“Skulduggery” by Philip Davis, Old Red Lion Theatre, September 1987
This was a bit of an oddity! I’d worked with Philip Davis, on a show called “The Gambler”, which we’d done at Hampstead Theatre and transferred to the Comedy Theatre in the West End, for which I was Production Electrician – until I developed a raging ulcer and had to take a back seat. Phil had written “Skulduggery”, and touted it round assorted fringe venues before deciding to put it on himself.
He’d booked the Old Red Lion as a venue. It was one I knew intimately, as I’d spent the period between Christmas and New Year 1981-2 with Steve McGuire working for Mick Kahn (both Uni friends) to install tiered seating constructed from second-hand pews. We’d also serviced most of the lighting stock. So when Phil suggested I might like to do the lighting design for “Skulduggery” there, I was on board.
It was wildly ambitious – the number of different scenes was more suited to a film or TV production than a stage one. With minimal set, it relied on the lighting to achieve the different locations – a bit of a struggle with only 12 dimmer ways and 30-odd lanterns. In fact, I even ended up bringing a couple of lanterns from home, including the pinspot that normally lit the tree in my garden.
Fortunately, we had an absolute angel of a stage manager/techie, who learned to cope with unplugging the leads for up to eleven lanterns and plugging in different ones (“re-patching”) during each brief scenechange. I admit that it was something that would be right at my own limits of competence, and it’s a great credit that she picked it up as quickly as she did.
The cast were lovely, and uncomplaining, which always makes for a great show. I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Terry Sue Patt (who many remember fondly from his times as ‘Benny’ on “Grange Hill”) – someone I’ve always felt was under-valued and under-used in his adult life.
The show did reasonably well at the Old Red Lion, and a revised version of it was picked up by the BBC for the “Screen One” slot, using most of the same cast – there’s a clip of the introductory couple of minutes below.
Interestingly, the September 10th 1987 edition of “The Stage” which carried the “Production News” of this show (pic below) also carried news that the play “JJ Farr” would be at the Phoenix (in the West End) from 18th November. I was Production Electrician for this at the out-of-town launch at Bath Theatre Royal, and for the move to the West End. As though my full-time job at Hampstead Theatre wasn’t enough! Ah, the energy of youth …