On the 21st October 2016 I took a long road trip from London to the North East of England, to Middlesbrough and the Middlesbrough theatre to be exact. The reason? I had tickets to FINALLY see 'Wisdom Of A Fool'. A one man show starring Jack Lane about UK comedy legend Sir Norman Wisdom. The play is written by Jack with additional material by yours truly. Actually I started work on the show towards the tail end of 2014 and the show officially debuted in 2015 at the Capitol Theatre in Horsham. That's why I stressed the word FINALLY earlier. I'm thinking that about now, some of you have two questions and some of you have three; 1) "Why had it taken so long to see it?" 2) "What do you mean by additional material?" & for those waiting on a third question ........ 3) "Who is Sir Norman Wisdom?".
Well before answering those I need to take you back. Back to the days where I would overuse Pritt Stick glue on class work and get praise for sitting up straight with my arms folded.
Yes, going to Primary School in Newcastle upon Tyne was very enjoyable. I have many fond memories; listening to the register being read out in different voices by our teacher/pro stand up comedian Mike Milligan, playing Ghostbusters in the playground, being banned from sharpening pencils and then there were the school trips.
I remember going to three places over my time at Kingston Park Primary School; Hartlepool Marina Museum, St Mary's Lighthouse and Beamish Museum. They must have had a special agreement with Beamish as it seemed we went once or twice every year. I didn't mind though, Beamish for those that haven't been is an open air museum showing how people lived in the 1820's, 1900's and 1940's. Besides this being a very cool concept, the real reason I enjoyed our jaunts to this museum? We always had to go dressed up in our Victorian clothing. This consisted of black trousers, white shirt, black waistcoat and a flat cap. Take note of the last item of clothing and look to the pictures to the right. That's it! That's the real reason I loved those trips. I could turn that flat cap up at the peak and get laughs all day long. How? By pretending to trip up as I walked and fall over as I sat down for lunch. I got to play Sir Norman Wisdom, I would do everything except shout "Mr Grimsdale!".
Like most people who have a knowledge/love of something or someone, I find it hard to grasp that others might not know what I'm talking about. So to give you an idea of what Sir Norman Wisdom was all about, I scanned youtube and found a tribute video by 'An Actual Sloth'. (I'm unsure on how many toes but that's mighty impressive.)
I'm a huge fan of old school things; such as television series, films, music and comedy. Oh! I forgot one....words. I have been told by many that I seem to have the vocabulary of a person from the 1940's. Isn't that just dandy? Well poppycock I say, it's all a load of balderdash. Anyway where was I? A love of old school. Spiffing! This is in large part due to my Grandparents and I am extremely grateful. I was quite routine when I was a child; I would finish school and I would go home to delve into the world of VHS (Google VHS *sighs*). I would watch Tommy Cooper, Eric and Ernie and after having watched a Biography Channel documentary on Mr Wisdom. I would watch my two NW purchases 'One Good Turn' and 'Norman Wisdom Live' on loop.
Over the next few years I would move onto DVD's and added to my collection were the films 'Trouble in Store', 'Stitch in Time', 'Press for Time' and still my personal favourite 'Man of the Moment' (I even have the poster for that movie framed thanks to Jack). Norman is so endearing in all of his films (Well let's not mention 'What's Good For The Goose') but to me he is the most endearing and loveable in MOTM. There are so many classic scenes in this one; such as fetching the files using the ladder, acting as the tea boy, getting a passport photo, trying to escape/get rid of a bomb and many more. Also I feel that the love story between Norman and Penny is executed perfectly here. They have enough moments together on screen that it seems plausible that they would fall in love. It's refreshing that it's not love at first sight like many of his other film romances or that he's already infatuated with her when the movie begins. I think a main factor in the success of the movie is Normans chemistry with Lana Morris, it's never bettered in my opinion. She of course also features in Normans first outing 'Trouble in Store'. While we're on the topic of love, this film made me fall in love with not only Normans clowning but also his singing. I must admit most nights after school I would head home, don my ill fitting flat cap and sing along to the songs of that movie; 'Yodelee Yodelay', 'Beware' and 'Dream for Sale'. These songs don't detract from the movie or seem out of place, they really help the narrative and Norman acts them brilliantly. Take a look:
The years have gone by and though I haven't watched the movies as much in my twenties; my admiration, respect and adoration for Sir Norman has not waned one bit. In fact as I grew older and followed a performing career; I found myself wanting to transfer those scenes of acting as Sir Norman, from my bedroom to a theatre stage. I had seen Bob Golding in 'Morecambe' in 2010 and I had written my own play set in a showbiz world called 'Double Act' for the Edinburgh Fringe 2011 so I knew it could be done.
Luckily for me, it was while I was preparing for the show at the Edinburgh Fringe, I received a message from someone who seemed interested in the premise of 'Double Act'. We chatted and he had the same love of old school comedy as I did. His name was Jack Lane & he had a plan........
TO BE CONTINUED.