I thought it might be interesting to post some of the notes I have contributed to the programmes of productions over the years – so here is the first of a short series that will occasionally appear:
“Mocking ourselves gently” (Director’s notes to “Up Frankie”)
There are some comedians who are amusing contemporary commentators – part of the passing cultural traffic, there are others who forge new territory in comedy by adapting the form, there are others who seem to embody a timeless spirit of humour and enter the psyche of a nation like an archetype…Frankie Howerd is one of the latter.
Frankie Howerd is a droll – lugubriously commenting on the normalities and quirks of everyday life that pass around him. His is a warm, almost matronly clown, chatting colloquially and familiarly to the audience, as if they were neighbours over the garden wall – it is a role that has been played by many key British comedians over the last century such as Dan Leno, Norman Evans, Tony Hancock, Les Dawson, and today Eddie Izzard. Through the lens of their comedy, the ordinary world becomes absurd and full of ironic fun: their humour is self-deprecating not vindictive, gentle not barbed.
This new production tries to show how Frankie’s apparently shambolic style of delivery was developed and refined specifically to engender a sense of intimacy and informality with his audience. In so doing, he entered the consciousness of his peers as a comic icon and the folk memory of our culture. We also try to show some of his delight in the joys of ordinary life and like he used to do, mock ourselves gently in the process.
Tony Lidington, Director