This was my first job. A notice went up at RADA announcing auditions for the launch of an ambitious project to cover the entire canon of Shakespeare plays over five years. I wrote and asked to be listed. They saw me – I think I have the audition pieces somewhere… probably a bit of Cloten in Cymbeline and a comic poem – and I got in. RADA was mildly shaken. For reasons which are clear if you dip into my first Vol they assumed I was headed for weekly rep, possibly to stage manage.
To play on the stage of the Royal Victoria Hall and Coffee Tavern – which is how the Old Vic started – where Emma Cons and her niece Lillian Baylis had laboured to bring opera and theatre to… EVERYONE, was a thrilling prospect.
These programmes look curiously spartan and restrained. But open them and you would discover – Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Michael Hordern and Fay Compton. The promise of a year on stage in their company at this historic palace of culture was both humbling and exhilarating.
This is a site for nosy people, for explorers. We will continue to make the site richer and richer, with new TV and film clips, behind-the-scenes insights into stage shows, and never-before-seen recorded and filmed comedy and drama. Keep coming back for the new stuff. We hope you’ll find it both entertaining and interesting.
About my new book
I’ve spent 70 years as an actor, writer and director, and Are You Going to do That Little Jump? The Adventure Continues is stuffed full of backstage stories: about the sitcoms I was in – Keep It in the Family, Porridge, Rising Damp, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Reggie Perrin, and dozens more; about my forays into live theatre – from irksomerep, to risky Fringe, to the spine-tingling RSC and treacherous, seductive Broadway. And it’s right up to date with recent movies – Lost in London and Peterloo.