Cheap & Cheerful: BackgroundCheap And Cheerful marked a return to revue for Alan Ayckbourn for the first time in 12 years. In collaboration with composers Denis King - their first collaboration together - and Simon Cryer, Alan paid homage to the very worst of end of the pier variety shows. The show was premiered in the McCarthy at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in December 1998 and was intended to be a piece of light relief for an adult audience over the Christmas season.
The programme and advertising built up the illusion this was a genuine variety show with the expected acts and dancing girls. However, once the show began, the various acts failed to turn up, leaving the host Reg Pittock to desperately draw a show from a deputy stage manager, an usher and a member of the audience, leading to an increasingly bizarre set of acts including a near fatal disappearing act, a sock puppet rendition of Hamlet, an imaginary dog-show and a sing-a-long. Apparently several members of the audience were expecting a real variety show and walked out of the theatre! The reaction for this lightweight and extremely silly piece was generally positive though and in Reg Pittock, Alan created a memorably monstrous comic character (who is also name-checked on the television in the play Private Fears In Public Places).
"I thought I would like to do something for the adults, particularly over Christmas, but going into the New Year. I came up with the concept of a revue and host, Reg Pittock. I want to push this guy as being real! He's a sort of small town Les Dawson, who's apparently come to help the theatre in its moment of need. It's also about the way most of the British public are very happy to make complete idiots of themselves at the drop of a hat. We possibly are a reserved race but then you look at something like karaoke or these shows on television."
Alan Ayckbourn (Scarborough Evening News, 14 October 1998)
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