Location: Wood Green, London, UK
Interviewer: Tony Coult
Technician: Rebecca Laughton
Topics List: Tony Coult
Audio timing – 2:40:52
[This is a continuation of the Unfinished Histories interview with Patrick Barlow dated 22.03.2012 for which there is a separate Topics List. See Patrick Barlow Topics List 2012]
00.00.00 Barlow’s route out of Inter-Action. Patrick as a core member of Inter-Action Dogg’s Troupe but beginning to feel restive and senses that his own creativity is being blocked. Develops ‘Market Stall Owner’ character influenced by Ed Berman (EB). Working on a play by Chris Bayley (CB) for the Fun Art Bus, about a family break-up. Symbolises break-up of the Troupe. EB not in it. Also a proper script. Street play Bonkers ‘the beginning of the end’. Awkward head-pieces he hated. Wanting to act, direct and write. Moves to Manchester with girlfriend Meg, living in Platt View. Sees job advert for Duke’s Playhouse Young People’s Theatre director in The Stage and applies successfully
00:14:48 Working at Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster as Young People’s Theatre director. Admits to initially copying the template set by EB – street theatre and parades. But starts to add his own interest in Rock music. Barmy Army show modelled on Inter-Action Moonmen and Technicolour Peelers. Actors involved included Phil Davies, Noreen Kershaw, Annie Cameron-Bayley, Henry Goodman. Insists it’s not a militaristic show!
Begins writing songs for shows – taken over by local band Slow Dive Dancer. Also around Lancaster at the time New Planet City (Boris and Maggy Howarth) and Adrian Mitchell. Work taken into schools. Makes a decision to ‘democratise’ decision-making and share leadership with the company. Crisis arises over David Pownall play. Company takes issue to Theatre Director Peter Oyston. PB fails to receive backing from company and resigns. Also realizes his heart is not in the democratic model – actually likes running things. Stays on to direct main-house show Lancashire Hotpot, a success, but personally miserable.
Sees advert for job in Portsmouth. Leaves the Duke’s Playhouse.
00.30.24 Period of insecurity. Feels ‘shell-shocked’. Uncertain what his talents are outside the Max Miller-ish ‘compere’ figures.
00:32:00 Solent Song and Dance/ Solent People’s Theatre. Attracted by the idea of Popular Theatre derived from Birmingham University, taught by Clive Barker (CBk), Geoffrey Reeves, Albert Hunt. Also inspired by Peter Brook and Joan Littlewood. Wanted to create work like that. Aimed to cover everything – initially old-fashioned, boaters and blazers. In company Lewis Cowan, Annie Cameron-Bayley, Mervyn Stutter, Angela [?] ‘like Barbara Windsor’. Joined by CB, Paul Lewis. CB as writer, administrator Peter Day. Spice Island show, by CB, music by Terry Mortimer. Actor Sue Rogerman ‘brilliant’. A family show about pushy parents with Brian Southwood. Joined by Su Eliot and Mike Burns. Creates character of ‘Henrietta Sluggit’, influenced by Barry Humphries, including advice column on local radio.
Name change to Solent People’s Theatre. Decides to leave Solent.
00:51:09 Freelance work as ‘Henrietta Sluggett’ and return to London to do Dogg’s Troupe Hamlet at National Theatre. Sets up Barlow Barlow production company with wife Meg. Meets Jude Kelly (JK), his successor at Solent, at Leicester Comedy Festival. Performs Henrietta in venues as different as Newcastle (good) and Basildon (not good). Rung up by Mel Smith to play Panto Dame in Sheffield. Meets Bob Goodey, Mike Carter. Joins EB for opening of new National Theatre in Stoppard’s 15-minute Hamlet on NT terraces. Plays Laertes to John Perry’s Hamlet. Also performed Henrietta around the theatre. Acknowledges influence of 15-min.Hamlet on later work as National Theatre of Brent.
01:02:55 Offered job at Stratford East by Clare Venables to do Music Hall as Henrietta. Meets Margot Leicester, Robert Hickson.
Tack 1 ends 1:04:32
00:00:00 Martin Duncan (MD) director and David Fisher (‘Ultz’) designer, Jenny Tiramani, Debbie Findlay. ‘Enchanted by the actors’. Continues speaking about people he met at Stratford East and their influence. Finished performing as Henrietta and explains why.
00:06:11 Begins work on idea for one-man Charge of the Light Brigade. Asked to work on Rose Bruford College Community Theatre course by Jim Hiley (ex-original Dogg’s Troupe) Meets Sue Todd (now Lily Susan Todd, LST) and influenced by other feminist women including Ann Mitchell. ‘Feminist road to Damascus’. Creates play about Parents with students – admonished by Course director Colin Hicks, worried by parental reaction. Begins work on The Charge of the Light Brigade, directed LST, working with Bob Critchley (BC) as two-man Charge of the Light Brigade. Interspersing personal reflections of sex lives of the actors. Show channels Charles Wood’s script (Wood having been performed by Birmingham University drama group GTG by Hiley, Barlow and Hoyle, original Dogg’s Troupe). Critical review by Time Out’s Ann McFerran. Only 4 or 5 in Press night audience but reported as ‘every audience member participated’. Review transformed audience numbers
00:26:30 PB talks about the company name’s origins [National Theatre of Brent] in period working at the NT and in Brent parks.
00:32:40 Visits South Africa and learns about the Zulu wars from a black South African perspective. Bryony Lavery (BL) asked to script. Julian Hough (JH) auditions as replacement for BC. Big success at ICA and Edinburgh. Problems with JH early symptoms of mental illness, then PB’s twists ankle on stage in Swindon
00:46:20 NTOB – Black Hole (about the Indian Mutiny). Barbara Thorne joins, script by BL
00:48:34 NTOB Ring Cycle. Problems with Equity after Barbara Thorne hired but rewrites leave her character out. Penelope Nice joins. Edinburgh production puts NTOB back on map.
00:55:04 NTOB Messiah. BL finding difficulties. PB decides to take over writing himself. Visits Iona. Meets Sister Columba, inspirational nun. JK comes on board as director. PB cites Cannon and Ball as influence but increasing problems with JH’s mental health. Runs away, filled in by Michael Birch, JK’s partner.
01:12:55 NTOB Mighty Moments in World History. JK co-directs for Channel 4, commissioned by Michael Kustow. Robert Austen (RA) joins.
01:15:00 John Ramm (JR) sees and determines to work with NTOB. Revised Messiah at Lyric with RA. Edinburgh Festival gig with Julian Hough seen by Jim Broadbent (JB). JB joins to create character of Wallace.
01:26:24 The Complete Guide to Sex. Directed by JK with JB at Lyric. V. successful.
01:30:10 Nic Kent (Tricycle Theatre) suggests Gospels – The Greatest Story Ever Told. Re-unites PB with MD.
01:32:40 NTOB/BBC. The French Revolution. Jonathan Steadall and Martin Duncan co-direct for BBC. MD creates audition scenarios that result in partnership with JR
01:34:35 Interviewing John Ramm. NTOB Love Upon the Throne (about Charles and Diana).
[Not on audio – JR first show Book: All the World’s a Globe (also BBC Radio with JB, directed by Liz Anstey). BBC Radio: The Arts and How They Was Done with JR. All-Day Channel 4 idea proposed by Kustow, sold to Jeremy Isaacs but goes no further.]
Track 2 ends 1:36:00