"The Party Spirit"

Written by Peter Jones and John Jowett
Produced by Dr A.Jackson

December 1957

(Click on images to enlarge)

Geoff Hodgkins: The first play I was in was in 1957, my third-form year, a farce called The Party Spirit. I was chosen for one of the women’s parts, for although my voice had recently broken, I could still get away with it. The other “women” – Richard Oberman, Roy York and Martin Spriggs – and myself had to go to Nora to be fitted up with wigs and padded bras. The play was set in the House of Commons at a time when the government had a tiny majority, and a small party, the Free Whigs, had just won a by-election, increasing their strength to two MPs. This gave them clout and they were courted by both the main parties as an important vote was coming up. The new member was a bit of a wide boy, on the make, and elected with more than a hint of rigged ballot papers, etc - a total contrast to the other older man. This ‘new boy’ was played by David Tall and I was his girl, Chloe (nature of relationship unspecified). I can see now that my lines were full of double meanings and other references, but in those far-off innocent days, most of them were lost on me: for instance, I was supposed to be a singer in a nightclub called ‘The Bag O’ Nuts’! I suppose the air of innocence helped in my portrayal of Chloe as an airhead (the school magazine described me as “a vapid blonde”, and I had to look the word up in the dictionary to see what it meant!).

David Tall was superb in the part: he was a total extrovert and completely confident. But acting with him certainly kept you on your toes. One night (one of the earlier ones as I remember) he skipped about a page of dialogue. For someone like me with a photographic memory, that was nightmarish: I had to ‘turn pages’ in my head till I caught up with him. Another night he made an extravagant gesture, and knocked a glass over which was on the bar. It smashed on the stage, and David adlibbed, telling the barmaid to come and clear up the mess. What he had forgotten (if he ever knew) was that Roy York had persuaded Spike to allow him to wear his trousers and plimsoles. This was because Act 1 was set in the bar of the Commons and Roy played Mabel the barmaid who stayed behind the bar all the time, which meant that she (he) could only be seen by the audience from the waist up. So the ad-lib went something like this:

David: Oh, how clumsy of me! Mabel, come and clear that up for me, would you?

Roy: Not likely.

David: What you mean, Mabel? It’s a terrible mess.

Roy: Oh, that’ll be OK. Leave it. I’ll clear it up later.

So that was quite a baptism, but really enjoyable.

(Above from Memories of WGS)
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(WGS Magazine)
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