video; it was the only one we didn’t film and inevitably it was the best. Isn’t the first one of every ‘sequence’ the best.
The highlight had to be the Saturday night when our ‘pussycat’ got stage fright and wouldn’t go on. Richard plucked a young lady from the audience and convinced her to play the cat for the rest of the evening. She did; and she did it purrfectly.
There were many other shows after that. Some I was involved in others I wasn’t. For the next – Cinderella – I ended up as prompt. Not the most interesting job but I took something with m to keep me occupied. I can now reveal, almost 30 years on, that Amanda wasn’t terrible at remembering her lines. Every time she dived off stage in my direction, it was not to get a prompt but rather to have a swig out of my vodka bottle!