Prisoner: Cell Block H fan club and Dancing on the Underground plus new shows from the
Citizens’ and Wildcat Theatre.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 60 CABARET 62 DANCE 62
‘He used to bring me roses. 1 wish
he would again. . .‘ lfthose
poignant words strike a chord. you 5 must be a fan of Prisoner— Cell Block H. Some of the show‘s stars are appearing in Glasgow: Andrea Baxter got the inside story. r
An epic tale ofintrigue. obsession. drama. big business. near tragedy and a few good laughs. the story of the Prisoner Fan Club is. if possible. even more gripping than the cult Aussie series itself. Two years ago. young unemployed women from Derby. Roz Vecsey and Tracey Elliott. wandered in from the pub one night. slumped down in front ofthe telly and found themselves hooked on the goings-on at Wentworth Detention Centre. It was literally to change their lives: they‘ve now signed off and started up their own company to promote the show. which actually ended four years ago in Australia. but has several more to go in this country.
‘The original idea was to get Grundy Productions. who make Prisoner. to send a few photos to pass round the pub.‘ says Roz somewhat wistfully. ‘then we thought we’d form a fan club. just for a laugh. to see how far we could go. but (irundy‘s attitude to the fans has been so awful we‘ve felt compelled to keep going.‘
Starved ofinformation from a nonc-too-cooperative TV company and the tabloids which rather suspiciously ignore the amazing popularity of the show in favour of Neighbours and the like. hundreds ofdesperate i Prisoner fans turned to the newly formed club — and some of these obsessive viewers were
-er i.‘ not i. q,-
downright strange. ‘We get letters so crazy we couldn't throw them away. people that want to spend a night in Wentworth. someone wanted to have sex with the warder Meg — a sixteen year old-girl!‘ Personal appearance tours by the actresses have seen crowds get frighteningly out of hand. as hysterical fans tried to jump on their car. and police have had to seal offcity centres to control the mobbing. Many fans seem to be unable to distinguish between soap fiction and reality. some kind oftribute. perhaps. to the shows strong. unstereotyped and determinedly realistic characters and the women who played them.
Actress Val Lehman. who played top dog Bea Smith in the series. defends the soap against criticisms of its cheap sets and ropey scripts: ‘I never lost sight of the fact that it was just a soap. but in comparison to others it was extremely different I think — there was a predominantly female cast. set in an unusual situation and it examined a lot of very pertinent issues to do with women. It also had women actresses not in your classic dollybird roles. hiding behind six inches of make-up. like in a lot ofthe American soaps.‘ No. indeed there seems to be some sort of [Equity ruling that none of the cast should have a bra that fits properly.
Star of the Pavilion show will be Sheila
Florence (Lizzie Birdsworth). who will take part in a live chat show-type discussion. an unusual format and the first time such a thing has been tried on tour. Now 74. the veteran actress is blase about the notoriety the series has brought her as batty old Lizzie. whose catchphrase is ‘the bloody buggers‘ve stolen me grog!‘ ‘lt seems so strange to me. I‘ve done so many things in the seven years since I was in it . . . l was a bit offended that everybody recognised me for this and no-one had ever seen my Lady Macbeth.’
In fact. most of the actresses in Prisoner had mainly worked in the theatre before and performances in the soap are often of a much higher standard than its detractors might expect. Amanda Muggleton. for instance. alternated her stints as Chrissie with appearing with the Melbourne Theatre Company in (ireek drama and Fassbinder. She says the cast were well aware of the dodgy aspects of the programme. ‘We were working in it. we knew! Every day we used to say. how can we get away with this! But the power of the imagination is such that the ordinary layman in the street doesn't really notice it. they get so engrossed in the story and the characterisations that they ignore all ofthat.‘
Ironically. while the success of the show in Britain and the PA tours around the country have boosted the careers of its former stars. Roz. and Tracey of the Fan (‘lub have been exposed to the pressures ofpublic life without any of the benefits — they too have been mobbed at home. where they are. apparently. the biggest thing there's ever been in Derby. ‘lt‘s not fun anymore. but we can‘t stop. it's gone too far. Because the newsletters we put out are so personal everybody thinks they know me and Tracey and that they‘ve got a right to us and they want a pound ol flesh. It's changed our lives lllllll per cent. people expect us to talk about it all the time. The most awful thing is that we have not watched it for a year. we haven't got a clue what's going off in it and it‘s really embarrassing but I just can‘t bear to watch it.‘
Sheila Florence. Val Lehman and tillltllldll Muggleton will be appearing at the Pavilion Theatre. (ilasgmvin '()n The Outside" on ()Sepl.
unno- Going underground
Well, the Cultural Capital has invaded every other square inch ol Glasgow so why not? The latest in the series at not-so-expected cultural events is a modern dance in Glasgow's underground system. The audience will sit on a train whilst the dancers
jump oil and pertorm each scene. Then it's back on board for a quick ride to the next station. Even for a year which has seen Frank Sinatra at lbrox and an exhibition a few teet underneath inter-cities this seems, shall we say, a boldly innovative venture. I spoke to ‘Dancing Underground' choreographer, Jacob Marley, about
who's trapped on the underground with her governess,‘ says Marley. ‘The
i ‘The piece is all about a young girl i child‘slantasising aboutwhat she’d
like to do to her governess. It’s seeing ; the underground through a child’s eyes - being lost in this big scary place as she sees it. She meets lots at ditlerent characters. Lots at little vignettes.‘
I asked Marley it he thought that the whole idea at staging a dance piece on the underground could be construed as being more than a little quaint and
‘l'll do any old piece, any old place. You get what you're given and make the most at it. It’s great actually— like being at college and being given a task l
of staging your dance in the most dillicult place possible. At one point. the little girl comes across smugglers who are all these lovely Tibetan monk-type pe0ple. They wear their hair in long plaits, move beautifully and
look really serene — real stereotypes — butthey're heroin dealers. Children being forced to work lor heroin dealers is not quaint.’ (Philip Parr)
Dancing Underground will start at St } Enoch underground station on each i Sunday in September (except 2 Sept). at8pm.
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