The title for this site, and the two volumes of Are You Going to do That Little Jump? refers to a timeless, and unforgivable, misdemeanour that every actor confronts – upstaging.
There is a splendid moment in Terence Rattigan’s Harlequinade when an actor manager, having tiraded at enormous length in his own role, finally stops for breath and lets his actress wife have her moment. Hardly has she begun to speak before he executes a little hop to attract attention to himself. Finally, losing patience, she asks the question which is the title of my books.
Are You Going to do That Little Jump? – The Adventure Continues is a complete experience. You can enjoy it even if you haven’t read Part One.
Part One deals with earlier days
My family’s escape from advancing German armies to the safety of England. Acting at Grammar school, am-dram, RADA and then the Old Vic with Richard Burton, Claire Bloom and Michael Hordern. There’s a combative encounter with Joan Littlewood at her Theatre Workshop, and an inspiriting entry into modern British theatre with George Devine’s English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre. Early BBC TV discipling Jesus on Live television, and being filmed walking down Bond Street – as a woman. Cutlass play with Spike Milligan, and classic comedy under the wobbly genius of Bernard Miles at The Mermaid. Commercials and Cape Town and then – the first, momentous, intimations of ‘a good year for camels’ and a glimpse of sitcom glory to come.
Part Two – The Adventure Continues covers sitcom – what I’m best known for; and also theatre, writing, directing, films…
…how a career-changing interview led to Liver Birds, Butterflies, Rising Damp, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? George and Mildred, The Good Life, Robin’s Nest and so on.
Brian Cooke asked me if I fancied fronting a sitcom series of my own. The outcome was Keep it in The Family. I’ve popped up in movies: in Graham Stark’s The (Magnificent) Seven Deadly Sins; as a total weirdo in Barry Humphries’ dotty film, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own.
But there’s also a wealth of material about working in repertory theatre, lots more television and film, the King’s Head Theatre and directing; writing satire for That Was The Week That Was, and for Jane Nightwork – my own theatre company; working with Cardboard Citizens (a homeless theatre group), The Royal Shakespeare Company and on Broadway. And this book comes right up to the present with Lost in London with Woody Harrelson, and working with Mike Leigh on Peterloo.