Several years ago we were having lunch with our dear friend David from I’ll Think of Something Later at a very posh restaurant in London’s West End. Being the heart of Theatreland and a popular place with the theatricals photos of many of the greats were enshrined on the flocked walls. I looked at several in our vicinity and casually remarked on how I had seen this one or that one during those halcyon days when I would go to London three or four times a year to see what was going on theatrically and musically. I recall one trip where the highlight was Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock directed by Jonathan Miller on evening followed by Maggie Smith in Ingmar Bergman’s production of Hedda Gabler. But I digress; as I recall David made some small sounds of envy as I sighed that “those were the days” like some old theatre queen. But indeed those were the days.
I was also fortunate back home in Canada to see so much wonderful theatre with both home grown and visiting stars. One such opportunity was in the early days of the Shaw Festival – the summer of 1970 to be exact. They were still in the old Court House Theatre and the Candida starred Frances Hyland, Tony Van Bridge, a young Chris Sarandon and the inimitable Stanley Holloway.
I saw it early in the summer and enjoyed it so much that I convinced a friend to join me in the trip down to Niagara-on-the-lake to see one of the later performances which ended up not being quite what we expected.
In an interview with the Toronto Star Jennie Phipps recalls what happened:
Franny Hyland, who was playing Candida, came down with laryngitis and we had no understudies in those days, but did we close the show? Oh, no. We had two other stars in the cast as well. Stanley Holloway (the original Doolittle from My Fair Lady) came on and did some of his famous vaudeville act and then Tony Van Bridge offered a preview of what was to become his famous one-man show on G.K. Chesterton. Who would ask for their money back when they could see an evening like that? Back then the whole administration was Paxton Whitehead and one lovely secretary, working from a tiny office above the liquor store. But we made some marvellous theatre there.
We certainly didn’t ask for our money back and got to see one of the great British comedy stars do his monologues that until then we had only known from records. I know he gave us “Sam Pick Up Thy Musket” and “Brown Boots” and of course he would have shared the story of little Albert Ramsbottom and Wallace.
But I don’t believe he told us about Sam Oglethwaite, a builder who certainly knew the worth of his wood.
(By the way “Long bacon” is a rude gesture made by putting thumb to nose and extending the hand so the palm is in line with the nose, then putting the thumb of the other hand to the little finger of the nosed hand, hands keeping in line, then wiggling the fingers.)
Yes indeed those where the days!
On this day in 1641: Irish Catholic gentry from Ulster tried to seize control of Dublin Castle, the seat of English rule in Ireland, to force concessions to Catholics