Joel Cutrara Texts and Tributes

writer/actor/director/sound designer

in partnership with Neil Hornick, The Phantom Captain  (1972-87)

‘If we made our work totally comprehensible it would lose part of its meaning.’

 – Joel Cutrara


A UH selection of messages received by Neil Hornick, June 2019


Just been talking to Louise on the phone about this terribly sad news.

I have so many memories of Joel from the Phantom Captain days, not least his very first question to me when you and he interviewed me for a role in my first Phantom Captain musical show. I switched on my piano, Joel stroked his beard, winked, smiled and said “So…. what is the sound of God?”

There was only one Joel!

– Jude Allen (London)


Ah yes, Joel. He was a great double act with you, Neil. Very different. I too remember him with fondness. Hey, Phantom Captain was my first foray into proper (paid!) Fringe performing. I learned a lot with and from both of you. Joel had a big heart and helped create a wonderful organism. Yes, driving and smoking a lot. He had great presence and a fine beard; and now he is proper Phantom Captain after all.

And the Poems are beautiful.

Sincere condolences to Sunita and his grandchildren.


– Claudia Boulton, a.k.a. Claudia Egypt (London)


I first met Joel when I saw your co-written Kingdom Come show at The Bush Theatre in 1972, and thereafter I performed in numerous Phantom Captain gigs in the UK and Holland for over thirty years. It was a great learning experience in innovative theatre work.

I have many fond memories of Joel: his always entertaining if sometimes acerbic wit; his amicable laid-back demeanour; his distinctive vocal delivery in performance, in particular the Waiter Service VIP menu item with the telephone which I emulated (it seemed the only way to do it!) when I took over performing it on later occasions. And many other good memories, including Joel chatting away jovially and puffing on a fag, as he drove us all to numerous gigs in the PC’s iconic white Ford Transit.

I know that Joel suffered from depression for much of his life; he was a very sensitive man and could sometimes seem rather brittle. But he was very kind and generous to me, going out of his way in the early 90’s to help and advise me with my early induction into the use of computer graphics, on many occasions even letting me practice on his sophisticated computer equipment.

Joel was always very welcoming, but during the past twenty years his health began to deteriorate and he became very reclusive. So I never had the opportunity to see him again after the mid-nineties, though I did at least manage to speak to him on the phone a couple of times.

I shall always remember Joel with great affection.

Love and peace to you, Joel.

– Ian Johnson (London)

I especially remember him for his educative taste in music, appreciated on those long journeys in the blue transit with the back full of variegated randomness, for his flatulence on stage at the Kings Head on Tuesdays when the adjacent pizza house offered all you can eat for £5, for his kindness and cuddliness, and his often palpable underlying sadness.  I spoke to him a couple of years ago after getting his number from Ian, and I can still hear his voice as he registered that it was I: ‘JONES!!!’…   He did feel like a brother; and where would we be without the Indian Music poster?

I am sorry he’s gone… life gets weird as you get older.

– Louise Larchbourne, née Jones (Oxon)

Sad news. Thanks for letting me know.  He played a fair innings with 83.

A witty, jovial person with a dark streak, generous to me, inventive and at times outrageous.

I remember him from our participation in the Street Theatre festival in Vienna. He had given us strict instructions that should hoodlums confront us we were to run for it, separate and regroup at our van. Sure enough, our turning the square in one of the poorer districts of Vienna into a ‘Phantom’ deck of a sailing ship stirred something. ‘Occupying’ the whole square, it aroused the ire of some young local folk and we were instructed by Joel to run for it. Which we certainly did, with gusto…

The waiter service with Joel was always a hoot and are some of my happiest memories as a performer, thanks to Joel and you, Neil.

Vale Joel, it was a privilege to know and work with you. Hopefully our paths will cross somewhere in Phantom Heaven.

– Eugene Schlusser (Melbourne)


Thank you so much for letting all of us know that Joel has left… physically…..

I worked with Phantom Captain on and off throughout my twenties – the impression is indelible and I too proudly claim it’s where I learned my craft!

In all that time, as one of the Three Capitans [Peter Godfrey was the third], I remember warmly Joel’s consistent presence, wrapped in a whirl of smoke; always chilled, kind, funny.

Go well, Joel!

Love to all the friends here and the half-known but familiar names …

– Ros Stockwell (London) 


What sad news.

He certainly was a one-off.

I remember him particularly from the time of Wakeathon at the ICA. You were both on top form then, in that ever more bizarre Phantom Captain extravaganza.

Fond memories of having known him in all his off-the-wall ways.

May his memory be a blessing.

Sef Townsend (London)


Very sad news. He was a great guy — witty, creative, fun to be with. My time with Phantom Captain was a very important part of my life, and Joel was very important in it. For a while he was my closest friend, and I spent many evenings with him and his family at that flat in Marylebone.  Although we lost touch years ago, I have been reminded from time to time of the work we all did together, and have greatly missed him being around. As I go through the archives, I look forward to the memories. Condolences.

– Graham Watson, a.k.a.‘The Incredible Bradford’ (Hawaii)


Oh Joel! – you lovable, irritating, man!

I have so many memories of working with him, performing with him and being with him – they all came flooding back.

My favourite Joel line:  “Always exceed the recommended dose” – I like to think that was the maxim by which he lived his life.

You couldn’t make him up!

– Liz Weston (Dorset)




… the memories being evoked…he will live on! Mick [Mick Banks, formerly of John Bull Puncture Repair Kit] and I never knew Joel very well, but I will remember him as he appears in the footage of Phantom Captain shot by Roger Deakins at the 1973 ‘Another Festival’ in Bath.

I’ve just watched it again and it still makes me laugh…. Mick too…

Joel in a white coat and sunglasses, fag in mouth, to a couple of prospective Phantom Captain Mystery Tour participants: ‘I’m afraid we couldn’t really work in surgery. Not only does the BMA get uptight with us, but the Arts Council refuses to let us perform surgery in the work that we do. We’ve attempted many times…’ Neil popping his head over a screen, asking Joel to keep the noise down – Joel reaches for a megaphone to bellow: ‘Could we have it quiet please! Quiet please!’

– Corinne d’Cruz & Mick Banks, British Events (Dover)

Many thanks for the sad news about Joel. Please accept my sincerest condolences. As you are aware, I only knew Joel for the fairly brief time I collaborated with The Phantom Captain around 1980. I very much enjoyed working with him; his dry, droll, sometimes slightly cynical personality was always a delight. My fondest memory of him is the witty 4-minute monologue he co-wrote with you and recited on my zany post-punk “Claws” Christmas album at that time. So may I share that recording with you, in his honour? It is here on YouTube, and if you or any other listener find the music irritating, please at least skip to about 2:03 and enjoy Joel’s contribution.

Once again my sincerest condolences to you and yours, and of course to Joel’s family and all his friends.

– Morgan-Fisher, ex-Mott the Hoople (Tokyo)


I’m very sorry to hear that Joel has died, your Co-Captain for such a long time. I met him only a few times and remember him vaguely as a rough diamond: a rather forbidding exterior and manners, taciturn, but with sudden funny and surrealistic remarks. And what I am more certain of is that my daughter Katja, then 6 years old (she’ll be 60 this August), once stayed a night at his place all by herself and that he turned out to be a thoughtful and caring host for the child.
Thanks for adding those texts: The Legalise Indian Music made me laugh and the Ecumenical Rag came back to me from ages ago, a striking poem.

– Wiebe Hogendoorn (Amsterdam)


Thank you for this sad news, Neil.

I have posted this news on the Performance Magazine Live facebook page here:

Good to be in touch with Phantom Captain people… I was a big PC fan back in the day, and yes I remember Joel well from Performance Magazine days. The Phantom Captain very kindly hosted Performance Magazine in its very first office at 10 Fleet Road in 1979.

Very sorry to hear of Joel’s death. I tried to find an image for him for Performance Magazine Live and realised he seemed to have become a movie star.  Was this the same Joel? [Almost – he appeared in bit parts in several classy film and TV productions – NH] 

The Phantom Captain, in my opinion, was one of the great experimental theatre groups of the twentieth century and Joel Cutrara, co-conspirator with Neil Hornick, was a shining lighthouse beam of the general strangeness which illuminated this uncanny valley… there’s been nothing like PC since.

If you want to know more, you can read all the copies of Performance Magazine, including articles by Neil Hornick and articles about the Phantom Captain and other performance groups of the day on


– Rob La Frenais, founder editor, Performance Magazine



* * *



Song from CURTAINS, unproduced play written by Joel for the Festival-Symposium of Death at Erasmus Medical University and De Lantaren, Rotterdam (1978)


Stop the Milk

Stop the Milk

Disconnect the papers and the phone;

Settle up your scores

And close up all your pores

‘Cause you’re not coming back home!


When the Dark is waiting round the bend

Think about the ways you meant to mend.

Break – with the past

You’re far beyond that ilk,

Cancel tomorrow

And Stop the Milk!


When ‘THE END’ is spread across the screen,

And the Lights switch off your dream,

You’re going – fast

Cut that chord of silk.

Cancel tomorrow

And Stop the Milk!


Stop the Milk

Stop the Milk

Disconnect the papers and the phone;

Settle up your scores

And close up all your pores

‘Cause you’re not coming back home!


* * *


Prose-poem from CURTAINS, unproduced play written by Joel for the Festival-Symposium of Death at Erasmus Medical University and De Lantaren, Rotterdam (1978)















hold.    Hold.    Hold.    Hold.    Hold.


                            Hold.   Hold.     Hold.