Sarah Evans Topic List

Topics List  taken from her interview with Susan Croft, March 2011 at Thrandeston, nr Diss, recorded by Jessica Higgs
Audio extracts edited by Jessica Higgs

The interview with Sarah Evans (now Guthrie) was held around her kitchen table
so that we could go through the contents of her Theatrescope scrapbook with her
Her husband Brian Guthrie was also present and chips in with memories here and there
In the topics list she is referred to as Sarah Evans, her name at the time

Background and getting into theatre

Brought up in Wimbledon, a conventional but nice background
Theatre didn’t form part of her upbringing
Went to Paris as student where she made friends
with people who had vague connections to theatre
On returning to London got a job with a friend
she met in Paris running a very early form of Time Out called
The London Playgoers Club, which was being run from a flat in
Bayswater, 1964
The owner, Robert Sheaf, was an eccentric guy,
who had a background in putting on plays and taking
plays to outlandish places
He wanted to start a guide to London Theatre
Using one on those old duplicating machines
they produced a monthly guide to West End and
what he called ‘Perimeter’ Theatre
You could join and get discount prices on tickets and
information on what was on, on the fringe
She got him to write down his life once
Sheaf took her to the theatre
The 2 people she worked with there were Bryan King and Paul Adams
They asked her to join them setting up a lunchtime theatre
Bryan was from Australia and had worked at the Little Theatre,
Melbourne, where they had lunchtime theatre
There was none in London at the time; they were the first
hey were paid on and off by Sheaf who was very ambitious
and wanted to rejuvenate aspects of theatre
whether people wanted him to or not
Story of him trying to ‘save’ the Golders Green Hippodrome
which was at that time being used for the Miss World contests
He did quite useful things in an eccentric sort of way
He also ran playwriting competitions
Her first job with him was to read some the scripts sent in
The ‘Theatre Perimeter’ included places like Wimbledon,
Guildford, Leatherhead, Unity Theatre – independent theatres
operating in and around the Home Counties
Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill where Jean Paul Voos was based,
Oval House was quite new then. It had been a boys club taken
over by Peter Oliver who turned it into an arts centre
It was not in the guide

Lunchtime Theatre

It was Bryan King’s vision to set up the lunchtime theatre
They knew of the existence of the Little Theatre in St Martins Lane as it was in their listings
It had slightly mad, amateur productions in the evenings and included a jazz club
It was under the wing of Jean Pritchard who’d been bequeathed it by a rich uncle as a hobby
It was bit of a venue for failed or retired actors, had a bar where they’d reminisce
and put on third rate productions
No experimental work
Pritchard was happy for them to rent and to use space for lunchtime work
Up 3 flights of stairs in a ramshackle office building which still exists
It was an attic space with a fire escape looking on to yard
Not much done to it since Victorian times
Some double doors led into a very small space with seating for about 50 and a wee stage
Bryan had a clear vision of what he wanted
It was a shop window for projects they thought worthwhile
He  was a director and wanted to do his own work too
They had no money, no-one did then
Printed off programme and walked around local offices in area
selling notion of coming to see lunchtime theatre
They offered luncheon vouchers – lunch and a play for  five shillings (25p new money)
Membership was two and six (12 ½ p)
Through subs, box office and the odd hand-out from Patrons –
Vanessa Redgrave, Peter Sellers, Peggy Ashcroft, Kenny Griffiths –
they were able to pay actors Equity minimum of £7 per week
For five shillings they gave a cup of coffee, food and a play
The eating  had to be very quiet as the actors were very close to the audience
It was usually a roll with cheese or pilchards made freshly everyday
She and Paul Adams were living in Wimbledon and would drive up and
park in the street which you could then
Bryan King lived in Bayswater
Sarah Evans was living at home with parents, had a typewriter so could type up programmes,
design leaflets, posters etc
They were all unpaid
Paul was living at home too, Bryan living independently doing odd jobs
He had strong directorial vision and notion of plays he wanted to do
They did one-act plays with no more than 3 characters so they could pay the actors
He drew up first season of plays
Did a play a week
Performed at 12.15 and 1.15
Bryan directed and they rehearsed in his house in Sunderland Terrace, Bayswater
Began with John Mortimer’s The Dock Brief, Ionesco’s The Lesson and did new work too

Going through the scrapbook

Interview with Illustrated London News from 1966. Lunchtime plays ran from 1966-68
Work was well received
Called themselves Theatrescope Original Lunchtime Plays
Scene from The Lunch Hour: Photo of people eating and watching, bar with food ready
Story of the American playwright, William Saroyan, coming upstairs
and Sarah getting him to help make sandwiches for the performance.
The Lesson [Ionesco], The Lunch Hour, The Dock Brief [Mortimer], The Dumb Waiter [Pinter],
Tennessee Williams too
Had to pay Performing Rights
Story of adaptation of Doris Lessing book into play without getting rights
Notional membership scheme operated: you could pay at door
Theatrescope did early ED Berman (EB) plays which is how they got to know him
Received a lot of press coverage, even got as far as Italy
Evening Standard, Observer, The Stage every week
Michael Billington used to come (aged about 23!)
Letters from V&A – Sarah would send copies of the programmes for each production to them

Plays and Players
Photo from Keepers by David Halliwell
Cutting comparing lunchtime at 3 venues. Theatrescope deemed best value for money
Arts and London Traverse at the Cochrane were other two
Keith Johnstone, who was also a friend, used to bring his ‘Improv’ classes to their stage
That’s when Improv started to become public performance

Photo of lunch-hour performance taken from stage
Audiences on the whole from local offices
Touting for audiences in offices
Had a faithful audience who came every week
Plays had to be around 50 minutes long to come in within the lunch-hour slot
Photo showing how double doors connected bar and performance space.
Usually closed during shows. Opened them for Brecht
Photo of old-fashioned looking audience.
Mostly scripted plays but did new and experimental work too
David Bowie came once (then David Jones)
Peter Oliver’s name on the membership list

Example of typical flier. Sarah typed them and used letraset
Did occasional fundraising events, benefits
Julie Felix did one at The Marquee

Critics came. Chekhov plays inc. The Bear with Roland Culver and Michael Gothard
Photos usually taken by those attached to productions
Material connecting Theatrescope to EB – Father Xmas Union
ED turned up with a play and promised to get lots of money
They later joined  forces at the Ambiance (Inter-Action) in Bayswater
He had some quite good and successful one-act plays e.g. The Nudist Campers Grow and Grow
Also  Escurial (Ghelderode), The Glass Menagerie (T. Williams)
Cuttings from Rosalyn Fuller’s show with them
She had played Ophelia to somebody’s Hamlet
Fuller did a one-woman show based on Daisy Ashford’s The Young Visitors
There was separate membership for Theatrescope’s lunchtime plays
from the evening programme at the Little Theatre
Thinks Jean Pritchard was rather disapproving of their productions
Rented the space from her and there were conflicts
Not sure how they paid for it
During 2nd year Bryan King set up a business in his bedroom making kaftans
to help pay for the theatre
They took the summers off to earn money
Keith Johnstone wrote The Martians for them. CP Taylor, Allergy
Flyer about Ben Benison’s work
Cuttings of various lunchtime shows.
There was a very experimental ‘clangy’ music piece by Ron Geeson who
became quite an established Scottish musician
Audience were faithful, coming regularly regardless of what was on
They would rally round, once helping raise money when a pair of hired pistols, f
or Chekhov’s The Bear, were stolen
When they finally finished their Lunchtime work Theatrescope handed over  their  audience lists
to the Soho Poly, who they knew a bit, and the King’s Head, Islington

Photos of John Welsh, a very established West End and TV actor, and John Gill

Keith Johnstone wrote Moby Dick for them
Along with Anthony Trent and John Muirhead, all went on to become established improvisers in their own right
They ran a boutique in the Box Office selling handmade stuff, aprons, plastic bags
The kaftan trade became big business
Known as ‘Mother Wouldn’t Like
It  had a boutique off Bond Street
Sold to Miss Selfridges – fluffy shirts, high 60s stuff
Mr & Mrs X flyer, was a new play, good reviews
Michael Billington turned up once and was asked to help take set up the stairs
Sarah Evans used to do stage management sourcing furniture etc in a very casual way
Would go into an office or somewhere, saying we’re doing a theatre play,
can we borrow such and such?
They’d say yes and they’d carry it down Charing Cross Road to the theatre
The Brecht piece was a big success
It was when Brian Guthrie [now her husband] joined them as stage manager
Brecht was directed by Peter Zander who was quite established
Started at Theatrescope and transferred to the Arts where Quipu theatre company were based
Peter Zander’s company was called Romany Productions

Flyers for new plays

The Successful Life of Three [Maria Irene Fornes] was one of the many plays
over from the States at the time
La MaMa were around and also a lot of US street theatre which they saw
Simon Williams was in a play with Jonathan Lamede [later Arts Council officer]
and Jill Lamede [who established TOOT – The Other Oxfordshire Theatre]
Photos from The Constant Lover
First Season was: The Dock Brief, The Lesson, Dumb Waiter, This Property Is
Condemned [T.Williams], Two Executioners [Arrabal]
The latter was a very dark play which involved a corpse being carried through audience
on a door out onto the fire escape

Into their 2 year.

Super Santa by Ed B [writing name of ED Berman]
The play came first and Ed set up his Father Xmas Union afterwards
ED approached them about  putting on his play which they did
He went away and came back at a later date with a proposal that they join forces
to run a Lunchtime theatre at the Ambiance Café, Bayswater Road,  over the summer
A lot a legal stuff went on as Theatrescope wanted to copyright their name,
as they were afraid of being steamrollered by ED
Ran a season at Ambiance under Inter-Action/Theatrescope banner
Plays featured were those ED wanted to do, eye-catching stuff like: The Nudist
Campers Grow and Grow
, and a play written for him by John Arden, Squire Jonathan
When the season ended, Jean Pritchard wouldn’t let them return to hiring the Little Theatre
space and they finished presenting lunchtime theatre
In the 2nd year they produced Ed B’s Sagittarius, directed by Naftali Yavin
Play was taken to be part of the Brighton Combination festival (newspaper review by Jack Tinker)

Richard O’Brien [later of Rocky Horror Show fame] appeared in The Man With Flower in Mouth [Pirandello]
Richard Wilson directed and acted in Pinter’s Dumb Waiter
More material linking Inter-Action with Theatrescope at Ambiance
ED Berman  got things done, produced hundreds of things, raised the money, knew how to woo people
She admired his style but there was no sentiment

Cuttings about John Arden’s Squire Jonathan
Ambiance content was very much what Ed wanted to do
Space was in the basement
ED took over their Patrons e.g. Vanessa Redgrave
Theatrescope was running down, they needed to earn and couldn’t renew lease at the Little Theatre
Clothes business was taking off
Photo of semi-clothed woman [Olga, girlfriend of owner of Ambiance, Junior Telfer]
promoting Ambiance in Bayswater
Information on Nudist Campers Grow and Grow by ED B and The Electronic Nigger [Ed Bullins]
Ed was just starting Inter-Action games method
Was focused on establishing City Farms and Father Christmas Union at this stage
You could have a meal in the restaurant at the Ambiance before the show, but this was very
nerve-wracking timing-wise
ED brought in a colourful crew, people like Michael X
Brian Guthrie was a student in a house where someone else was working on the Brecht
Exception to the Rule
Brian was roped in to work on it and from there was offered the job of Stage Manager
at Theatrescope by Bryan King at £7 a week
Only 4 dimmers and 7 lamps so it was pretty easy running the shows
He was also involved in clothes business.
He worked on first Ambiance season.

Cuttings on: Jennie Lee, who was in the Archers, Ian Triggo, Keith Johnstone
Photo of production of NF Simpson’s A Resounding Tinkle
Article in Israeli newspaper – Naftali Yavin connection.
Papers about new formed Soho Theatre. Theatrescope gave them their membership list as they were closing
Verity Bargate was the driving force behind Soho. Paul Daneman, Frederick Proud, Kenneth J Warren
William Slater involved
Cutting of ED interview in Plays and Players
Richard Pascoe, Michael Gothard – who became a film actor and worked on The Devils [Ken Russell].
Sarah Evans working on stall selling clothes, secretarial work
Bryan King was killed in a motor bike accident in 1974. Had changed direction and was working in wildlife preservation

Post Theatrescope

She got married and lived in West Kensington
Worked in an adventure playground
Moved to Finsbury Park and began a Community group there
Community activism with garden, parades etc. à la Inter-Action but more grassroots
The London Playgoers Club information is in another scrapbook
It was pretty much rundown by 1966
She asked  Robert Sheaf to write down all he’d done
She also interviewed on tape her co-worker there about it. Lyndel Rowe  was a regular working with Theatrescope,
who is now in Melbourne and mentions them on her website
Sarah holds script of Keith Johnstone’s Time Machine and possibly some other prompt copies

Move to Suffolk and some pre-Theatrescope history

Moved to Suffolk in 1979
Talks a bit more about community activism and ‘Education Otherwise’ (Sarah Evans was a
founder member of the Home Education Movement) whilst in Finsbury Park
It was the time of  emergence of the alternative schools movement
She had lived in Paris for a couple of years after school
There had been social expectations on her
Comfortable, middle class upbringing
Maybe to become an air hostess or marry a rugby player
For a time she worked on a fashion magazine called Wife and House
which was part of the Amalgamated Press, publishing 80 papers from The Dandy
through to House and Homes
Then on to Harper’s Bazaar –rich world of privilege and fashion
She realised there that she wasn’t really in sync with that kind of life and those values
A friend was already living in Paris and she went there to join her (17/18),
working and learning French
Whilst there made another friend Clive who on her return, got her involved
working with Sheaf and The London Playgoers Club
Story of one of Sheaf’s extreme ideas which never came to anything
He advertised a playwriting competition in the New Statesman where the winner
would get a West End production of their play
Sarah was paid 5 shillings per script to read – she had no experience of theatre at all at this point!
Sheaf had broken his legs and therefore a cast iron excuse for nothing happening to his plan
except the receipt of hundreds of scripts, most of which were never returned to their owners
He took her to the theatre and introduced her to that world
More about home schooling and Community Garden in Finsbury Park
After moving out of London in1979 she got involved with a friend doing strip cartoon work
Had always done images on publicity for Theatrescope. Mainly gags black and white drawing
Currently does strip-cartoons for Peace News and Ethical Consumer
She and Brian have staged women’s plays in their barn
Plays by Caroline Forbes, who won a Best Play award some years ago on Radio 4,
and Peppy Barlow, also a local woman
They have also run, for 18 years, the local Community Cinema in the barn
Mentions that Rupert Herries took over running the Little Theatre evening programme after they left

Back to Sarah Evans

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