Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Salad Days

Perry’s Blog
Salad Days

As a young Stage Manager, working on a touring production of Dario Fo's "Trumpets and Raspberries", I had the pleasure of meeting an old actor called Joe (Joseph) Greig.

Despite our age difference, we struck up an extraordinary and enduring friendship, which has lasted for over twenty five years.  I took a great shine to him and made it my job to look after him (one ought to as a Stage Manager). I learnt many surprising things about Joe in those first few weeks, not least that his son Neil (also a stage manager) and I had worked together years previously, and were also, and continue to be, firm friends.

Joe is what I would call a “jobbing actor” - not quite famous enough to be mobbed in the street, but with a face you would recognise from the telly… and rightly so, since his CV is impressive. Since the late 50’s he has worked on hundreds of shows, from Z Cars to the Onedin Line; the The £1,000,000 Bank Note to The Avengers, to name just a few.

I also quickly learned that he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of film - he could quote complete cast and crew lists, and extraordinary trivia about any film you could think of.  He was essentially a one man International Movie Database – and had been long before the invention of the internet! 

His explanation for his unusual level of knowledge was as follows. As an up-and-coming young actor, he had landed a part in an early West End production of the new musical, Salad Days (music by Julian Slade and lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds & Julian Slade). It premiered at the Bristol Old Vic in 1954, and transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre in London on August 5 of that year, running for 2,283 performances to become the longest-running show in British musical theatre history. 

Joe's character came on at the start of the show, said a few lines and then walked off stage for two hours, coming on again at the end, saying a few further lines, and then joining the rest of the cast for the curtain call.  In the days before TVs in dressing rooms and green rooms, Joe would while away the hours between action by reading Halliwell's Film Guide - and he remembered everything he read, with a kind of photographic memory. 

Not particularly impressive you might think - until you learn that Joe was a member of that production for 14 years, and was the only member of the original cast and crew to still be involved. In fact, he saw every member of the cast replaced during his time there.

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