Memories of opening the first incarnation of the Everyman Theatre
As if that isn't enough you can handed a paint brush and asked to get on with preparing it for opening.
This is what happened to Stuart Richman in August 1964 when he arrived at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre.
As often is the case, I didn't have enough room in the paper to include all his memories of working at the Everyman back in the mid-60s so here they are for your perusal...
Basically it was a conventional church that had worked as a cinema. You had the main hall, occupied roughly by the stage roughly above that and you had the pews around the side. On a full night you could get an audience of around 700-plus and we did have one or two of those.
It was very run down. There was not much of a foyer to speak of. Where the present ground level cafe is was the back of the stalls.
We were being terribly ambitious. Liverpool was a different place then. It's a different culture, a different time. Society's moved on. But the idea was initially that with the new RSC just a few years old, performing a repetoire both in London and Stratford and Joan Littlewood doing the most wonderful productions at Stratford East, we were very much a part of that new theatre movement. Most of us were right out of university and had met at drama festivals or if not had come straight out of drama schools. There were some stunning talents like Terry Hands, Peter James, Susan Fleetwood, Terry Taplin.
And we would perform three plays in repetoire, which the Everyman has not done since until now. And by repetoire I mean different plays on different days. The cast was made up so that we were all in the big opening play in week one - Henry IV, part 1. The following week the enemy of the people opened and the week after that The Caretaker. So if you weren't in play number two you were in play number three and we were all in play number one. That included the directors themselves. Everybody did a bit of acting.
It would be completely unacceptable nowadays. But the unknown quantity for us all was that when we arrived, expecting to be in a newly built fresh environment, we found that it had yet to be done. And the promised help that had come from certain quarters was not forthcoming. So we had to do that as well. We had to build the stage, we had to put the lighting in, we had to build the dressing rooms, we had to paint the stalls, we had to put the stalls in. And we were going out on the streets for the publicity as well.
Everything was totally inadequate and we were living on a pittance, ÃÂ£5 a week, to the extent that the theatre cleaner Blodwen Doyle, who remained a good friend of many years, she only died the year before last, we would work on Sunday's in those days as well and she and her family of young Liverpool supporters they would all come in and bring us sandwiches. She adopted us. She became mother hen.
It was a wonderful time and we were very fortunate in having someone like Terry Hands there because he had an extraordinary knowledge of basic things - lighting, woodwork. I mean I'm a total incompetant, I can paint that's about all.
We were really stretching ourselves and we had an opening reception at the Town Hall. Harry Livermore who had been Lord Mayor was our chairman. It wasn't a very good performance and it was raining, it was a cold September evening and we all thought 'this is awful'. And John Fernald, who was then (Rada's) head of drama had come up to see some of his proteges and he took Sue Fleetwood, the sister of the Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac and she was a stunning actress and was going to go on to play great parts at the RSC and the National. He said 'You've got to leave this company immediately'. We could only get better and we did.
We were all in our early-20s. We had no experience to speak of. It was youthful arrogance, vanity.