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LATER DRAMA EVENINGS
By 1977, we had recruited Penny Barrow as a second woman (something we'd needed for years, says Karen). When Karen became pregnant, we added Katie Walker as well, with Penny and Katie jointly replacing Karen altogether in 1978. Chris Owen had been a regular since 1976. A new weekly feature was Chris doing a five minute mime. These were often classical mimes like 'The Surgeon' or 'The Fisherman' or 'The Baker'. These quickly became one of the most popular elements - there was no linguistic content, and we placed them just after halfway through the show so that the audience could rest for five minutes from the concentration of listening. Roy excelled at silent film style piano playing during the mimes.
Late 70s line-up:
Peter, Guy, Chris Owen, Penny Barrow, Katie Walker
Once Roy had left (1979?), we started to use a small group formed by John and Viv Forster. Viv had been a professional singer for several years, and was backed by guitar, bass and drums. Viv brought crowd-pleasers like "Una Paloma Blanca" and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" into the act.
It all came to an end in 1980, when Peter left ACSE, and soon afterwards Guy and Alan moved to BEET. BEET has kept the shows going and in the early 80s Peter used to appear as "holiday / sick relief" when they were short of actors. This was always fun, and slightly surprising as improvised sketches evolve dramatically over a few years.
By 1985, Karen and I were writing together again, starting with the videoscript of A Weekend Away. Everyone felt like doing a show, and we rented the Regent Theatre in Christchurch for a week. We sold over 2000 tickets for the week, billed as EFL- English As A Funny Language. Both Chris Owen (United Arab Emirates) and Patrick O'Shea (Spain) were outside the UK, but we still managed to put together a larger-than-normal team. We drew from several schools, though rehearsals were all based at BEET Language Centre, and our two newest recruits, Anna Karsay and Nick Boddy had learned the sketches in their later BEET versions. We put together our classic "pit orchestra" again - Roy Kingsbury, David Thompson, Tony Lloyd and John Jacobs.
Peter Viney, Karen Viney, Guy Wellman (BEET), Alan Tankard (BEET), Nick Keeping (Harrow House), Anna Karsay (BEET), Leo Jones (freelance writer), Nick Boddy (BEET), Ken Shelley (Anglo-Continental), Andrew Kirby (Harrow House).
What was interesting was that people came from different eras of the shows. For example, Nick Keeping had rarely worked with Alan Tankard who had replaced him. They were particularly good together. Ken had worked with Peter, Guy, Nick and Karen but never with the others.
The Regent offered us a six week run for 1986, which was a compliment, but as I'd spent six weeks working on the show and its publicity (for just about zero return), I couldn't afford to do it. It's a pity. One group of summer schools offered to fill two nights every week if we repeated the exercise, and two other schools asked for their own exclusive night.
The last shows that Karen and I did were at Anglo-Continental. We did a couple of shows which were exhausting, because we used just three of us- Peter, Karen and Chris Owen, backed by Roy Kingsbury and David Thompson. We chose material we could manage with a small number. It was exciting to get back to the very small team format again, but costume changes were a headache and we missed the chance to rest during sketches we weren't in.
When we repeated the exercise a few months later, we added Ken Shelley (who'd done the 1985 show) and our friend Tania Ortu. Ken had appeared with us in late 1971 and early 1972, and had then left Bournemouth.
Peter and Karen in the 1987 show
So we haven't done a show for many years. The shows taught us a great deal about comedy, and the kind of humour that could be appreciated by a multinational audience, ranging in level from zero beginner to Advanced. They were a major influence on our approach to ELT dialogues. They were a bigger influence on our video writing. Several sketches from Grapevine videos have their origins in English As A Funny language material. "Chips With Everything" is based on a far longer and ruder sketch where Guy and Karen were the customers and Peter the waiter. "One Dark Night" borrows bits from our version of "Dracula" (Guy and Karen as the couple, Peter as the doorman, Alan as the count). "Lambert & Stacey" has similarities (including the final punch line) with our old sketch "Gangsters". "At the Doctors" owes something to a much ruder sketch with Nick as the doctor and Peter or Guy as the patient. We sometimes switched roles according to the need for costume changes in a particular show.
Even in English Channel, our fascination with Robin Hood comes to the fore. Interestingly, the dynamic between Steve Steen and Jim Sweeney is very similar to that between Guy Wellman and Nick Keeping. When we wrote "Robin Hood" for English Channel, we imagined Guy and Nick in the roles as much as Steve and Jim.
main influence is that we act out all the parts when we're writing. This
goes way back, and the pilot version of Streamline
cassettes had Karen and Guy as the main voices, assisted by Peter,
and by Bernie Hartley. We even put several units of Streamline onto video
at the time.
ANY EX-STUDENTS OR TEACHER TRAINEES: If you saw the shows at ACEG (or BEET) please e-mail us at the CONTACT page below. (This is not hyperlinked to prevent SPAM)
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