It’s a question that I’m immediately faced with whenever someone learns that I worked in Theatre for many years. I’m never sure whether it’s an attempt to establish the professional level I worked at, or the hope of juicy anecdotes (or, indeed, a mix of both).
Leaving aside that my definition of “famous” may be rather different from the TV/streaming orientated definition that most people seem to have, and also leaving aside my increasingly-patchy memory of times up to half a lifetime ago, here’s a very partial list (but no anecdotes – you’d need to buy me a coffee and a sticky bun for those!).
Alphabetic by surname, links open in a new tab.
Faye Dunaway The Hampstead Theatre production of “Circe and Bravo”, which transferred to the West End (Wyndhams Theatre). Despite star casting, and with direction by Harold Pinter, I was not in any way impressed by this, which I regarded as rather a waste of stage time!
Wikipedia: Faye Dunaway
Albert Finney A true gentleman, amazing to work with, which I did twice: “Orphans” (Hampstead Theatre, before it transferred to the West End), and “JJ Farr” (on which I was Production Electrician in the initial Bath Theatre Royal run, and the move to the West End Phoenix Theatre).
French and Saunders I can’t remember now whether it was once or twice I worked with them at Hampstead – certainly once was as a filler when the theatre would otherwise have been dark, shortly after their first successes on the Edinburgh Fringe. I do have strong memories of working with them when they did a season at the Shaftesbury Theatre, which was filmed and released on video (VHS, in those days). Writing this prompted me to dig out the movie and post a clip under “shows”, so there’s now a page on this!
Wikipedia: French and Saunders
Eartha Kitt A great and gracious lady, a stunning performer and a passionate supporter of many causes I believe in. I was privileged to be Production Manager for her one-woman show at Shaftesbury Theatre, and there’s a page on this (under “shows”) where I give some details of this and a couple of video clips. It’s a measure of how struck by her I was that I have two of her (several) biographies on my bookshelves. The very great Herbie Flowers (possibly best known for creating the bass line on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”) was one of the musicians on this show.
Wikipedia: Eartha Kitt
Diana Rigg One of my regrets is that I never really got to sit down and talk to Diana Rigg, with whom I worked on “Follies” at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Truth be told, I was somewhat in awe of her! I guess that for men of my generation, whether straight, gay, or something else, memories of her as “Emma Peel” in the TV “The Avengers” are too powerful to easily put aside.
Wikipedia: Diana Rigg
Mel Smith “The Gambler” was a show I worked on in 1986 with Mel Smith, Bob Goody, and Peter Brewis. The first show I did that involved computer graphics, the first that needed three control boards simultaneously – and that was just at Hampstead. Then the transfer to the Comedy Theatre in the West End – another first: my first ulcer struck halfway through! Anyway, Danny’s Song from The Gambler (youtube link) – complete with “Pigsticking Pavanne” in the middle eight – is how I will always remember Mel. Thanks for some great times!
Wikipedia: Mel Smith