The Theatrical Origins Of Rising Damp

Let’s tell a story through newspaper clippings. Here’s the first, from The Stage on the 4th March 1971.

Some sources put this premiere as 1973, but it had its first reading at the Hampstead Theatre Club in 1970. The announcement here of the full play gets the writer’s name wrong. It should of course be Eric Chappell.

A few weeks later, on the 18th March 1971, The Stage gets his name right this time.

There’s another mention of the new play in piece, from the Leicester Daily Mercury on the 16th April 1971.

On the 4th May 1971, the same paper splashes the big casting news. The star of the play is going to be Wilfrid Brambell.

The Leicester Chronicle, on the 21st May, gives us an insight into the play’s premise, and it’s starting to sound rather familiar …

This advert from the Leicester Daily Mercury on the 22nd May gives us the full cast line-up.

The day before the premiere, the Mercury published this write-up about its author.

The next day (25th May), the Nottingham Evening Post give us a glimpse of just how well-received Eric’s writing appears to be in television circles.

The day after the premiere, and there’s this single line review in the Mercury.

David Isaacs gave a rather longer review to the Coventry Evening Telegraph on the 27th May, making a rather prescient point about it feeling like a sitcom, and using language that’s dated and offensive.

The Mercury was a little less impressed, but managed to use equally offensive language – and again, mentions that it felt like a sitcom.

We also learn that the main character is called Rooksby. And here’s a photo of Brambell at work with the play’s director, from the Leicester Chronicle on the 28th May.

On 3rd June, The Stage ran their review of the play.

The play ran until the 12th June at the Phoenix.

Then, on 15th February in 1973, this little notice appeared in The Stage.

And here’s the same publication’s review from the 29th March.

In April they moved up to Newcastle for a few detes, and was reviewed in the the Newcastle Journal on the 10th.

On the 3rd May, The Stage announced that the play would be returning to its birthplace, this time with a four and a half week run.

By the 21st June, things were getting better, as the play transferred to the Apollo.

Arthur Thirkell was less than impressed with it, judging by his review for the Mirror on the 26th June.

The Stage’s reviewer was rather more effusive though on the 28th June.

The pilot for Rising Damp aired in September of 1974, and was reviewed in The Stage.

Within a few months, a full series began, and things went on from there. So let’s check back in with David Isaacs, one of the first people to review the original play, again in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, from 18th December 1974.

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