Discovered John Osborne’s autobiography, the second part, “Almost a Gentleman” in the bookshelf. Our bookshelves are full of surprises and I don’t know the half of what’s in them. As I am far from being a fan of Mr Osborne as a playwright, I have performed in both “Look Back In Anger” and “Inadmissible Evidence” much, to my surprise I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is beautifully written and full of surprises, writing about British theatre in the fifties and sixties – my period I suppose, certainly the time when I was trying so hard to make it both as actor and writer and not getting very far – it tells me a great deal of what I didn’t know at the time and does it in fascinating detail. We have received the bumf from Equity about forthcoming council elections and looking through it there are perhaps only half a dozen or so names I recognise: Alan Thompson, Tony Robinson, Jonathan Cecil, Paul Janssen who for many years was with the English National Opera, Frank Williams, Paul Mead, and dear old Bobby Mill still going strong. The last two were the only ones I actually worked with and my word how the years have taken their toll and how the years have changed us.
My only reason for mentioning this is that in John Osborne’s book I recognise names on every page and it is fascinating to get an idea of what people like Tony Richardson and George Devine were really like and I know now why no play of mine was ever accepted by the Royal Court. They never stood a chance.
Managers of seaside reps in the old days, if the takings were down, invariably blamed the weather – either too hot or too wet. Submitted plays not wanted invariably received the same replies from managements – would make a good film or, if a film script, would make a good play, in either case ‘sorry not for us’.
The Osborne book has been a real page turner. You picked up where you left off and you didn’t want to leave off again which, I am afraid, I could not say for the Gordon Craig biography which somehow I doubt I will bother to pick up again, and the same goes for Anna Karenina. Sorry Mister Tolstoy but that’s how it is.
“The whips and scorns to be expected by an unknown playwright are nothing to those endured by those who discover that neither reputation, success nor standing will prevent them from being sandbagged frontally, publicly, privately or from behind. The unexpected blow from a stranger is more easily dismissed than some young Hal you once caroused with giving you the frozen lip from beneath his critic’s crown … Inside every playwright there is a Falstaff gathering like a boil to be lanced by his liege employers – fashion and caprice.”
From “Almost A Gentleman” by John Osborne.