Monday, January 16, 2006

Class of '73

Jim Sweeney in the stocks, Toby fire-eating
Having a website has many perks. Old friends can find you, for one thing. I was delighted to get an email from one of my more successful friends from the Olde Days, Jim Sweeney (that's him in the stocks), and visiting his site reminded me of where we learned our trade, at the Oval House - a Community Arts Centre which functioned as a Fringe Theatre and training space for so many of the 70s generation - especially those who didn't want to go to a drama school...

A poster for The Roundhouse version of the show

One show we put on at the Oval House, called Feast of Fools, graduated to a one month run at The Roundhouse, and we all thought we had joined proper show-biz, with reviews in the newspapers and everything. In that original cast you would have found John Ratzenburger (Cliff from Cheers) and Richard Le Parmentier (Admiral Motti from Star Wars), Jim and me (of course) and Steve Steen (when he was still called McDonald), The cheap programme for the end of term show at The Oval Housethe amazing Emil Wolk and (as Jim pointed out on his site) some guy called Pierce Brosnan (although he didn't join us in the Roundhouse production, perhaps he wasn't good enough for the big stage - heh).

I have managed to lose most of my scrapbooks over the years, but one survived in a friend's loft, so here you can see what we did in 1973/4. I had just started working as a juggler and fire-eater, so had a shoo-in to a medaeval show, whatever my acting may have been like. I don't know how the others got the job...


Anonymous said...

You got your "job" in the a feast of fools in part becouse it was an amalgamation of members of different theater groups who gave/took workshops at the Oval House who came together to put the medaeval banquet idea into drama/comedy/play form, each donating their particular skills to make the whole, hence you and I were the Jesters juggling and with the dancing bear(nobody else in The Raree Show wanted to be in it). Ray Haslet & John Ratzenberger the Knights from their 2 man comedy show Paddy and members of his theater company contributed the people for the parts that actually needed acting of "characters" The master of ceremonies etc.The audience too were characters some even coming in their own costums.
The idea worked, it was great fun and a successful production for quite a few weeks at the Round House Theater, I don't remember the seating capacity at The Round House but its quite a large Theare and we were full most nights. (We even had an IRA bomb scare when we had to lead the audience out onto the steet and away from the theater which we did as part of the show, and then back in again to continue the performance once we were given the go ahead).
I took quite a bit if ingenuity on the part of company managers such as Ray, Emile, Paddy and myself , t o work out the logisitics of wages, taxes, profit sharing etc. and of course, should we rent the Round House or should it be a "Round House production". This was and important Question becouse Round House productions occasionally transfered to a "West End" theater, so we had to be a unit/package in that kind of contract/deal in order to retain control of the production and we were all very proud of our individual "Fringe" companies.

What an experience, what a lot of fun, thank You for the poster, I too no longer have my copies thanks to Hurricane Andrew

Toby said...

Aw, yeah, I kind of remembered, but didn't know whether to go into detail with my memories.

I seem to remember posing as the torturer for The Roundhouse poster, too, because no-one else wanted to do that...even if it seemed a bit against my principles.

Have I got the colour supplement picture somewhere? Maybe.
I looked pretty fit (staring back from the over-weight future).

Barbara said...

Ray Hassett? He was in Star Wars also!

Toby said...

Well, yeah, Barbara - I know people like to think of Star Wars as an 'American movie' but much of it got filmed in England, and Jabba's Palace (just for instance) contains the select alumni of the London Fringe theatre of the 70s so all the early episodes may include some Americans (like Ray, John and Richard) who happened to live over here.

Toby said...

You can find a cleaner version of their poster

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