Tuesday, May 07, 2024

My Life In ... Theatre Programmes: Intro

The seventeenth in an occasional series of alternative Curriculum Vitae because no-one on their death bed says "I wish I'd spent more time in the office"

Over the years, I had kept just about every theatre programme for every play, dance, performance event that I had attended. The bankers’ box full of programs had grown over the years into two boxes and travelled with me from home to home. 

The vinyl collection mostly went as part of the downsize, the theatre programs were next on the list. I looked at selling them on eBay, as many other people have done, but the effort involved and the prices they would fetch meant it just was not worth the effort. 

So what I did was scan them, mostly just cover page and cast list. Then off they went to the recycling bin. Exceptions were programs where I knew one of the performers or they were particularly significant productions.

Scanning old theatre programmes is like watching your life flash before your eyes but v-e-r-y slowly. 

I have seen things you people wouldn't believe...

Many performances left no trace. Some were memorable like Kate Bush at the Apollo Hammersmith (Before The Dawn) on my birthday in 2014, Rambert dancing to the music of The Rolling Stones and Madam Butterfly open air opera on Brownsea Island. And exactly how many Tom Stoppard plays have I seen? Certainly in double figures. Several starring the lovely Felicity Kendal - so that was nice.

In the end I scanned in over 220 theatre, music and dance programmes. I kept being astonished by performances I had completely forgotten such as Petula Clark *and* Honor Blackman in a production of The Sound Of Music in 1981. Amongst the forgotten surprises I was also delighted to unearth some programs for performances that I thought were lost - but more of that later.

Cast list.

A music meme a while back included the question "Who have you seen more than once?" Extending that to all the performing arts I now have several new entries. Unsurprisingly my childhood friend and soprano Catherine Bott, star of stage and radio tops the list:

  • Catherine Bott, soprano (23 in total, 15 with New London Consort, 8 with various other popular beat combo)
  • Ballet Rambert (8)
  • Janet Smith and Dancers (8)
  • London Contemporary Dance (5)
  • Moving Picture Mime Show (4)
  • Pilobolus Dance Theatre (3)
  • Ros Burdett, soprano (3) 

Stats include: I’ve been to Sadler's Wells 17 times, seen 11 Stoppard plays, Diana Rigg 5 times. In 1983 I was a culture vulture on steroids with 31 visits to the theatre, etc. 

Other performers I have seen live on stage include:

  • Donald Sinden
  • Rory McGrath
  • Griff Rees-Jones
  • Oz Clarke
  • Clive Anderson
  • Patrick Stewart
  • Kirsten Scott Thomas
  • Fenella Fielding
  • Tommy Cooper 
  • Cilla Black
  • Simon Rattle
  • Diana Rigg 
  • Frances de la Tour
  • Harry H Corbett
  • Terry Scott
  • Wayne Sleep
  • Elaine Paige
  • Brian Blessed
  • Bonnie Langford
  • Tim Curry
  • Pamela Stephenson
  • Warren Mitchell
  • Colin Firth
  • John Gordon Sinclair 
  • Frank Finlay
  • Honor Blackman
  • Petula Clark
  • Paul Eddington
  • Timothy West
  • David Essex 
  • Nigel Planer
  • Ronnie Corbett
  • Julie Covington
  • Lynsey De Paul
  • Rolf Harris
  • Rod Hull And Emu
  • Cleo Laine
  • Bob Hoskins
  • Margaret Tyzack
  • Donald Sinden
  • Elaine Stritch
  • Jimmy Tarbuck
  • Cilla Black
  • Tommy Cooper
  • Marcel Marceau
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Jonathan Pryce
  • David Tennant
  • Patrick Stewart
  • Ian McKellen
  • Ivor Cutler
  • Julie Walters

So many performances that it will take several posts to do them justice. Watch this space...

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