Monday, October 24, 2011

Still on the subject of theatre, I wonder if there is a question someone somewhere can answer for me. If it takes approximately an hour to read a full length play, why on submission does it take days, weeks, months, even years to get some kind of response, if a response is forthcoming at all? The latest only took two weeks which must be a record. The record for the longest promised response must surely go to the last of the actor-manager laddies, Charles Vance, who I see on the net is still producing weekly rep together with his wife Imogen. Good grief, I thought weekly rep had died the death a thousand years ago. Charles in the beginning was, I am led to believe, one of the J.Arthur Rank charm school together with people like Dirk Bogarde but, unlike Bogarde, he didn’t make the grade. Never mind, over the years many a young actor, including myself, has had reason to be grateful to Charles; he has given dozens of young actors jobs both touring and in seasons. In fact in those early years it seemed virtually everyone had worked for Charlie at some time or other. At Chelmsford he produced and directed my play, ‘Early One Morning’ which, in the provinces got excellent reviews despite the lady in this production being like a stick of wood which doesn’t help in a two-hander, but in town it was slaughtered, mainly because of piss-poor direction and even worse acting by the lady who took over. After seeing the dress rehearsal I immediately phoned my agent and begged him to stop the play going on. There was no way it wasn’t going to be a total disaster and I was right, but he refused to listen. It couldn’t have been that bad a play, though according to a lady from The Guardian’s woman’s page, Fiona McCarthy it most certainly was. I sold half a dozen options on it. That in fact was the only money I made. Trevor Bannister, later to make his name in ‘Are You Being Served’ and who died just recently played the boy and was excellent but I have always felt if that play had gone on on the Avenue with say Maggie Smith and Albert Finney it would have been a roaring success. But what has brought Charlie to mind now is that over twenty years ago I sent him another play and got a very sweet reply saying among other things, ‘You know how much I admire your work’ and a promise to read it as soon as possible. I am still waiting.

At Chelmsford, after a performance of ‘A View From The Bridge’ I think it must have been, old age makes the memory hazy, I was talking to Charles’s wife, Imogen in a corridor when the actor Barry Howerd came out of the shower stark naked except for a fur around his throat. Barry is not what one might call exactly unequipped and Imogen, faced with this full frontal, let out a gasp at which Barry said, ‘What’s the matter, Imogen? Have you never seen a fox fur before?’ And swept on into the dressing room.

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