It was 1962 and I was in the sixth form at Bognor Regis Grammar School (long gone). A small group of us found out that there were a number of cheap tickets available on the day of performance and we fancied the adventure of queuing through the night on the pavement with our sleeping bags.
That is how I got to see Joan Plowright in St. Joan. Shortly after that I saw Uncle Vanya with an amazing cast, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Sybil Thorndike , Lewis Casson, Fay Compton. I don’t think I realised at the time that my first experience of theatre at the age of 16 was world class stuff and I got it for quite a small price.
I recall that the theatre restaurant was in a separate building then and the speciality was danish open sandwiches (which no-one had heard of at the time) and they were unbelievably expensive. I only ever tried one and the price of a few prawns with a blob of mayonnaise and dill garnish on a small square of rye bread was more than I had paid for my ticket to see the best actors in the world onstage.
In 1965 I was already asleep on the pavement with my friends and a small group of actors came out of the theatre, I guess after quite a late and long session at the bar. One of them was Albert Finney and his sense of balance was not very good at that moment so he tripped over me and woke me up (my fault I guess – I was lying on the ground in his way!).
He was then very keen for all of us all to be awake and he wanted to engage us in amusing conversation. A female companion pulled him away and she said (I do remember the exact words) “Leave then alone – weren’t you ever young?” I have heard lines delivered by Maggie Smith many times since then but never when lying at her feet as I was that that night.
My adolescent experiences at CFT were the start of an addiction to theatre from which I have never recovered and I still regularly come back to Sussex from Amsterdam (where I now live) to productions at the theatre.
From: Mike Williams