Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 172

Wednesday 20th June 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. First at school it was assembly, and when we came out it was maths groups. After that me and Doug took a table outside and did maths till dinner at 12.00. After dinner I read, then we went out and played cricket all afternoon.

At 3.15 I came home and played on the computer till I had tea at 5.30. Then I went out and at 6.15 we went to see Joseph at school. Came home at 8.15 and went out till 9.00, when I went to bed.

At last! The glorious day had come… Levendale Primary School’s spectacular production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. And what’s my outstanding memory of the occasion? Getting there too early and buying a copy of ‘Look-In’ from the VG shop to read in the front row while me and my Mum waited for the show to start. I’ve always had a feel for the big occasion. (Insert your own joke here)

lookin

For the benefit of our younger (and, indeed, older) readers, Look-In was pretty much the junior division of ITV’s propaganda wing. It was a weekly comic for kids whose content was centred entirely around ITV programmes, often including some fabulously inappropriate cartoon strips. I’m sure, in 1984, it contained a comic strip version of Duty Free, in which an ink-drawn Keith Barron lusted after a finely-shaded (but still married) Joanna Van Gyseghem.

And I’ve EVEN got a vague inkling that it contained a ‘Minder’ strip at one point… that CAN’T be true, can it? Minder was on at 9pm, for crying out loud, and was packed full of strippers and punch-ups and double VATs down the Winchester. Was it really included in a kid’s comic, sandwiched between Dangermouse and a Robin Of Sherwood Fact File?

So anyway, yes… we were early, and yes, we plonked ourself in the front row of grey, plastic, child-sized seats arranged in neat rows in our school’s all-purpose hall. Being back in school outside of the usual school hours always felt strangely thrilling… as though all rules of normal, everyday behaviour ceased to apply any more. As a result, our theatrical productions, fetes and even Election Days gained a little frisson of extra excitement. And I remember gazing around the hall (tearing myself away from the ‘Weekend World’ comic strip, with Brian Walden fighting the forces of cosmic darkness in his big ‘W’ superhero costume) and feeling a little swelling of pride as well. Everything looked PERFECT, and even the PE Apparatus had been tethered to the back wall and hidden by an impressive stage backdrop of sand dunes, palm trees and Egyptian pyramids.

pyramids

Quite lucky we were doing Joseph this year, really, as the same backdrop had looked a bit out of place during our 1983 production of ‘Oliver!’.  I’d learnt full well from Mrs Mulhern’s topic group that there weren’t many opportunities to ‘pick a pocket or two’ in the Valley Of The Kings circa 3000 BC.

AND SO, THE CAST… (as far as I can remember)…

frankie

1. Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank (above) as Joseph, in an amazing ‘coat of many colours’ expertly sewn together from a patchwork of 1970s British Home Stores bedspreads.

wacky2. Paul ‘Wacky’ Whitehead as Pharoah, with a towering Elvis-in-Vegas era quiff, dark glasses, sequinned shirt and winklepicker boots made largely from the black insulating tape liberated from the workshop of Mr Strike, our school caretaker (who looked a bit like Elvis himself, although was also strangely reminiscent of Mr Bennett, Tony Hart’s hapless assistant on Take Hart)

ozzie

3. Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald as Benjamin, Joseph’s youngest brother, the only biblical protagonist ever to keep a rumpled copy of ‘The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain’ stuffed into his back pocket so he could entertain himself during the interval.

stephenmason4. Stephen ‘Mason’ Mason as Potiphar, dressed in a pinstripe business suit and bowler hat, and constantly threatening to take Benjamin’s eye out with the tip of his umbrella. Although he wanted to watch himself, Benjamin was on SKILL 17 and STAMINA 23, and therefore not to be trifled with lightly.  

My friends Doug and Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones were in it as well – I THINK Doug had a small part as one of Pharoah’s bodyguards, and I THINK Gazzie played the role of the narrator… but I could be wrong. If anyone else can name any of the other actors (or if you were involved yourselves!) then please come forward… I’d love to try and piece the whole cast together!

Anyway, it was great fun. Mr Millward directed (I could see him lurking just off-set by the red and black curtains, looking permanantly faint and constantly dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief) and musical accompaniment was provided by Mrs Mulhern, whose upright school piano had been shoved to the side of the stage, with Jo Spayne pressed into service as chief page-turner.

And I felt a bit jealous. Because, despite my cynical 11-year-0ld nature, I loved being onstage and – let’s face it – having a bit of attention.

Especially if it meant I could sacrifice a bit of long division to rehearse in the afternoons. Mwah, everybody! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah! (blows kisses and flounces off into the night to read the new Farming Outlook comic strip in Look-In)

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3 Comments»

  Thing wrote @

I don’t know about Look-In, but there was a comic in the early 80s called TV Tops which definitely had a Minder comic strip. Quite good likenesses and it transferred fairly well, given that there was an element of ludicrousness even in the TV series. It had a Hi-De-Hi comic strip at the same time as well.

There was also a Saturday Superstore-themed children’s comic called Beeb Magazine, launched in 1985, which was going to feature a regular Young Ones comic strip, apparently, although in the event it didnt get included. Imagine what that would have been like! Bet the insults would have been a bit cleaner than in the original…

  Tom S wrote @

I believe I was the baker – very small part in the background while Mr Whitehead stole the show.

And yes, I think we did share a stage one Christmas past. Thanks to being parachuted into a north-east school after a childhood which started in Bedford and went via a posh school in the Netherlands, I had the monopoly on narration – what with my posh southern nancy-boy voice and all.

Took years to realise that if I said “gras” and “cassel” instead of “graaass” and “caaastle” I got beaten up (slightly) less.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks, Thing… I knew I’d remembered seeing a Minder comic strip somewhere, so it looks like I must have picked up an issue of TV Tops at some stage. I’d have loved to have seen that Young Ones strip!

Tom, I’ve definitely got a cast picture of that Christmas production. I’ll scarrrrn it later today if I find the time. 😉


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