We love being entertained
We love good jokes..... listening to humorous audio books and old radio shows..... and watching cracking good performances on stage!
Hinge and Bracket
A charming portrait of the 'Dear Ladies' - Dr. Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket
Also known as the 'Dear Ladies' - in reality two female impersonators, George Logan (Dr. Evadne) and Patrick Fyfe (Dame Hilda) truly captured a unique comedy routine that I was privileged to witness right at its inception. I was working at the Royal Court in London in the mid-late 1970s (at the height of the London bombings) and one Friday night all the Front of House Staff were asked to stay on and 'make up numbers' in the 'Theatre Upstairs' as a new show was being previewed.
The reasons we weren't too happy about this were legion, it was a Friday night, we had all done a full day's work and then a full evening's work as usherettes, it was short notice and the Theatre Upstairs was a pokey uncomfortable room without proper seating, despite its grand name - but we all trotted up as requested.
It was the usual gang, myself, Judi B, Judy L, Trevor (of 'Disaster Night' fame), Liz and the head usherette and the theatre manager. We all settled, grumbling a bit particularly as it looked as if the room was already bursting at the seams so why did they need us?
Then it started ...... there was a sort of shuffling and lots of high pitched voices and then these two little old ladies started muscling their way along the aisles and insisting we partook of the 'rock' cakes that were precariously placed on enormous trays. Talk about being embarrassed - you could see that the theatre security was lax and that anyone could have got in!
The havoc created by these two personages sent us all reeling, chairs were moved, people were up-ended, we shuffled here and shuffled there and wished we had all stood up to management and refused to come up for the late show! As it became apparent that we wouldn't be allowed to escape we started to ask what was going on and why wasn't the act that was supposed to be previewed ready to start yet?
Then the antics with the piano started, the two little old ladies started playing and singing (none too well) and finally the penny began to drop .... as the performance entered into full swing we all grudgingly admitted we had been well and truly fooled, our embarrassment was shared so not so bad and we settled down to a hysterically funny evening with the 'Dear Ladies.'
On departure we were sworn to secrecy not to give away the format of the show should anyone ask. At this juncture, Dr. Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket worked on their own. Eventually they would be 'accompanied' by various gentlemen who would turn the music pages for Dr. Evadne Hinge or occasionally join in with a duet with Dame Hilda. One of those gentleman was my good friend Ted Brayshaw, remembered for his many appearances in the popular series of the 1960s and 1970s such as 'The Saint', 'Department S', 'The Avengers' and many more. Possibly his most memorable part was as one of faces of 'The Master' in 'Dr. Who'. Ted and I went back to his time at the Nottingham Playhouse where I supplemented my meagre grant by working as a Stage Doorkeeper for a few seasons and came across many familiar household names!
I have to say that I didn't need to be sworn to secrecy, because as we left the theatre, my car (Mini - Teal Blue - DTO 181L and much beloved) was surrounded by several policemen who looked remarkably threatening. I had moved my car from the side street to the front of the theatre before we went to the Theatre Upstairs because there were no parking restrictions after 10pm. I shot over to them asking why they were surrounding my car. They asked me if I was sure it was my car (?) and I said that it was and here were the keys to prove it. You may remember that I mentioned the London bombings earlier in this section - of course one of the things that we had to be very aware of during this period were the evacuation procedures in a public place containing several hundred people. There were different procedures for evacuating a fire or a potential bomb scare which we, the front of house staff, were all well drilled in and there had been no bomb threats that evening. The police eventually released the car into my custody after I opened it up for them to examine - apparently someone had noted that the car had not moved for some 'considerable time' and there were visible wires. Well the considerable time can't have been much over an hour as I didn't move 'Thibault Charlie Brown' until after the evening performance had finished at around 11pm and the Hinge and Bracket entertainment only lasted about 45 minutes so it must have been about half passed midnight at the latest! There were some wires visible that's true - I had had a radio fitted for my 21st birthday and because it had not arrived with a factory fitted one, some of the wires under the dashboard had come loose and were visible - but you had to look really hard! - Just another of those little occurrences that follow me around ...... and make the memories easier to remember!
Theatre Programme from the 1970s - priced at 30p (6/- [six bob] in old money) - I particularly like this as it reminds me of the time they appeared in Derby for one night.
Many years later, when I was working at Derby Playhouse, we were to host an 'Evening with Hinge and Bracket' for one Sunday evening. At the time we were running with Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler' in the three-weekly repertoire so the stage decorations were appropriate to this special performance. And I mean 'appropriate' - the list of props required by Hinge and Bracket was quite voluminous! Luckily we had a good supply of fringed throws in the theatre and a very friendly florist who worked on the market adjoining the Playhouse. The owner was always happy to supply us with plants, flowers and foliage for any productions.
The Globe programme above reminds me of that evening which was the last performance of theirs that I was to see or participate in!
One of the funniest theatre productions I've ever seen in which more 'cross-dressing' is involved is 'Charley's Aunt' starring a most unlikely lead - Tom Courtney, one of my all-time favourite actors, he appeared in the lead role in the Brandon Thomas's classic farce at the Apollo Theatre, London in 1971.
Tom Courtney as Charley's Aunt - a fantastic piece of casting and acting! Thanks to Corbis images!
The Navy Lark
The cast of the Navy Lark including Heather Chasen and Judy Cornwell (later known as Rose, the insufferable Hyacinth Bucket's sister in "Keeping Up Appearances"), Ronnie Barker (who treated us to bravura multi-character performances as precursors to "The Two Ronnies"), Jon Pertwee who went on to be an iconic re-incarnation of "Doctor Who" and who could forget the lovable idiot Leslie Phillips!
Mapp and Lucia
By E.F. Benson, so popular that the series is available in both audio recordings and as a television (available on DVD) series. A delightfully wicked pastiche based on the inter-relationships of two rival villages and their established 'Queens' - the fun begins when their 'courts' cross-over. Malicious gossip, one-upmanship, the bizarre and wonderful entertainments of the time (no television or internet remember - just cinema, radio and live theatre) make for delicious waspish entertainment whether you are listening or viewing! I love both variations although I tend to listen more than view as I can create whilst listening - I shall soon be word perfect.
Until the series was televised by London Weekend Television, I did not realise I had already had a brush with this divine comedy (with apologies to Dante). The producer of the series was Gerald Savory, who was my first Producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) way back in the 1970s. Gerald had been Head of Plays for the BBC, retired and returned to produce 'Churchill's People' as a freelance Producer. The plays were studio bound and heavy going despite being based on Winston Churchill's 'History of the English-Speaking Peoples' and have consistently been voted the worst drama on television. There were 26 episodes and if there is a record anywhere of who the directors and stars were, several thousand eyebrows would be raised - trust me! Gerald retired from the BBC for a second and final time and decamped over to LWT where he introduced me, many years later to two more 'Dear Ladies'. I remember Gerald with great fondness.
Mapp and Lucia - Parts 2 and 3
So popular are these two characters and their entourages that two authors have prolonged the series. Tom Holt wrote 'Lucia in Wartime' and 'Lucia Triumphant' and a new trilogy by Guy Fraser-Sampson has two of the three projected titles 'Major Benjy' and 'Lucia on Holiday' published.
I enjoyed the Tom Holt novels as they continued in the spirit of the originals, were written in a similar style and moved the characters forward into the 1940s - having already mentioned Winston Churchill on this page - I will just say that, of course, Lucia has her moment! I'm prolonging my own agony and expectation by not diving straight into the new Lucia book - what did Noel Coward say about them: 'We will pay anything for a Lucia book' and I wholeheartedly concur. I was intending to wait until the trilogy was published in its entirety, but I think I will revisit that thought and as soon as I have read them they will be reviewed in my book section. I look forward to many happy hours of reading!
Time to update this part of the Mapp and Lucia reading experience. I have now read the new trilogy by Guy Fraser-Sampson and without giving anything away (if you read my reviews and visit the book section you will get all the information you want) he has certainly 'wrapped up' the series - there most certainly won't be any more! The books are interspersed along the existing time lines created by both E.F. Benson and Tom Holt and fit into them chronologically. The funniest has to be 'Lucia on Holiday' and it will give you a whole new take on the International Stock Exchanges - I nearly bust a gut when we reached the climax of the storyline! All in all the trilogy provided a bitter sweet experience and Noel Coward would certainly have enjoyed them!
Mapp and Lucia - On Tour
A poster for a production of 'Make Way for Lucia' at the Churchill Theatre, (what another coincidence?) Bromley in 1995 starring Angela Thorne as Lucia and Marcia Warren as Mapp.
Page updated : 23rd March 2016