Written by David Turner
Directed by Anthony Richardson
Ian McKellen in the role of Tom Midway
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
8 June 1962 - 13 June 1962
Words from Ian McKellen
"A Jonsonian satire on a Midlands family who will do anything to impress the neighbours ; 'The family that stays together, preys together.' David Turner also wrote the Archers and he showed me his wall-charts for each weekâ€™s episode of the daily radio soap. All the episodes had the same structure â€“ completion of the previous dayâ€™s cliff-hanger, 3 unrelated scenes, ending with todayâ€™s cliff-hanger. He thought listeners cared less for the plot than the re-assuring patterns of the story-telling.
"Leonard Rossiter was hilarious as Fred Midway, although jealous of other actorsâ€™ getting laughs. In the subsequent West End production, Laurence Olivier played his part and reputedly listened to a sound recording of our production, in an attempt to work out what was so funny about Rossiterâ€™s performance. My part (Tom Midway) was taken over by James Bolam. I was quite happy to remain in my apprenticeship in repertory, although I was interviewed by Tony Richardson on the set of TOM JONES, the morning Vanessa Redgrave had snuck into the crowd scenes dressed as a man. Richardson was more taken with not having recognised his wife in drag than in meeting a shy lad up from Coventry."
Brendan Barry (Arnold Makepiece) recommended I apply to work with Robert Chetwyn artistic director of the Arts Theatre in Ipswich, Suffolk, when I asked him did he know of any good directors. At Coventry I missed the advice and encouragement from my directors at Cambridge (John Barton, Waris Hussein, Corin Redgrave, George Rylands et al). Bob, encouraged by my future agent Elspeth Cochrane, came to see â€œSemi-Detachedâ€. So Ipswich it would be.