Ned Sherrin’s Review Of Revue


BBC Radio 2, Summer 1996


Episodes Summarised by Emma Shane

 © 2004


Episode 1: Hullo Ragtime (3rd August 1996)

This jolly little series gets off to a flying start with it’s catchy opening number The Twinkle In Your Eye, sung by the regular company of Louise Gold, Jessica Martin and Christopher Luscombe. They follow this up with an enthusiastic excerpt of Everybody’s Doing It. And continue what is very much an Irving Berlin oriented theme with what Ned Sherrin refers to as “four rags”, though I thought there were five. First off Jessica Martin with Hitchykoo, then it’s Louise Gold’s turn with a rag that might be called Wedding Ply (Well I don’t know what the title is), she sings it reasonably well, though her diction is a little off. The two girls then give us an all too brief burst of When The Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For Alabama (a song which has after all been sung on film by such luminaries as: Judy Garland & Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman & Dan Dailey, not to mention Mitzi Gaynor & Donald O’Connor). Lastly Christopher Luscombe possibly joined them for a combination of Waiting For The Robert E Lee and He Had To Get Out And Get Under, however, the big strong loud voices of the two women dominated so much it was hard to hear whether Mr Luscombe was there or not. Ned Sherrin goes on to tell us about Lionel Moncton’s widow, when went on to marry the Earl Of Dudley, and then as “we can’t expect Jessica Martin to sing a cheque” introduces Ms Martin singing Lionel Moncton’s Chalk Farm To Camberwell Green. This is a very very catchy song, which Jessica does full justice to, and her accent is needless to say faultless. After Mr Sherrin has dismissed any early efforts at political satire in revues, it’s on with the songs, and Christopher Luscombe singing Gilbert The Filbert The Knut With A K, which if you enjoy P G Wodehouse novels (such as Jeaves And Wooster) you’ll probably enjoy, for the character singing the song is a very Bertie Wooster sort of character, well Bertie Wooster was what was known as a Knut (usually the second son of an Earl, a young man with enough money to live quite well on without having to do any work). This is followed by a political joke from Mr Sherrin about America’s tardiness in entering World War One. And now one of the highspots of the programme The Kipling Walk. I can’t think why Jim Henson’s Muppets never got their hands on this song, it would have been so perfect for their talents. In fact this radio broadcast gives us some idea of how this terrific song might have sounded if they ever had, for the singer attempting to reproduce the song on this programme is none other than Louise Gold. The song is a superb one for her to sing, because if there is any one singer currently working in British Musical theatre, who really knows exactly how to do this kind of animal-focused number convincingly, then she is that singer;  and she brings to it a real wealth of experience. On now to the showman Albert De Corville (who wasn’t actually French though his name sounds it), and a telephone song from a De Corville revue, Hello My Dearie, sung by Christopher Luscombe and Jessica Martin. The latter is good as ever, but it is the former who is a surprise. Having earlier been singing in a spiffingly classy English, Mr Luscombe now proves he can do an excellent American accent. On to another of the programmes highlights. Ned Sherrin introduces a number from a revue called The Whirligig as follows  “Louise Gold: dances, sings, emotes, embellishes, takes by the scruff of the neck; Oh how I wish you could see the complicated dance routine she’s going to indulge in. But sadly this is the wireless, Louise Gold, I’m getting tired of playing second fiddle.” Well after such an introduction the listener is left wishing we could see Louise perform I’m Tired Of Playing Second Fiddle, however, whatever she was doing with her dancing, she certainly sings it pretty impressively, with a good deal of emoting and embellishing. She makes fantastic use of her flair for vocal acrobatics and really indulges in her gift for switching voices very very quickly, using different ones for the different characters in the song: The narrator, Jonesy, Mrs Jonesey, and Mrs Jonsey’s Mother’s Cousin. It’s a real tour de force. And it was guest Roy Hudd’s misfortune to have to follow it. (Very few people can follow Louise Gold, and of the performers on this programme, Jessica Martin is about then only one who might have been able to do it). Mr Hudd attempts to sing a Ventriloquist Act number by Weston And Lee, but coming hot on the heels of Ms Gold’s performance, his accent abilities failed to impress. It is left to The Company to end the programme, with a song by McCarthy and Monaco, commonly associated with Judy Garland and Clark Gable, though according to Ned Sherrin’s introduction it originated in a revue called Keep Smiling, namely, You Made Me Love You.  Overall a fine start to the series, largely things to the trio of singers in the company: Christopher Luscombe shows himself to be jolly versatile. Jessica Martin is uniformly excellent, especially in Chalk Farm To Camberwell Green, and Louise Gold, too often a second fiddle in stage shows, truly shines with both her solos: The Kipling Walk and I’m Getting Tired Of Playing Second Fiddle.


Episode 2: Calling Mr Charlot (10th August 1996)

With Louise Gold as Beatrice Lillie and Christopher Luscombe as Jack Buchcanan, the episode was all set to be worth hearing. Like the first episode, this second one gets off to a flying start with the rousing opening number The Twinkle In Your Eye, sung by the regular company of Louise Gold, Jessica Martin, and, Christopher Luscombe. Once Ned Sherrin has given the initial introduction they follow this up with a medley two songs from Charlot Revue’s K.K.K. Katie and Winnie The Window Cleaner. Appropriately the girls are particularly noticeable on these numbers. The first of these, after all, also goes down in musical theatre history, as one of the first songs the young Ethel Merman entertained audiences with (she sang it to servicemen during the First World War). So it is apt to have two such powerful singers as Louise Gold and Jessica Martin to do it justice. In the second song, Louise and Jessica each get a little spoken solo, with Christopher only joining in on the chorus. However, Christopher Luscombe gets his own opportunity to shine doing his knut act, in a solo, Percy Is Perfectly Priceless. This was shades of his solo the previous week, Gilbert The Filbert A Knut With A K. The playboy knut was in early twentieth century Britain However, this week’s programme is about Andre Charlot, and the stars (such as Lawrence, Lillie and Buchannan) that he discovered. So now it’s Louise Gold’s turn to sing a solo, and represent Beatrice Lillie, with Snoops The Lawyer. As this is a song Charlot imported from America, Miss Gold (as Ned Sherrin calls her) sings with an American accent, or two or more, being such a deft mistress of accents she alters her accent subtly to signify different character’s speaking, i.e. The Narrator, and Snoops himself. Whether or not her performance is anything like how the Canadian born Bea Lillie did this song, it is very Louise Gold, providing her with a good vehicle to demonstrate how clever she is at singing comic numbers, she knows just when to emphasise a word, and how much to emphasise it, to get the best effect.  After a little historical interlude, in which Ned Sherrin tells us that it was Bea Lillie who first attempted to introduce Noel Coward to Andre Charlot, but it was only when one of Charlot’s backers reintroduced them a year later that the great showman actually took any notice, we have a Telephone Sketch, with Miss Gold again taking the Bea Little role, the character Miss Poppy Baker, who is supposedly asleep in bed, Ned Sherrin does some scene setting here. On the first telephone call, Louise puts on a cockney accent, pretending to be the maid (so we get Louise doing an impression or Jessica doing a cockney accent). Louise is very very skilled at switching accents, as she demonstrates in this sketch she is marvellous at switching quickly and cleanly between different accents (and there are moments when Poppy does sound a bit Spitting Image’s Queen). The next call is Poppy’s friend Maggie (from which we learn that both ladies are separated from their husbands, but having trouble getting divorces). The next call is The Police, saying her husband has committed suicide. So feigning distress, first she rings Maggie, and then her lover, to tell them. Then the maid enters, all upset because Mrs Straker upstairs, has just heard her husband has committed suicide, the final call is the police, and the punch line “Sorry you’ve been troubled.” With the exception of Jessica’s brief appearance, Louise carried the entire sketch as a sort of monologue, and proves herself very capable of doing so.  What an actress!  Next up it’s Jessica (with a completely different accent) and Christopher in a Noel Coward Blackout about a husband and wife, where the latter is presumably having an affair with the milkman.  And the next song gives Jessica her real chance in the limelight, with There’s Life In The Old Girl Yet. This is yet another quite different accent, she plays an aging actress, and is quite wonderful in the part. According to Ned Sherrin’s comments, Christopher Luscombe is supposed to be playing a line-up of chorus boys, but unfortunately, though reasonably sung, they all sounded rather similar to me. However, Christopher Luscombe redeems himself with the next number, representing Jack Buchanan in the classic And Her Mother Came Too. It’s a good song, which he does justice to. Then he joined forces with Jessica to sing Silly Little Hill, a pleasant song, and nicely sung, but not all that remarkable.  As with the previous week, the entrance of the guest, this time Patricia Hodge, was a bit of a comedown (though thanks to not following a showstopper, it wasn’t such a drop as previously). Ned Sherrin introduced her saying that recently one actress had come to symbolise Gertrude Lawrence, namely Ms Hodge, but while her performance of her two numbers, Parisian Pierrot and Limehouse Blues may have borne a resemblance to the way Ms Lawrence had performed them, I felt that for simple, star quality Patricia Hodge’s Gertrude Lawrence act paled in comparison to Louise Gold’s Beatrice Lillie; especially as Louise Gold herself has had a couple of very good goes at making some of Gertrude Lawrence’s material (the title role in Oh Kay, and that song The Physician from Nymph Errant) very much her own.  The finale is introduced by Ned Sherrin telling us a bit about the composer Howard Dietz, who described “Revue” as “High class vaudeville”, he is also alleged to have said “I don’t like composers who think, it gets in the way of their plagiarism”. For the finale, the regular company end with a Dietz and Schwartz song, originally in the Broadway show Flying Colours, and then the Charlot revue Please in 1933, Get Going Louisiana Hayride. This is a truly joyous romp of a number, one of the most purely fun numbers of the episode, and the cast really sound as though they are enjoying it. There’s a lot of joyous squealing at the beginning of each chorus, some of which sounds uncannily like a Muppet pig! (Annie Sue needless to say). The two women, Jessica Martin and Louise Gold come across singing particularly strongly, and doing a fine job with the accent. Overall an excellent performance from The Company, Christopher Luscombe provides splendid backing support, to the ladies, who were rather the stars of the episode. Jessica Martin demonstrated her considerable range of accents, but was especially good in There’s Life In The Old Girl Yet, while Louise Gold proved that amongst her various labels, she might be considered a latter-day Beatrice Lillie. She sang marvellously on Snoops The Lawyer, and demonstrated her range as an actress in that Telephone Sketch.


Episode 3:  Cockie - A Man Of style (17th August 1996)

Right from the start of the episode there seemed to be something missing, the usual introduction The Twinkle In Your Eye though well sung appeared to be getting a little tired. Then the company went into Dance Little Lady. The episode was clearly going to be an elegant one, but it didn’t seem as invigorating as the first two episodes, or was it the cast? Next up, Whose Baby Are You sung  sweetly, and pleasantly by Marilyn Cutts and Christopher Luscombe. From this, I surmised that Marilyn must be substituting for one of the ‘regular’ women in the company, that might well explain why their seemed to be a missing element, but who is it? Ned Sherrin’s introduction to the next number, might provide the answer, he said “It took two artistes to sing and dance this song in On With The Dance in 1925. Tonight the legs and larynx of Miss Louise Gold alone will give you another glimpse of empty twenties flapper society, Poor Little Rich Girl.” So it’s Jessica Martin who’s missing. However, with Poor Little Rich Girl at last we get a real sign of life, as the irrepressible Louise Gold is singing a good solo. Though it is one of those moments where one only wishes one could have seen her as well as heard her, but as Ned Sherrin said in an earlier episode “sadly this is the wireless”. Next up a trio of Cole Porter songs: Wake Up And Dream, What Is This Thing Called Love, and, the classic, Let’s Do It Let’s Fall In Love, sung by not one but two men, as Christopher Luscombe has now been joined by Paul Bentley. They do all three songs well, but then being by Cole Porter, all are excellent songs. However, the pair particularly shine with Let’s Do It Let’s Fall In Love, where they pair up so well, they sound as though they’ve been working together for years. Now it’s time for another solo from Marilyn Cutts, namely The Wind In The Willows. Again there’s nothing wrong with the song, although I felt it a bit too operatic for revue, but it seemed to be symptomatic of most of the episode. Time for the guest slot, but here two departures, firstly putting the guest slot midway through the show, and secondly instead of having the guest, Sir John Mills perform live, they played a recording of him and Frances Day singing A Little White Room by Beverley Nichols. I was rather interested to hear a song by Beverley Nichols, because until then I had only heard of him thanks to Geoffrey Parsons mentioned him, as a notable homosexual (along with Godfrey Wynn and Castle Ross), in a 1938 song lyric. I felt that this was the best guest performance so far, perhaps because it was a pre-record. When Ned Sherrin came to interview the guest, the quality was maintained, for Sir John Mills was certainly the most interesting and charismatic guest so far, partly because it was living history, he wasn’t just relating stuff second hand, he had been there, but partly because he just has a charismatic personality. I noticed the microphones picked up a lot of laughing from the assembled company, including one distinctively loud hearty laugh (which could only be Louise). The guest slot is rounded off by Marilyn Cutts and Paul Bentley performing a song that Sir John Mills originally introduced with Joyce Barber, Something To Do With Spring. Here at last Fascinating Aida’s Marilyn Cutts finally distinguishers herself with a first rate performance. She handles the dirty lyrics in this song beautifully.  It’s always nice to be able to follow a good performance with another good one, so Ned Sherrin introduces the next number with “And now Louise Gold will liven up a number Cochran thought horribly depressing.” which is exactly what Louise proceeds to do to the Noel Coward song The Wife Of An Acrobat. Now at last Louise Gold gets to really demonstrate her talents. She makes a good job with the accent, Cockney, but a showbiz one. Her diction (sometimes her weakness) is surprisingly clear. And she really sings the song as though she means it. She makes it sound like it could be a song for any wife of the touring performer, not necessarily an acrobat, through probably either a fit up or circus-type performer. She even manages to sing the most ironic of lyrics, about her character’s legs, totally deadpanly. And finally to make them more interesting she also growls some of the later choruses. Overall the song is just a comic triumph. But Louise isn’t just a brilliant comedy singer, she can change style and accent very quickly, which she promptly proves in the next number, also a solo; this time with music by Vivian Ellis and lyrics by A P Herbert, Other People’s Babies.  The delightful accent and indeed the lovely character Louise is singing this in could well be a forerunner to Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby in The Water Babies. It’s a complete contrast to the previous number, and truly beautiful. Louise Gold may be best known as a loud brassy comedy singer, but there is such a lot more to her singing voice than just that. Time for a sketch, this one is all about A British Mother’s Flight, and is performed by Christopher Luscombe (as the interviewer) and Marilyn Cutts (as the aviator). At first I thought this a rather irritating sketch. But it’s worth paying attention to, because if you can overcome the rather irritating personality of the Mother, it is very funny, especially the way the aviator keeps trying to get her sponsor Lord Merriweather into the conversation. The episode ends with the company singing Let The People sing, pretty enthusiastically, they are loosening up a bit, but it is only a bit. Overall I felt that Jessica Martin’s absence from the company left a bit of a gap, which even the combined talents of new members Marilyn Cutts and Paul Bentley couldn’t quite fill, good though they were in some places, such as Something To Do With Spring, while Paul also shone doing the Cole Porter trio with Christopher Luscombe. Perhaps it was the dampened down company, perhaps his own charisma, but Sir John Mills came across much better than the guests in the previous two episodes. It was left to Louise Gold to really liven things up, with her three solos. The first though performed to her usual high standards was not quite a smash. But the second two were super. In The Wife Of An Acrobat she displayed her comic prowess very well, followed by a complete contrast with the simply beautiful Other People’s Babies.


Episode 4: Small Can Be Beautiful (31st August 1996)

The episode gets off to a decent start, with the usual intro The Twinkle In Your Eye sounding quite enthusiastic, but still a bit more formal than it did in the first two episodes. This is followed by all four singers singing Back To The Land, although only three of them, distinctly: Marilyn Cutts, Christopher Luscombe and Paul Bentley have solos, they all sound pretty good though. The next two numbers are by Irving Berlin. Marilyn sings What’ll I Do sweetly, you might call it beautiful, and then Louise Gold sings All Alone even more beautifully with her rich deep voice making it sound even more convincing, though she did sing it in a very low key (even for her it seemed low). This is followed by Christopher Luscombe doing his knut act again (that had been missing the week before), with I’m Tickled To Death I’m Single. It’s not as bouncy a song as the first two, but it has lyrics that are well worth hearing, and his diction does them justice. Moving on to a combined song and sketch, all four members of The Company edit A Very Nice Paper. This starts with a scene between Marilyn Cutts and one of the men (I’m not quite such which one though I think it might be Christopher Luscombe) as Miss Prism and Mr Prune. Its a very funny sketch. While Prune and Prism speak in the most refined accents, their newspaper is full of filth. It’s very funny to hear Marilyn declare, in her classy accent that a rape in Epping Forrest was “Quite the nicest rape since I’ve worked on this paper”. But even more hilarious is the second pair Fast and Loose portrayed by the remaining gentleman (possibly Paul Bentley) and Louise Gold. This pair with out and out common accents, which both actors are very good at, and yet their paper is pure and clean and very religious. All in all, to quote Loose’s line just before the sketch goes into song “It’s bloody good you know”. It’s hard to follow such a fine song and sketch, but follow it the quartet do, with two songs on a dancing theme (both by Herbert Farjeon). First up Pulling Down London. All of them sing it well, and Louise contrives to use an accent that appears to be a somewhat refined variation of her own London accent. They then go straight into a great little number When Bolonsky Danced Belushka for which they all sing with very good high class accents. Louise and Marilyn are both particularly convincing in this number. Louise uses very much the accent she used in the number We’ve Been To A Marvellous Party in Noel/Cole: Let’s Do It.  These two dancing songs are followed by another (also by Farjeon), this time a solo for Marilyn Cutts, I Danced With A Man. It’s a song about a girl whose danced with a man whose danced with a girl whose danced with a Prince of Wales, and Marilyn really does sound remarkably like a girl in her twenties when she sings it, and she’s really most convincing, I also found the number extra funny, because I kept thinking, that in real life Marilyn may not actually have done that, but she might have managed a similarly convoluted connection to someone who hugged him. Up till this moment the episode had been pretty good, though not quite as outstanding as the first two, but like the first two, the entrance of the guest was rather a come down. This time it was Fenella Fielding, who, joined by Paul Bentley, performed a sketch & song called Winter In Torquay. I do not know whether it was due to the performance or the writing or a mixture of both, but somehow this scene just totally failed to impress me, and I didn’t really like it all that much. The episode ended with Paul Bentley doing something much more palatable, singing Transatlantic Lullaby, with the rest of The Company. It’s a complicated song, but he sang it very pleasantly, with very good diction (something this song needs). When the rest of The Company eventually joined in this seemed to be more the two ladies joining in, one couldn’t actually hear Christopher Luscombe. Overall I felt that in many ways the episode was an improvement on the previous week’s, mainly because Marilyn Cutts and Paul Bentley gave much better performances, and The Company seemed to gel better together. However, the guest was to my mind one of their less successful appearances, and while Louise Gold performed brilliantly in the ensemble pieces, she got all too few opportunities to really shine on her own. However, she did somehow contrive to demonstrate just what a versatile mistress of accents she truly is (out of all the quartet in this episode she certainly gave us the greatest variety of voices). The highlights of the episode where the ensemble pieces: The Ballet Is Our Life, When Balumski Danced Petrushka, and, above all, the awfully comical A Very Nice Paper.


Episode 5: Oh What A Lovely War (7th September 1996)

The episode kicks off with it’s customary intro, The Twinkle In Your Eye yet this time it sounds even better than last week, full of enthusiasm, just the way it should sound, and we soon find out why, Jessica Martin is back. Continuing with the upbeat manner, they launch into F.D.R Jones, which is great fun. While Christopher Luscombe and Paul Bentley sing well, Louise Gold and Jessica Martin do a fine job with some very strong backing vocals (the kind of thing Louise at least has a lot of experience of providing). This is followed by Run Rabbit, where the two women dominate the entire song with their big strong voices. Setting the scene for the episode, Ned Sherrin narrates how with the outbreak of war all the theatre’s were closed, and says that when restrictions were lifted The Windmill (who boasted that “They never closed”) was the first to reopen. A point not explained in the programme is that in actual fact The Windmill was the first professional theatre to reopen, and even then it reopened with the same show that had been running prior to the declaration of war. On with the episode one of the guys sings How Beautiful You Are. It is a sweet but unremarkable song, though he sings it well. Ned Sherrin’s narration goes on to relate how during the Second World War London was overrun with reviews, and he lists a litany of show names, but they are from the professional theatre only, (no mention is made of the number of amateur reviews prevalent in London that time). On with the episode, and a bouncy fun jovial song called Goodbye Sally sung by Jessica Martin and Paul Bentley. It’s a love song, but what really stands out about it is how well Jessica sings it. It’s so good to have her back, she’s really something.  Paul sings well enough, but it’s Jessica’s number. On to a couple more ensemble pieces, sung by all four of the regular company. First of all The Lads In Navy Blue, this is really a song for the boys, so the two ladies join in with low voices, somehow I’m not sure if Marilyn could have done that as well as Jessica did it here, and naturally, Louise is perfect (because she’s good at going deep anyway). Onto a tribute to the Air Force, Sailagerra, gives Louise and Jessica a welcome opportunity for a sweet strong double act, with the men distinctly in the background. This number also brings to the fore one of Jessica’s great strengths as a musical comedy performer, she is one of the few people who can more than hold her own when singing duets with such a charismatic performer as Louise Gold, and it’s just pure delight to hear them paired up again. The men are very much in the background again. Of course Musical Comedy is an art form that throws up many surprises, not least of which is unlikely performers of it, and one such, as Ned Sherrin’s narration tells is, was Miss Edith Evans. One day at a railway station, she noticed a group of East End women setting off to go hop picking in Kent, and this gave her the idea for a hop picker’s sketch, London Can Take It, which is performed in this episode by a guest, whom Ned Sherrin introduces as “a mixture of comedy and pathos” Julia McKenzie. For once he is actually spot on. Julia McKenzie makes a super guest artist in this series. At last we have a guest who delivers a performance that actually meets the high standard of the regular company, and with such terrific comedy performances as Louise Gold and Jessica Martin around, that in itself is quite a challenge. But rise to it Julia McKenzie does, delivering the hop pickers monologue brilliant, with spot on timing, and a jolly convincing cockney accent of just the right era. She really did sound just like people in the East End would have sounded in the mid twentieth century. Continuing the episode, Ned Sherrin has a few things to say about Eric Maschwitz’s lyrics, and puts on record (as the lyricist told it to him) Eric Maschwitz’s story about asking a stage doorman in Lewisham how the show Goodnight Vienna was doing “About as well as Goodnight Lewisham would do in Vienna”; and then Jessica Martin sings a classic song with Maschwitz lyrics, originally introduced by Judy Campbell, A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square. Julia Mckenzie’s excellent monologue might be a hard act to follow, but Jessica’s always good at rising to that particular sort of challenge (she is one of the few people I’ve ever seen who really can follow a showstopper, no matter who it is). Jessica may be a fine mistress of voices, but (like Louise), she can also be a genuinely delightful sweet subtle singer. This is followed by Paul Bentley’s moment to shine, singing One Of The Whitehall Warriors. It’s a fun number, which he does justice to, though it almost got a little lost sandwiched between Jessica’s solos. Yes Jessica sang the next number, A Piccadilly Daffodil, a song included because it was from a show at The Windmill, and as Ned Sherrin said, they had to include one song from that theatre. With this song Jessica is like a breath of fresh air, she does a great cockney accent, and she really sounds like she means every word of it. However, according to Ned Sherrin’s narration the great defining sound of sophisticated world war two revue was Hermione Ferdinada Gingold. As she was a statuesque woman, and noted for her comedy singing (sometimes with her own ideas on how to alter lyrics), perhaps makes sense that for this radio programme her contribution to the genre is represented by another statuesque comedy singer-actress, Louise Gold singing one of Herionie Gingold’s great hits The Bourgeois Are Having An Orgy. And of course Louise Gold is utterly magnificent. Until this moment in the episode she might have seemed a little underused (except she didn’t because one was too busy enjoying Jessica’s performance), but now she steps into the spotlight and sparkles. One of our great contemporary comic singers, she knows just how to handle this number, with a disarming subtlety, and yet making it clear she knows exactly what she is doing with it. As a tour de force this is shear brilliance. It was just as well it was saved to last, as a doubt if even Jessica could have followed that! And so the episode ends in the best possible way, with the entire company singing the lovely lively I’m Gonna Get Lit Up. I really like that song a lot, but I particularly enjoyed its rendering by this company, and it ended with one of them (quite possibly Louise) holding a strong long note.  All in all a superb episode. In many ways I think it was the best episode of the entire series. I have one very minor comment on the content, namely that no mention was made of the notable contribution made by amateur theatre (such as London’s  Unity Theatre) to the world of revue at this time. However, in a half hour episode one can’t cover everything. And the material that was covered was uniformly excellent. It was also brilliantly performed by the entire company. For once the company truly had a guest whose talent was worthy of them, in the form of Julia McKenzie, whose performance of London Can Take It rivalled the best of them. But every member of the company was on top form as an ensemble they were particularly good in: FDR Jones, Run Rabbit, Sailagerra, and, the joyous I’m Gonna Get Lit Up. Christopher Luscombe and Paul Bentley provided strong support. Jessica Martin was an absolutely welcome return and shone throughout the programme, but was especially good in A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square, and, A Piccadilly Daffodil. And then there was Louise Gold, who might initially have seemed a little underused, singing strongly in the ensemble pieces, but really coming into her own, demonstrating just what so expert a comedy-singer-actress can do with The Bourgeois Are Having An Orgy. Overall a terrific episode.


Episode 6: Hullo Satire (14th September 1996)

This final episode opens differently to the previous episodes, with a rousing song to revive the spirits, Hallelujah from Pieces Of Eight. This also includes at least one spoken line for each of The Company, first Louise, then one of the men, then Jessica, and then the remaining man. The two ladies dominate a little with their powerful voices, but they use them with a lively sweetness, that is absolutely not in the least raucous. It’s put across very enthusiastically; the company really are pulling together to do this number. Indeed its sets the tone for most of the episode. Next up Ned Sherrin says that by now political satire was beginning to rear its head (in actual fact the word beginning only applies to professional revues, as political satire had already been used amateur revues for quite some time). Anyway, to represent political satire in revue a fine duet for Paul Bentley and Christopher Luscombe, There’s A Hole In My Budget. It’s a very funny song, supposedly between the characters of Harold Wilson and Denis Healy, and one which Ned Sherrin quite rightly points out has not dated. The characters might be just about any pair of Prime Minister and Chancellor Of The Exchequer. Next up, a sketch, introduced by Ned Sherrin as “We employ our entire and entirely innocent Company in Restoration Piece”. Restoration Piece’s main joke concerns a group of actors in a restoration comedy not realising that the S’s in their scripts look like F’s, and thus they keep reading them as F’s instead of S’s. Hence “Fir Folemnity Fourpuff” A good deal of the scene setting initial dialog is handled by the two woman, as a Lady and her Maid. As Lady Fouvent, Louise Gold makes excellent use of her wealth of experience at delivering a completely nonsensical script as though it makes perfect sense.  Jessica Martin also does very well with it. Both ladies are, afterall accomplished comedy performers. The two gentleman do their smaller parts well too, but it is the ladies of the company who really stand out. Towards the end of the sketch there is one very odd moment, which from the way Louise Gold delivered the line, I found it entirely unclear whether it was actually part of the script, or an adlib. The line was “Fecil, sorry Cecil.” Though it certainly got a good laugh.  Onto the subject of revue writer David Climbe, we get what I consider to be one of Ned Sherrin’s best anecdotes, about David Climbe introducing George Wadmore to the custom of ‘Afternoon Adultery’ at The Regent Palace Hotel.  And then it’s into a Climbe song, Peter Patter, sung by Jessica Martin, with Paul Bentley, though with Jessica doing her interpretation of Joan Heal, Paul Bentley hardly gets a look, let alone a word, in, and the audience only get a brief moment for laughing towards the end. Jessica sings this wonderfully. So wonderfully, that although I’m not always too keen on the song, I can’t help but enjoy her performance of it. It’s a real tour de force. I very much doubt if even Louise Gold could sing this song anywhere near as well as Jessica does (after all Louise is not exactly a natural fast tempo singer, whereas Jessica is). For Jessica Martin this song is truly a supersonic triumph. But Louise Gold has her own tour de force to follow, with Sandy Wilson’s Out Door Girl. This was originally introduced by Fenella Fielding, which I find quite impossible to imagine. In my humble opinion I can’t help but think that Louise’s rendition is probably miles better, she’s a real gem. Right from the opening lines “Since the age of seventeen, I have most sincerely been, dedicated to the life I choose” she sounds as though she means it. (Which is perhaps rather apt for a singer-actress who made her professional debut in pantomime at the age of seventeen). Though she sticks to one accent while singing the song, she still manages to be pretty wide-ranging, switching style several times during the song, to great effect, knowing just when to emphasis a lyric, and when to underplay it.  If we thought that Jessica was pretty stunning in her solo, well Louise is even more amazing. The trouble is it’s so hard to follow a true showstopper, and this was no exception. Wisely it was followed with a sketch rather than a song, an excerpt from Beyond The Fringe, but it was still a bit of a come down. This was introduced by Ned Sherrin first moving the history on to the subject of The University Revue. One bit which stands out in his narration, is the mention of The BBC televising Oxford Accents from The Oxford Playhouse, whose then ASM, one Margaret Smith, got spotted, and so began a notable acting career (well did you know that Dame Maggie Smith started out as an ASM for a revue at The Oxford Playhouse?). But it is the culmination of the University Revue, Beyond The Fringe (written by two Oxford and two Cambridge graduates) that is paid tribute to here, with: Christopher Luscombe as Alan Bennet, Paul Bentley as Peter Cook, Louise Gold as Jonathan Miller (whom Ned Sherrin points out described himself as “Not a Jew, just Jew-ish”), and, Jessica Martin as Dudley Moore, contemplating The End Of The World. While I don’t doubt this sketch is funny if you like this particular sort of revue, somehow it didn’t do very much for me; though I felt that Paul Bentley and Louise Gold gave good performances, and the others were adequate.  Ned Sherrin goes on to narrate that Beyond The Fringe, Private Eye, The Satirical Soho Club, and, The Tonight Show, lead to TW3, which he claims was the knell for revue. I’m not sure if that is entirely fair on TW3. However, he moves swiftly on to cover a few more modern reviews, including The Shakespeare Revue, from which the company sing In Shakespeare’s Day by Stiles and Drewe. For this they are joined by the episode’s guest, Malcolm McKee. The only guest appearance that is a little low-key, however, his performance more than makes up for that. Apart from Julia McKenzie the previous week, there has rarely been a guest whose standard of performance actually stood up to that of the company. If Ned Sherrin had not actually said who’d written it, I would never have guessed it was by Stiles and Drewe. The tune, while not particularly remarkable, is reasonably decent, and does not detract from the lyrics.  And it is the lyrics that are really rather impressive. They also happen to be rather well performed by all the company, playing the backstage crew and front of house staff of the RSC (a company which three of them have actually acted in), here we have: Jessica Martin doing a good job as The Wardrobe Mistress, Christopher Luscombe as a very funny ice-cream seller (his lines are also a swipe at commercialism in today’s theatre), Louise Gold sounds very convincing as the prompter (though her diction is only just about alright), Malcolm Mckee is also convincing as The Musician (ever since I heard this number on the radio, whenever Graham Ryder pops up in The Archers, I find myself thinking of his verse in this song. I also can’t help but wonder who Stiles and Drew were referring to in the line “Dreamt up by that composer who’s name I can’t pronounce”), and finally Paul Bentley as a heartfelt props buyer, he sounds like he’s enjoying getting in a dig a theatre directors with crazy ideas. And so the episode comes to an end, as it began, with The Farewell Song from Pieces Of Eight, a Farewell reprise of Hallelujah! Again sung very enthusiastically, with the big strong voices of those two ladies dominating, just like they have the singing in so much of the series. It’s a great high on which to end the episode and indeed the series. Overall a splendid episode. A bit different to previous episodes, since it very much focussed on The Company, rather than their special guest, this time the guest just blended effortlessly into being one of them. I felt this actually suited the programme much better, and proved the point, that with such a strong regular company of performers, the special guests hadn’t really been necessary. This episode is definitely one of the best. It included some very funny songs and sketches, such as: There’s A Hole In My Budget, Restoration Piece, and In Shakespeare’s Day, all of which were expertly performed. There was a real rouser of a song from Pieces Of Eight, Hallelujah, and to cap it all, the true stars of the entire series, Jessica Martin and Louise Gold, were both on top form, and each got her own special tour de force. Jessica Martin with Peter Patter, and Louise Gold with Outdoor Girl. All in all a near perfect episode to end a very interesting and enjoyable series of programmes.




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