by Ben Travers
directed by Christopher Denys
Bristol Old Vic
My October 1980 contract with the Bristol Old Vic was to act in three plays. The first was The Tempest; the third was the Christmas show, The Bristol Twins, for which I was also to write the songs. The play in between was The Bed Before Yesterday, in which I had no lines, but a walk-on. The idea was that I would be kept on at the theatre, earning a wage, but I could spend the bulk of my time working on the Christmas show. This was a generous arrangement on the part of the theatre, which I appreciated but didn’t really feel happy with, as I wanted a nice part to play. Instead, there I was as a cabbie bringing home the leading lady from somewhere or other. She gave my character a very small tip, which I looked at with disgust, thus getting a laugh, during which I left the stage. At least, that’s what was supposed to happen. But getting that laugh was not guaranteed. As small a piece of stage business as it was, I never quite perfected it, which perhaps should have rung a bell in my head that working as an actor was always going to be a slog for me, in contrast to composing, which came easily.
The bonus in turning up every night for that little moment on stage was that I shared it with June Barrie, a wonderful actress who, for reasons of her own, chose to remain local, and not seek the wider theatrical career she could easily have enjoyed. She was a great favourite with Bristol audiences, and this, with her many radio appearances, and occasional forays into film and TV, sustained her. Anyone who ever worked with her admired and respected her. I consider myself fortunate to have been in a number of productions with her. A lovely lady. She died in 2019.