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Actors are used to slumming

But for the audience, well… the back room of the King’s Head pub theatre had a rakish charm. And if you were keen on finding something theatrically new compared with the machine-made West End fare, you could be in for a mind and emotion-blowing treat.

You were only there for a couple of hours and the food and the drink and the uncertain candle light was – different.

At the back of the playing space and auditorium was a sizeable earthen-floored hole. At first, it boasted a stray chair or two – nothing else. The actors changed for performance on the middle floor of the main building and then tip-toed, or slunk, through the audience as late as they dared (given that there was no loo ‘back-stage’) to wait behind drapes for their entrance.

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that you can find actors who will put up with anything for the chance to perform. The knack is to find good actors who will put up with non-optimal conditions!

History had stumbled its way to one of these times. Good actors were finding work in time-limited TV which left them free to indulge their creative juices between bookings.

People like Tony Doyle and Jim Norton (I’ll dwell on the best-known ones) were already television notables. What they longed for was a chance to explore the very depth and breadth of large talents on complex and… dramatic… writing.

That’s the kind of script I could offer at the King’s Head pub theatre.

You will see from my books Are You Going to do That Little Jump? that Tony became a team player. Even as his reputation rose, he came back for more – and not always in leading, but always telling, parts. Tony Doyle, I remember, kept a black horse at the end of his big garden just outside Richmond Park, as Irishmen are supposed to do. He died far too young as he was becoming a major star (read about him also in my book).

Jim Norton is still with us – I remember a characteristic that never left him; he told me that he invariably gets very nervous before a first night and he used to bat it away by going for a determined walk before the show. He’s done remarkable work and has won a Tony award since those days.

The candles, by the way disappeared very fast. The place was a number one fire hazard without them and Dan always crammed in more than the legally permitted number of tables.