Amateur Stage
by John Slim

Have you ever thought that there's something easy and comfortable about saying Gilbert & Sullivan? That is to say, that it trips off the tongue far more easily than Sullivan & Gilbert?

I've been pondering the pairings of theatre and the wider world and trying to work out why they are in the order to which we have become accustomed. I'm no nearer an answer than I was when I started. Nor am I or anyone else able to know whether they would have been just acceptable the other way round, if that was the way we had known them from the start.

But it's intriguing, isn't it? Gilbert & Sullivan may be in that order because Gilbert's ego insisted and Sullivan was too much of a gentleman to argue: he saved the verbal fisticuffs for their silly carpet dispute. On the other hand, they may simply have agreed upon the alphabetical-order approach. A third possibility is that they thought it sounded better if the longer name came second.

Rodgers and Hammerstein also put the longer last - but then what do we make of Rodgers and Hart? What is it that makes both labels so easy to say, when they follow diametrically opposed principles?

Morecambe and Wise went long-first into their partnership and so did Lerner and Loewe. But was that the deciding factor? After all, both pairings also announced themselves alphabetically.

Flanagan and Allan were the long and short of it in that order. The sound of their label also benefited hugely from having only one vowel and using it six times - but theirs was a partnership that gave the alphabet the elbow.

Comedians Hale and Pace share their only vowel sound, have only one syllable each and rank themselves alphabetically. Tate & Lyle are similarly single-syllabled but make two sounds and ignore the alphabet.

You will have gathered that I am no further forward than I was when I started, and even if I were it would hardly matter. But I always find something pleasant about pondering the impenetrable, and if there is an expert on labels lurking in the wings I shall be delighted to further my education.


The man who wrote Our Country's Good is Timberlake Wertenbaker, whose name is almost as appealing as the one that appears on my favourite motorway lorry: Norbert Dentressangel.

The play deals with the presentation of The Recruiting Officer by convicts who had been transported to Australia.

Not, alas, that Birmingham's Crescent Theatre tells you this much with its new-vogue flyer for the production it will stage from November 4-18. Apart from the dates and how to book, it does not tell you anything.

The flyer is illustrated by a can bearing the Union Flag and prompting the thought that perhaps it is a British Legion collecting tin. I have been assured that tin cans had not been invented at the time we were shipping our undesirables to the Southern Hemisphere - and I am fairly certain that the ring-pull which also asserts itself into the consciousness is another modern miracle.

Ironically, the envelope containing the flyer also brought its counterpart from the Playhouse Entertainment Group - and what a contrast!

It advertises The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband, by Debbie Isitt, which will be at the Crescent next week. The front carries a picture of Paul Henry, plus ticket prices and box office telephone number. The back gives a summary of the plot, a potted biography of the former Benny in Crossroads, a couple of quotes from reviews of the play and the production's future dates, venues and box office numbers up to late November.

That's what I call a useful flyer.


Studley Operatic Society, now celebrating its centenary, is trying to complete its picture archive in time for its final birthday banquet on December 2.

The missing photographs relate to The Yeomen of the Guard (1914), The Gondoliers (1920 and 1949), Iolanthe (1921 and 1950), The Emerald Isle (1922), The Mikado (1923 and 1951), Dorothy (1927 and 1934), Veronique (1928), Patience (1929), A Country Girl (1930), Miss Hook of Holland (1931), The Marriage Market (1932) and The Romany Maid (1933).

If anyone can help, Peter Nash stands by on

He would also like to solve another problem of immediate concern to the group: it is seeking more men for its forthcoming production of Anything Goes.


Union Theatre will hold auditions for its pantomime, Dracula! at the John Palmer Hall, Warwick Road, Solihull, tomorrow. The group is looking for singers, actors and dancers of all ages. Pauline Brand has more details on 0121 705 6367.


In reporting that a computer program has finally confirmed that Shakespeare was actually responsible for the plays attributed to him, a London newspaper added that doubts have lingered about whether Shakespeare wrote the plays since the 18th Century.

We can help here: it is widely accepted that he wrote them 200 years before that, in the 16th Century.


The Players at Erdington have launched an appeal to find a piano player for their pantomime next month.

The group, based at the United Reformed Church in Holly Lane, is currently rehearsing Dick Whittington but has lost the services of its usual pianist.

The show takes place from November 21 to 25 but needs a volunteer urgently.

Any pianists willing to help should contact Alan Bonsor on 0121 354 4826.