Listen to “Dearest Squirrel – the John Osborne Letters”

On Sunday 11th December, BBC Radio 4extra presents a fascinating insight not only into the life of one the UK’s leading mid-century playwrights and his relationships, it’s also an authentic celebration of the lost world of repertory theatre.

John Osborne meets Pamela Lane in 1951 and within three months the couple are married. So begins an extraordinary love affair that lasts over 30 years.

A completely fresh insight into the mind of one of the UK’s greatest playwrights, the letters between John Osborne and his first wife, actress Pamela Lane, are also a love letter to a now defunct system of repertory theatre and life in post-war Britain.

As these letters reveal, soon after their divorce, Osborne and Lane began a mutually supportive, loyal, frequently stormy and sometimes sexually intimate alliance lasting thirty years until Osborne’s death. By the mid- 1980s, they had become closer and more trusting than they had been since their earliest years together.

‘You are for me what you always were’, Pamela told him, ‘I am in love with you still’.

It is, he declared, ‘my fortune to have loved someone for a lifetime’.

Acerbic, witty, candid and heartbreaking, the letters reveal a unique relationship – troubled, tender and enduring.

The author, Peter Whitebrook, was born in London and has written and broadcast extensively on the theatre and literature. His co-adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath won a Fringe First Award. His biography of John Osborne was nominated for both the Sheridan Morley Prize for biography and the Theatre Book Prize.

Read by Simon Shepherd and Amanda Root
Abridged by Polly Coles
Producer: Clive Brill

This omnibus was first broadcast in 5 parts on BBC Radio 4 in 2018. It is a Brill production.

Broadcast at 6.30am on Sunday December 11th, the 70-minute programme is available for some time after initial broadcast on the BBC IPlayer service. Find it here


London Theatre New Year Sale starts December 6th (or today if you’ve a MasterCard!)

Now in its 20th year, you can find tickets to many of London’s best-loved shows for less and grab great seats for just £10, £20, £30, £40 & £50. These special offer tickets go on sale at 10am on Tuesday 6 December, and are available for performances between January 1st and February 10th 2023.

From fun family shows to extravagant musicals to heartfelt dramas; there really is something for everyone, when you book early to avoid missing out.

Have you got a Mastercard? You can get exclusive early access to the sale through priceless.com, where tickets go on sale from 10am today, Thursday 24 November.

Find all the deals at the official sale site here


Watch Mint Theatre’s THE NEW MORALITY free online until December 4th!

New York’s Mint Theater Company are generously offering free worldwide streaming of one of their rediscovered plays from the early 20th century, THE NEW MORALITY by Harold Chapin.

Set aboard a houseboat on a fashionable reach of the Thames in 1911, THE NEW MORALITY tells the story of how the brazen Betty Jones restores dignity to her household and harmony to her marriage, by losing her temper and making a scene.

A rising star of the theatre, Brooklyn-born British playwright Harold Chapin had numerous one-acts and three full-length plays produced before he was killed on the battlefield in 1915 at the age of 29. “When Harold Chapin fell in France the modern British theatre lost a comic writer of high order,” declared the Sunday Times. “For intellectual foolery his New Morality has no equal in present-day work.” The play was produced five years after his death to great acclaim, and then languished in obscurity for decades until Mint’s “lavishly crafted” (Theatermania) revival introduced New York theatergoers to Chapin’s “unabashed comedy with bite.” (The New Yorker)

“The Mint’s eminently satisfying production of The New Morality may spur renewed interest in Chapin’s output and cause us to wonder what else he might have achieved had his life not been cut short before his 30th birthday,” wrote Talkin’ Broadway. “The script combines a jigger or two of Harley Granville Barker, a measure of Shaw, a dash of Wilde and stirs as needed,” remarked The New York Times. “The writing is charming and finely observed…The direction, by the Mint’s artistic director, Jonathan Bank, is appealing and apposite. The acting is adept, with particularly impressive turns by Brenda Meaney as Betty and Ned Noyes as the husband of her putative rival.”

Directed by Jonathan Bank, Mint’s THE NEW MORALITY was recorded when it ran in New York in 2015. And now, you can see the play until December 4th online. It runs just over 90 minutes and is presented in its original three act structure.

For more information about author Harold Chapin, and to watch the show, click here


Streatham Hill Theatre celebrates its 93rd birthday today

After a two-day delay from the planned opening night, Streatham Hill Theatre opened its doors on 20th November 1929 with the C B Cochran revue WAKE UP AND DREAM, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, arriving straight from the West End.

Now having been purchased by the Ruach Church this year, the Friends organisation will play a most important part in maintaining the theatre’s facilities and unique position as London’s largest surviving suburban theatre.

Streatham Hill Theatre in its previous existence as a bingo hall, a few years ago.

OPERATION MINCEMEAT invades the West End!

The worst kept secret in years has finally been announced. In March 2023, Spitlip’s singularly hilarious cultish comedy musical OPERATION MINCEMEAT (based on the true story of an incredible WW2 mission) opens for 8 weeks only at the Fortune Theatre. My instinct is that it will have several extensions before it even opens. (Note, added Nov 20th – I see the run has already been extended by a further eight weeks. Undoubtedly it will be further extended).

The hype has helped its announcement. It will be interesting to see how the show, whose previous homes have been the 80-seat New Diorama and the 200-seat Southwark Playhouse (as well as Riverside Studio) will sit in the 432-seat Fortune Theatre. The theatre is renowned for its intimacy (something often lacking in the formality of West End spaces) but nevertheless this run may experience a new physical removal from the audience which they will have to navigate. This could rein back the show’s connection with audiences it has had in its previous black box outings, but I have a feeling that the all-round strength of this zany new musical will overcome all obstacles and win through, as the original plan of the mission did.

“…has the potential to become one of those rare theatrical cult hits.”

Unrestricted Theatre review, July 2019. You saw it here first, friends!

Tickets are blanket priced at a reasonable £35 across the house for March/April, rising in May onwards, creating a buyer momentum while spreading the word about this unique show which those who attend will undoubtedly want to bring their friends to. I hope that the higher ticket prices won’t put people off trying this inventive and sometimes challenging musical which at times makes BOOK OF MORMON feel tame.

Crucial to the speed and smartness of delivery of the crisp music and super-sharp lyrics, one hopes that the sound challenges – in getting each word to the back and top of a 400-seater – will be overcome by using the best sound team they can afford.

It’s important to praise not only the huge amount of work which has gone into refining this chunk of theatre gold, but we must also acknowledge that the show was originally commissioned by New Diorama Theatre, and co-commissioned by The Lowry, Salford. It was supported by the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat. Later, additional support and full commercial exploitation came from Avalon.

You can read my first (2019) review of OPERATION MINCEMEAT here

Find out more and book tickets for the West End run here

“must have a headmust be a man

Find out what it means at OPERATION MINCEMEAT