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On the 20th October 2016 I picked up 'Double Act' co-star Sean Hanlon. We drove the short hour and a half to reach our destination of the Middlesborough theatre, that night we would be watching 'Wisdom of a Fool'. It wasn't my first journey to the Middlesborough theatre, I had previously ventured there in 2013 to watch a pantomime. It was 'Peter Pan' starring John Challis of 'Only Fools & Horses' fame as Captain Hook and as Peter Pan...Jack Lane. I was so proud of my friend and still to this day I have the ticket to 'Peter Pan' that I got Jack to sign at the stage door.
Sean and I parked the car & decided to go for a walk, we had a few hours to kill and both of us fancied a bite to eat. We started walking & kept walking, we couldn't find a single restaurant or bar. We must have walked for over an hour until we finally found a stretch of road with cafes, bars and restaurants either side. Now we were so spoilt for choice and couldn't make the simple decision of where to eat. That was until we saw a Chinese Buffet. We had walked for so long that I was worried that we may now be quite far from the venue. I jumped straight onto my phone to find out the walking back time, I laughed out loud. Though we had walked over an hour, we were now only seven minutes away. We had walked in a loop.
On the 11th October 2016 I journeyed from down south to up north. I went back to my hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is a long drive that I have gotten used to since living in London. I always try when I can to drive back home to see friends and family. Margaret my Satnav (Does anyone else name their SatNav?) always tells me that it is a simple six hour journey. However Margaret seems to forget that there are other vehicles on the road & that motorways like to close during the night. Usually keeping me sane and getting me through the journeys are various podcasts and albums. I very rarely listen to the actual radio. The podcasts and albums of choice at the moment are as follows:
After food and a quick drink it was time for the show, we walked the seven minutes back to the Middlesborough and we picked up the tickets. I was really excited to see the show but I was also nervous. Being in the audience means you can hear the reaction from the crowd. I don't just mean the applause but I mean the oooh's, the ahhh's, the sobbing, the praising comments and the unfiltered criticism. Our seats were about four rows from the front, the stage was littered with parts of the set being covered with large sheets that read 'The Rank Org'. This was the exciting bit, though I had written parts of the show, when it came to the staging and how things were going to be done, I had no idea what was coming. I could watch as both a production team member and as an everyday audience member.
The lights went down and the show opened with the familiar beeps of BBC News, following that were the various reports of Sir Norman Wisdoms death from News stations around the world. Though the play started with the news of Normans death, this show was going to prove that Norm is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of the public and in the body of Jack Lane. I was thrilled with how the production had turned out. I watched the first half in amazement.
Jack had the mannerisms and the essence of Norman from the get go. Not only does Jack play Norman, he plays everyone else. Over thirty different personas are brought to life by one performer. It was like watching an athlete, not once did I see the energy or the stamina drop, not one moment did I see Jack struggling. He knew where the finish line was and he knew exactly what was needed to get there. With the first half we learn about Normans Dickensian childhood; an abusive father, street cons to earn a few bob, a walk to Cardiff and living homeless under the Marshall Foch statue. (One very cool piece of publicity for the show was that Jack went back to the statue dressed in Normans actual suit.)
I had a special interest in Act Two as that was the act that I had helped provide additional material for. I had received an email while I was working away that said quite a bit of material had to be dropped and lines tweaked in the rehearsal studio. I wondered if much of my original scripting would be included. I was very happy to see that the structure of Act Two was very similar to what I had penned. Many ideas, scenes and lines though altered were still there; the sketch with magician David Nixon that helped create the Gump character & Norman reflecting on his marriage to Freda were two that I vividly remember sitting down to write. At the end of the show the audience and I had been taken through all emotions. I have to admit that I shed tears at three separate points of the show; the moment that Jack donned Normans actual suit, when Norman spoke about his wedding day and at the end of the show. I stayed around following the show to congratulate Jack and to wish him luck with the next night. I am very happy to know that there are more dates planned for 'Wisdom of a Fool' in 2017 including one in London. I'm desperate to see it again and so I shall be attending one of the March dates at the Lost Theatre. If you want to know where 'Wisdom' is heading next then just click the link below.
In closing, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine when I was watching 'Man of the Moment' starring Norman Wisdom, did I think I would one day have a hand in helping to create this beautiful piece of theatre. I encourage everyone, young and old to see this show. You don't have to just be a Sir Wisdom fan to see it, this story is about overcoming the odds through tremendous determination to achieve a dream.