Hastings night in celebration of the late great Frankie Howerd
Simon Cartwright plays the Up Pompeii! and Carry On star while Mark, who has portrayed gay raconteur Quentin Crisp to great acclaim, appears as Frankie's lover, manager and chauffeur Dennis Heymer in a piece set at Frankie and Dennis's Somerset-based home Wavering Down.
“I just wanted to see Frankie Howerd again like a lot of people did and do because he left us so suddenly. He was in the middle of a TV series. He died on Easter Sunday 1992. He and Benny Hill died the same weekend. I was 15 at the time but I just really, really liked him. I think it was because he was just so different. Everyone else’s act was based on the material that they had but his was about how bad his act was going to be. It was anti-comedy which is a lot more brave than people realise. He could stand on stage just making a series of noises for a couple of minutes with all those ooohs and ahhs. It was a complete celebration of failure. So many comedians fall in and out of favour and have their heyday but I think only Billy Connolly has had a comparable career to Frankie and I do still think that there is a sizable bunch of us that remember him with huge affection.
“With this play I just wanted to give him a proper send-off in a way that he never really had but also just to reflect how suddenly and how grimly things can end. And I'm not just talking about death. I mean the way that friendships and jobs and relationships can just suddenly end. The play is called Howerd’s E nd which hints at that. The play is not just a knees-up to Frankie Howard. There's a lot more going on within it than that. The title points towards ending which is something that we don't always navigate very well.
“The big reveal is that it is not the solo show that perhaps a lot of people thought it was going to be. It's a two-hander. The wonderful Simon Cartwright plays Frankie and I play Dennis Heymer who was a wine waiter the Dorchester. In the late 1950s he served Frankie Howerd and it developed into a relationship which at the time was illegal but they stayed together for the rest of Frankie's life. But throughout the whole of that time Dennis could never be acknowledged. He had to pass himself off as Frankie’s chauffeur or manager or lighting designer.
“Things could have changed but part of the key to that was Frankie himself. Frankie had a feeling that though the legality had changed, attitudes were still far behind and it could have meant the end of his career. But also Frankie was profoundly uncomfortable with himself. He was really trapped. He despised his own sexuality. It really suited him that it should be kept as a secret. It meant avoiding all sorts of conversations that he just didn't want to have.”
Tickets from the venue.