Forbes Masson and I did a whole series of commercials as various characters from history for Scottish Power. This was the first one.
I remember finding it galling that the budget for these commercials was many times larger than the budget for Prague, which I was about to shoot next.
But I did get paid more money than I ever had in my life.
Victor and Barry returned to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for a few shows during the 1990 Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Forbes and I hadn't been working together very much for a while so it was a bit of a reunion. We called the show Clean Ripe Gentlemen.
This Royal National Theatre production toured Britain before opening at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre in 1990. I played The Madman and I also co-adapted the Dario Fo play with the play's director Tim Supple (published by Metheun Books). The role called for many disguises and changes, and the adaptation caused some controversy because of its criticism of the British government for the wrongful imprisonment of The Guildford Four and The Birmingham Six, innocent men accused of IRA crimes, who were all later released. The play was nominated for Best Revival at the 1990 Olivier Awards, and I won an Olivier for Comedy Performance of the Year. Here are some production stills and me in rehearsal with Dario Fo himself.
Tim and I worked really hard on this. We wanted to retain the wit and the farce of the original but also to be truthful to the political issues that were at stake at the time when Dario Fo had written it. So we went back to the original Italian translation, and then decided that the wrongful imprisonments of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four (two groups of innocent people who had been accused of IRA bombings) were comparable political issues of our time, and so we wove them into the dialogue and the plot. It was really successful because although it is very funny, it also was very shocking and that was what Fo intended. So even though we were quite radical in our approach we felt we were being more faithful than other adaptations had been. What was exciting was that during the run of the play we had to make changes all the time, because the Birmingham Six were released, and shortly afterwards so were the Guildford Four.
I performed this play in repertory with As You Like It, both productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It was a new play by Peter Flannery based on the life of Peter Rachman, a famous property mogul played by Antony Sher and went from Auschwitz to the present day, and in every decade, if there was a young man as part of the story, it was me.
In this production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, I played Silvius, the young shepherd in (unrequited) love with Phoebe.
The production opened at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in the autumn of 1989, then toured to Newcastle before playing the London season at the Barbican in 1990.
All I will say about this production is that I hated my costume! When the story got to the forest of Arden, everyone suddenly wore underclothes. All the other boys who were the Duke's followers got to wear cut-off longjohns and singlets, but I had to wear white Y-fronts and have flowers in my hair. It was mortifying. The best thing about working at the RSC was making some great friends that I've kept in touch with ever since.
Sophie Thompson, who played Rosalind worked with Alan again in the films Emma and Nicholas Nickleby and as Juliet to his Romeo at the RNT studio.
Stephen Unwin, who had directed me in The Conquest of the South Pole, asked me to be in another weird German play called Knickers by Carl Sternheim, at the Bristol Old Vic theatre
The play is about a woman whose knickers fall down when she is watching a procession go by one day. This causes two men to become infatuated with her and move into the apartment she shares with her husband! My character was obsessed with Nietzsche.The other character who was in love was played by an actor who actually left the production after the first preview, so we were flung into turmoil (which was of course rather exciting).
This was the first play I had done in a rep in England, and I remember feeling like a proper actor going on the bus every day from my digs to the theatre.
In Heavenly I played an angel who came down to earth each week and looked at everyday things from his point of view. The six parts of this series were originally included as segments in the Channel 4 show Club X, but were later broadcast on their own.
Heavenly was written and directed by my friend Mark Cousins who later went on to run the Edinburgh Film Festival as well as presnet many TV shows and write many books on cinema, as well as be a lovely person.
My brother Tom apeared in this series! This is him in the picture with me standing in the puddle.
At the end of 1988, Forbes Masson and I flew to Sydney, Australia to start rehearsals and in early January 1989 we opened at the Playhouse of the Sydney Opera House in See Victor and Barry and Faint, a version of the show we had performed the previous year at the Edinburgh Festival, on tour in Scotland and at the Donmar Warehouse in London as part fo the Perrier Pick of the Fringe season.
After a month in Sydney we toured to Adelaide, Alice Springs, Cairns and Rockhampton.
I remember that the hole in the ozone layer had recently been discovered above Australia and there was a huge PR campaign going on to encourage people to protect themselves from the sun. We were both incredibly pale and people would literally scream 'skin cancer' at us in the street, and ask us what factor we were using.
Here we are in a short clip from a hilarious TV show in Adelaide called A Touch of Elegance and from the Rockhampton local news show.
Automatic Transmission was a pilot for Night Network on ITV in the UK, which I shot with Forbes Masson and Ross King late in 1988.
The premise was that Ross drove a huge old NYC taxi and the guests sat with him in the front, and Forbes and I, in our guises as Victor and Barry, were the car wash men who hopped into the back of the taxi and bitched about the guests in the front. Luckily we shot our bits on a different day from the guests! The pilot had The Boys, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Pia Zadora as guests, but strangely it was never made into a series!!
At the 1988 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Victor and Barry's sell-out show Victor and Barry Say Goodbye was chosen to be part of the Perrier Pick of the Fringe Season at the Donmar Warehouse in London's Covent Garden.
This was Victor and Barry's first sojourn south of the border (though they would be soon appearing south of the equator when they toured Australia) and it caused quite a storm amongst the Scottish media. It's hard to describe now, but in the eighties it was still a big deal to 'make it' in London if you lived in Scotland. And as Victor and Barry had become really succesful in a relatively short time there was much anticipation about their London debut and how they would be received (indeed even if the would be understood.)
So when Scottish TV asked to film us and our preparations for the Donmar debut we decided it would be fun to make it a sort of mockumentary in Victor and Barry's rather surreal style. Our friend Hazel Eadie, who had been in our panto the previous year at the Tron Theatre, made an appearance as a mysterious beauty, and our au pair was played by the actual room-mate we inherited when we rented a half-renovated flat in Stoke Newington from a set designer I had been working with. It is a bizarre little show culminating in some footage from the actual first perfomance. Look out for actor Richard Griffiths who was in the audience for some reason!