Theatre In The Round

MY FAT FRIEND at the Globe Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1.

Television writer Charles Laurence has used his experience in writing slick dialogue for such shows as ‘Now Take My Wife’, to good avail in this new stage comedy. He has provided Kenneth Williams with a deluge of sharp-edged remarks to fire at all and sundry – and admirers of Williams will know there is nobody around who can top him for acid-tongued delivery. I realise that a little of Mr Williams goes a long way (and here he is on stage almost throughout) but he is served well by the author, and manages to employ all of his many voices during the evening. At times the laughter of the audience began to sound like one of those dreary TV shows which use ‘canned laughter’ and there were moments when I wished the cast would pause just a moment longer, so that none of the dialogue was missed.

The play is set in the lounge and kitchen of a house in Hampstead. The owner is an overweight young woman who runs a bookshop adjoining the house. She has two tenants, one a young Scot who assists her in the shop, as well as doing most of the cooking in the house. Her other tenant is Kenneth Williams, playing (of all things) a civil servant. The bohemian atmosphere of the household is well established in the opening scenes, showing that none of the 3 characters are involved with each other sexually. However, the author has given Williams one extremely funny scene where he attempts a mock seduction of the other male tenant in the house.

After opening with a lavatory joke, I was relieved to find the humour improved by the minute with Williams berating the girl for being so fat, and going through every type of ‘fat joke’ in existence. She herself seems unconcerned about her appearance, but when a young man wanders into the shop in search of travel books and invites her out to dine, she has a change of heart.

An overnight romance begins before the man flies abroad for 4 months. It is then that Williams gets the idea for the girl to go on a crash diet and there follows some amusing moments involving a mobile sauna, as well as our heroine returning from a sprint on Hampstead Heath dressed in a ‘track suit’.

After an evening of such fast and witty dialogue, it was interesting to find a few quiet moments towards the close of the play that suddenly showed great insight into the main characters. Kenneth Williams is of course a delight, and it is a tribute to his talent that one never feels he is upstaging anyone else, as indeed the other 3 players are all allowed to make their presence felt. Jennie Linden is admirable in the title role, and two impressive West End debuts are made by John Harding as the serious young Scot, and Bernard Holley as Miss Linden’s admirer.

Bunny Ain’t Funny

BUNNY at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London.

I have endured many of life’s disasters by holding on to the belief that ‘nothing is as bad as it seems’. However, this thought did not work for me as I sat watching this new Norman Krasna comedy titled BUNNY. The evening comprised two one-act plays about a high class call girl operating in New York.

I’ve grown so used to seeing Eartha Kitt over the years as that smouldering tigress that I was not ready for her giggling, at times almost hysterical portrayal of Bunny the call-girl. The play uses that device so popular in restoration comedy of having her walk stage centre and address the audience directly from time to time. This is usually a fun moment in a play providing the person doing the talking has some amusing comment to make. Alas, all Miss Kitt’s writers have given her is a prolonged chat about what will occur next. This style of theatre reaches a new low at interval time when our Eartha once again slips in front of the curtains to remind us not to smoke in the auditorium.

The second play was admittedly an improvement due to the fortunate casting of David Kossoff as an elderly Jewish business man who keets Miss Kitt and proceeds to have a platonic friendship with her. Their playing together is very good and both players are worthy of better material.

Having been an admirer of Eartha Kitt’s since the days when she was a dancer in the Katherine Dunham company (and she practically stopped the show with her one solo song) it saddens me to say that for once the magic doesn’t work. Come back soon, Eartha, in a better vehicle.

Return Of The Biograph Review

Hello dears. As I said in my brief note in the last edition of this ‘Times’ of the other world, I thought that there was a good chance that I would be able to carry on with my Biograph Review. Well, everything went according to my little plan, and here we are with a sparkling new feature on the Bio.

No thanks either to Mr Wheelan, the cinema’s manager. Luckily for me my friends at the ‘Times’ and the ‘Observer’ have helped me overcome the problem of obtaining the forthcoming programme. Thank you boys, I’ll settle up with you later, at my place. I sincerely hope that Mr Wheelan turns a colour when he sees this, serves him right for being such a big meanie.

Before I commence with my review, I must unfortunately offer fans of the Bio a word of warning. Recently our ‘friends in blue’ have been visiting our little Bio and making a considerable nuisance of themselves. Goodness knows why, I’ve never seen anything going on there that would startle me. Mind you, I have occasionally been given a turn by the size of some people, however they manage to sit down in those little wooden seats I just don’t know. To be serious though, I suppose the ‘guardians of the law’ have nothing better to do. Maybe now that the weather has become chilly, the criminals aren’t committing so many robberies, or else ‘lily law’ is feeling the cold a little too much and wants an excuse for a warm up. Anyway dears, take care. Better to be safe than sorry I always say, so keep a watchful eye open even if you are totally captivated by the delights showing.

Back to the silver screen. On 2nd November for three days, Marlon Brando and Richard Boone star in Night Of The Following Day. Lovely actors, both of these men, and they perform well together in this moving film. Support is our own Kenneth Williams, ably assisted by Phil Silvers, in Follow That Camel. It sounds rather rude but Ken should make it interesting enough to watch.

Sunday 5th November, for one day only, has Burt Lancaster, being ever so hulky, in a western called The Scalphunters. He shares the credits with super Shelley ‘Bloody Momma’ Winters. The naughty and puzzling My Wife’s Husband completes the bill. French comedy star Fernandel and Clair Maurier are the principal actors. A good laugh if you like a bit of the continentals. It’s also Bonfire Night this Sunday, but if you ask me, it is a lot safer to be in a cinema than taking part in the Gay Fawkes celebrations. I like a good bang like anybody else, but I feel a lot better about it if I know that the fireworks are only in responsible hands.

The shocking, but thought-provoking Soldier Blue is the major attraction for three days on Monday 6th November. The beautiful Candice Bergen and luscious Peter Strauss star in this violent saga from the ‘old west’. Second feature is Charro, which is one of those forgettable movies made by Elvis Presley. But his hips are still a treat.

The truly underrated Downhill Racer, starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman is one half of the programme on Thursday 9th November. That Robert Redford, ooh! It’s a skiing epic with a moral or two. Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis are together in The Out Of Towners, which is also being shown. I haven’t seen this before but it sounds fun.

Sunday fare on 12th November is Operation Kid Brother, starring Neil Connery. It’s nothing very special, but the support feature, Trunk To Cairo is much more interesting. Two recently deceased movie stars, Audie Murphy and George Sanders are in the leading roles. The film is an exciting thriller.

The double bill of the fortnight is on Monday 13th November, when Carnal Knowledge and Catch 22 are being shown. The former stars sexy Jack Nicholson and the latter, Orson Welles. A very generous programme this, if not a little exhausting.

Well, my lovelies, that is what’s in store for you during the next couple of weeks at the Bio. Mind you heed what I mentioned earlier. I’ll let you know when things get back to ‘normal’. And I hope that none of you, including Mr Wheelan, think I have been too malicious with my words.

Before I go, thanks for all your letters, some of you are ever so kind. I might take some of you up on your offers too, but I’m rather busy still with the person I spent my recent holiday with. Love you all though.

Varda Our Ken

Kenneth Williams will be returning to the West End stage in November in a new comedy called My Fat Friend. Attractive and very slim Jennie Linden plays the fat friend of the title, writes Michael Owen.

The comedy is a first play by Charles Laurence. Rehearsals started in London on 16th October. The director is Eric Thompson, who also staged two current West End hits — Time and Time Again and Journey’s End.

The production will be premiered at Brighton before opening in an as yet unspecified London theatre in mid-November.

Welcome back, Kenneth. Gay News will be reviewing the play when it reaches London, but would welcome a review from any Brighton reader who manages to see My Fat Friend in Brighton.