It was 2011, I was twenty one and I was taking my own show called ‘Double Act’ to the Edinburgh Fringe. A play about a fictional duo in a world where Morecambe and Wise didn’t exist. How would Douglas and Adams cope with the pressure? You’re not misreading, they were called Douglas and Adams (What can I say? I’m a fan.) I thought that videos would be a good way to drum up some audience interest ahead of August. As a result every rehearsal was documented and placed on YouTube. After a few videos I was contacted by someone who was very curious about the show and its premise. His name, Jack Lane. He himself had a love of old school comedy. In fact he was putting together a theatrical version of ‘Steptoe and Son’ at the Capitol Theatre in Horsham.
August rolled around fast and Jack came up to Edinburgh to watch the show. He was one of the shows strongest supporters. I felt a kinship with Jack straight from the get go, perhaps it’s because our birthdays fall on the same day. Since then we were pen pals. Emailing back & forth about classic comedy and future projects.
In one of our many lectures on classic comedy we started talking about one performer in particular, Sir Norman Wisdom. I had always had in mind the idea to create a film or a theatre piece about Norman. Well Jack had the exact same idea. It must have been around 2012 when work first started on a one man show entitled ‘Wisdom of a Fool’.
Jack had started working on Act One and was struggling a little with Act Two. I told him to give me a ring and we chatted for a very long time. He asked if I’d be interested in helping, let me think? SURE! I jumped at the chance. I had previously enjoyed writing ‘Double Act’ and this was one of my dream projects, a project that I thought would never happen. Our main problem when it came to writing was that there is so much material when it comes to Normans life. What do you focus on? We decided to split his life into two parts. Act One would look at his upbringing and Act Two would look at his early success in show business. My main sources of reference were the Norman Wisdom autobiography ‘My Turn’ and ‘Trouble in Store: Norman Wisdom, a career in comedy’ by Richard Dacre.
Being in two different locations; Jack in Horsham and me in Newcastle, we met frequently over Skype to discuss scenes and structure. I was thrilled when Jack informed me that Normans children Nick and Jaqui were enthusiastic about the project and willing to help in anyway. This included providing Jack with one of Normans actual suits. I cannot begin to imagine how Jack was feeling when he did the first read through of the script in front of Normans children and how he felt the first time he donned the famous ill fitting clothes. The debut date for ‘Wisdom of a Fool’ was September 17, 2015. We had our deadline. I completed a version of Act Two in early 2015 and sent it to Jack. Unfortunately that was where my input ended, I wasn’t able to continue with the project as it headed into rehearsals because I had been employed on board a cruise ship.
Even though I was away I knew that the show was in safe hands. Jack did have a very talented team by his side; Kenny Clayton (Music and Direction) David Philips (Production Manager, Lighting Designer and Co-producer) Daniel Barnes (Sound Design) and Mike Simmonds (Assistant Director and Producer).
The show debuted and I saw the reviews online as I sailed the seven seas. I was very proud but also frustrated because I hadn’t been able to attend. I finished my contract & returned back to the UK in May 2016, one of the first things I wanted to do was watch the play. I was thrilled to hear Jack had secured other venues for 2016 including the Middlesbrough Theatre. So I decided I would drive from London to my home town of Newcastle upon Tyne on the 19th October, then on the 20th October I would drive from Newcastle to Gateshead and then to Middlesbrough. Why Gateshead? I wasn’t going to go alone to the show. I was taking Sean, my best friend and co-star of ’Double Act’. Jack had seen us perform in 2011 and now we were going to watch him in 2016.
TO BE CONTINUED