New Vic Memories (--)

I was, as some may remember, one of the founder members of the in the round Potteries operation. Following a series of winter tours to Newcastle's Municipal Hall where, most memorably for me anyway, I played Claudius in an uncut interval-less Hamlet, (four and a half fun filled hours, folks) we eventually opened the New Vic in Hartshill Road. It had most recently been a night club which was closed by the police, following an act involving a woman dancer apparently behaving improperly with a snake. It occurred to me at the time that this might be a hard act to follow, our most daring show in the rep at the time being Pinter's The Caretaker. (No women, no snakes).

Peter Cheeseman and I directed alternate productions for the first year or so. The ones I didn't direct I acted in. We changed shows every three days.

We had some fine arguments, I recall. But I think generally we argued to keep warm. The theatre was unheated for the first year or so and the audience brought hot water bottles, rugs and on one occasion a flask of soup. When we opened
The Caretaker nobody came. The man who ran the chip shop said, you can see all that at home, can't you?

My first original play for the Vic was
Mr Whatnot. A largely mimed play with a million and one sound effects which I recorded myself over several nights in the theatre control room, long after everyone else had left. Amongst the effects required was a large dog barking. I prided myself on my barking ability. I was midway through the recording when, at 2 am, a policeman knocked on the back door and asked if I could keep the dog quiet as there'd been complaints. I chose not to tell him that it was me, as that seemed to invite a misunderstanding. Instead, I held a three way conversation through the door between him, me and the dog. (Bad boy ... woof, woof ... quietly now ... sorry about that, officer ... woof, etc.)

It's nice to be back...

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