|Posted by David Benson on May 21, 2020 at 10:30 AM|
Wednesday 7th January 1998 (London)
…Last night was excellent. I was very conscious of keeping my concentration after the debacle of the previous night, and it went smoothly from start to finish. Very satisfactory show. I wasn’t going to use Rockin’ In Rhythm at the start but Dominic talked me into it. I just didn’t get worked up about it. They kept talking loudly while it played and then I entered to total hush. I could tell before I went on that someone was in, too. There was just a weird expectancy or tension. I peeped around the corner before I went on and looked at the folk sitting on the edge by the curtain and you could just tell there was someone in. They looked keyed up. Turned out it was Sheila Hancock and John Thaw. I was wondering who it was all through the first half. I forgot eventually. It was him, Thaw, who got Louis Fremaux! I heard someone whisper it first and I coaxed it out. I didn’t realise it was him until after [he had answered]. And I made the audience applaud him! John Thaw! Asked him if he was from Birmingham and he said he was a music lover, and I did the ‘that’s how it started with my Mother.’ Sheila H. said later that he never participates in the theatre, from the audience, so he must have loved it. He did. She did too. Oh how very gratifying. I was doing my signing to a big crowd and she nipped ahead and said, ‘You’re bloody brilliant’ and gave me a kiss. I said, ‘We’ve met before, you know. In 1980. Are you staying for a drink? I’ll tell you later.’ She was quite teary. She’d actually laughed a lot during the show, especially at the restaurant scene, when no-one else was laughing. I heard this laugh and never thought it might be someone who knew him. She said later that she had lived through it a thousand times and she demonstrated the ‘basilisk stare’ that he would throw at people. She said she was astounded at how unresponsive the audience was, though it was actually quite an okay late vintage one. Not uproarious but crowded and attentive. I’ve gotten used to them now. She actually dropped her specs during the mother bit with a great clatter and I stopped to acknowledge it. Again, this was before I knew it was her. After I finished signing she was standing on the bleachers while Neil Bartlett himself groveled under the seating to find them. He must worship her. He came and sat with us after the show in the bar. First time I’ve seen him since he came to see the show.
John was a sweetie. Didn’t say much but clearly had enjoyed himself. We spoke of Frankie, who they both knew quite well. She said, ‘When John first came on the scene, Frankie used to really tease him. Used to give you a really hard time, didn’t he?’ John looked philosophical but didn’t say anything. I demonstrated a bit from this River sketch I want to find, which amused them. Sheila said she’s loved all the mother stuff in the show, as well as the KW stuff. So that pleased me. It was so wonderful to be speaking as a fellow pro to two very senior and experienced pros, and to have their respect. There’s nothing better for me, you know. I told Sheila a couple of times how grateful I still am to her for taking the time to talk to me when she was doing Sweeney Todd in 1980. I described us walking across the stage at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and how in awe of the stage I was, and her jangling the keys to her mini. And how she’d given me Champagne. They roared with laughter, incl. John. One of the Treasure Island [show in Lyric main house] lads came and spoke to John T. as I was chatting to Sheil [sic]. Oh I was on the top table all right. Also in was my masseur Andy Saich and 15 of his chums and I had to divide my time between them and Sheila, which I hated. Heard Andy say to a queen that he was meeting up with a woman (in Tibet or somewhere) who was going to teach him ‘prostate massage’. A woman? One never knows, do one.