The other day I was going through some old theatre programmes and came across one produced for Harvey at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Intrigued as this was the first my first question at an appearance when I started The Knowledge.
Starring James Stewart who at that time was the Tom Hanks of his day. The Pulitzer winning comedy has as its central character, Elwood. P. Dowd.
This was a role reprised by Stewart from the film of the same name, featuring an amiable alcoholic with an imaginary or invisible friend, Harvey a six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit that only he can see.
Perusing the theatre memorabilia the first surprise was that I had paid the princely sum of £3.70 a ticket (Row C, Seats 25-26) on 19th April 1975. Comparing with today’s West End there was another surprise to be gleaned from this simple theatre programme.
It has only been six weeks since Edward Heath had lost a General Election to Labour. This election result brought five years of strikes and austerity, a time fondly remembered by today’s Labour leaders.
Sitting in the theatre, a stone’s throw from Leicester Square, which by the end of Labour’s tenure would be waist deep in dumped rubbish sacks, and swarming with rats, the result of a dustmen’s strike.
The biggest surprise from West End theatre was an advert tucked away on page 21. It was a plea to ‘Save London’s Theatres’.
It is hard for us today to realise that at that time many theatres were said to be ‘going dark’ when there wasn’t the money or inclination to put on a production for fear of making a substantial loss.
Remarkable for us that London was so poorly supported when today a new venue opens every year, the latest being the wonderful intimate Bridge Theatre.