As a fan of classic television comedy, I’m always interested in all aspects of a series from watching the episodes and film adaptations to reading book and comic strip spin off’s. In the case of the school-based late 1960s/early 70s situation comedies Please Sir! And The Fenn Street Gang, I’m indebted to Ian Howells for bringing to my attention a stage spin-off featuring three characters from both series, The Lads From Fenn Street which toured the UK in 1974.
The Lads From Fenn Street starred David Barry , Peter Cleall and Malcolm McFee as their respective characters Frankie Abbott, Eric Duffy and Peter Craven in a revue featuring skits and sketches written by David Barry and Ian Talbot and directed by Christopher Timothy (later to find acclaim as James Herriot in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small).
The Lads From Fenn Street Descend On Swansea Grand Theatre
The show played Swansea’s Grand Theatre for a week from Monday April 29th 1974 and is memorable to Wales born writer, actor and broadcaster David Barry who revealed to me earlier this week that Swansea Grand was one of his favourite venues and he had later returned there in 1998 to star in Funny Money.
David explained the development of The Lads From Fenn Street.
“Like many of these things, it was probably a pub conversation, and Ian Talbot who co-wrote it with me was married to Liz Gebhardt who played Maureen in the TV series.”
“Christopher Timothy we knew very well as not only had he been in an episode of Fenn Street Gang, but we had worked with him in Under Milk Wood. Chris is originally from Bala in North Wales and I come from Bangor.”
“Chris directed our show, and he even wrote a spoof of himself doing the Sun TV commercials, and Malcolm McFee played him. We were pretty flexible in the writing, constantly adapting, and Peter Cleall I remember wrote himself a brilliant John Arlott (a famous cricket broadcaster of the era) commentator sketch.”
As in the case of many revue’s, several sketches from The Lad’s From Fenn Street were of their time in subject matter.
David continues: “Of course, many of the sketches were topical and couldn’t be used now – especially one of Jimmy Savile!”
Fenn Street Lads Spoofed Crossroads TV Series On Stage
“We did also play our Fenn Street characters in between sketches, and John Esmonde & Bob Larbey the original series writers gave us permission. We were all great friends, you see, almost like a family. I can remember John Chilvers, manager of the Grand watching his favourite sketch on quite a few nights, this was a Crossroads spoof with Malcolm as Meg Richardson and me as Amy Turtle!”
The Lads from Fenn Street was a popular draw in Wales, Scotland and South east England during its 18-week UK tour in 1974. No doubt as it featured three popular characters from Please Sir! and The Fenn Street Gang it had appeal for the whole family and must have been a fantastic opportunity to see the three tv stars live on stage.
- You can read further memories of Please Sir, The Fenn Street Gang and The Lads From Fenn Street over on David Barry’s Official Website of which you can also find updates of his book releases.
- Thanks to David Barry for sharing his memories with Entertainment South Wales.
- If you have any memories of watching The Lads From Fenn Street please leave them below.