Treading the Boards
Stainstone boasts two theatres. The large and glitzy Palace Theatre and the rather more cosy and intimate Playhouse, home of the local repertory company
As the venue for all the musicals, variety shows and visiting pop Idols the Palace catered for the majority of the public’s taste in entertainment whilst The Playhouse was frequented by the aficionados of drama who enjoyed a good play.
Anthony Fortescue was an actor (not just an actor but an ‘ACTOR!’ Possessed of a deep resounding voice and a commanding presence his rendering of Henry V’s speech would send any frenchman fleeing from the breech and scurrying homeward to his bed. As Macbeth his “Out damned spot” was more effective than any detergent and his Shylock was such a portrayal of an avaricious jew that it led to complaints to the Race Relations Board.
He was a member of the Repertory Company.
Jimmy Tickle was totally different. A small cheery chubby cheeked rotund fellow who dressed in loud suits and bow ties that sometimes flashed or rotated, Jimmy was a stand-up comic of the old school. He often appeared at the Palace on the bill supporting the star acts.
It is said that opposites attract and against all the odds Antony and Jimmy were bosom friends in every sense of the word. They lived together in a flat above the Ironmongers in the high street. Jimmy was a keen cook and was extremely house-proud. He kept the flat sparkling like a new pin.
Antony was the businessman. Possessed of a formidable intellect he managed the affairs of both of them, acting as accountant, agent, public relations officer and advertising manager for both their talents. The arrangement worked admirably to the benefit of both parties.
All actors apart from the really famous ones spend a lot of their lives resting, waiting for engagements to materialise. During these times Jimmy worked at the local Bingo hall as a caller and Antony cut a most imposing figure in his peaked cap and green uniform with gold frogging as doorman at the Grand Hotel.
The pair found that their joint remuneration was sufficient to tide them over during the lean times when they were waiting, like Mr Micawber, for something to turn up.
And just lately the lean times were beginning to come around all too frequently
‘The trouble is” said Antony” I am a Shakespearean actor and that seems to be performed less and less these days. The modern plays are mostly bedroom farces or vehicles for minimalist acting. Dickens and Chekhov seem to have been consigned to the back shelves.’
‘I know what you mean Tone’ replied Jimmy ‘It’s like Variety. People say it is dead and if it isn’t it’s certainly in a very sickly way. The type of young so-called comedians with their crude toilet humour and their filthy language seem to appeal to the younger generation. Double-entendre is one thing but their jokes are simply crude.
Besides with all this concern over race relations these days I have had to scrap most of my best jokes. It seems nobody has a sense of humour these days and everyone is quick to take offence
‘Where do they take it to?’ queried Antony with a deadpan face.
‘Oh Tone even I wouldn’t be able to get away with an old chestnut like that and just when I was trying to be serious.’
‘I’ve managed to arrange a few auditions for us. Let’s hope we get lucky’ said Antony handing Jimmy a piece of paper.
A few days later Antony returned to the flat in a state of great excitement. This in itself was most unusual for normally he only did ‘excited’ if the role required it.
‘I’ve landed the part of Archie Rice in “The Entertainer” You know the role made famous by Larry Olivier’ he told Jimmy.
“Oh that is wonderful news and I’ve got some news for you. I’ve just had a phone call from Walt Disney Productions. They are doing a cartoon version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in England and they have offered me the voice- over part of Bottom the Weaver. You know the chap with the asses head.”
‘I won’t make the obvious response’ said Antony ‘but I’m highly delighted for you’
He looked thoughtful for a moment and said ‘Do you realise I, a Shakespearean Actor will be playing a comedian and you a comedian, will be playing Shakespeare! What a contrast in our careers!’