Twenty-five years after the last Carry On film was made, a new play entitled Oh Hello! from Milford Haven’s Torch Theatre Company is about to shed new light on one of the film series original stars.
Charles Hawtrey was one of the leading lights of the Carry On film franchise and Oh Hello!, a one man show performed by Welsh actor Jamie Rees and written by Dave Ainsworth, performed to sell out crowds last year and was highly acclaimed by both audiences and critics.
“There’s no doubting Charles Hawtrey could be an extremely difficult man, especially when he was drunk,” says Mr Rees, “but when he was sober and on the top of his game he was funny, intelligent and a very good actor with an infectious personality.”
In Oh Hello! the little man of the Carry On‘s regales stories of 50 years in the film industry working with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and starring in films including The Ghost of St Michael’s, Passport to Pimlico and many Carry On films. Hawtrey made over 100 film and TV performances in his career, a great many more than most of his Carry On film colleagues. This was a fact of which he obsessed and his status in the Carry On films was a huge concern for him, which led him to eventually fall out with the Carry On producers and anyone associated with the franchise. But while his spats with Kenneth Williams are well known, his true nemesis in life was that of the bottle.
“Hawtrey was a gay alcoholic through the 1950s, 60s and 70s. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for him,” continues Mr Rees, ” Homosexuality was actually against the law for much of his life so it must have been horribly challenging being such a colourful character. Today he would most probably have gone into rehab and come out the other side lauded for his bravery… this was not the case in his era”.
Oh Hello! is currently touring across various venues in Wales before running at the Edinburgh Festival over August. There are then two chances to catch the show in South Wales with it playing the Abergavenny Borough Theatre on September 9 (contact boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk / 01873 850805 for information) and Newport Riverfront on September 13 (contact newportlive.co.uk/venues/the-riverfront or call 01633 656757 for ticket details).