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Prof. Ian McKillop recalls seeing significant productions at Streatham Hill Theatre

The late Professor Ian MacKillop recorded an interview with T K Vincent for the British Library Theatre Archive Project on 10th November 2003.

He was born in Bromley in 1939 and was a scholarship pupil at Dulwich College. He mentions in the interview his time with the National Youth Theatre.  He talks of seeing shows, such as Look Back in Anger and The Blue Lamp at the Streatham Hill Theatre from 24:30 in the interview (and on page 6 of the transcript).

He tragically died of a heart attack the following year, 2004, aged 65. 

TV: You were talking about rebellion at school, which interests me because 1956, the year of the National Youth Theatre, was also the year of ‘the angry young man’ and John Osborne’s Jimmy Porter. You were probably around the age of the angry young man at the time; do you recall anything in relation to this?

IM: I do recall, I was younger than the angry young men but I recall going to see Look Back In Anger, not at the Royal Court Theatre but at the Streatham Hill Theatre, and I think Jimmy Porter was played by Alan Dobie, I think, who was – did he originally play Jimmy Porter? But I tell you something I did see at the Streatham Hill Theatre. The Streatham Hill Theatre was a very big theatre in another part of South London and it had big pantomimes, Gilbert & Sullivan shows and touring productions, but I imagine it’s a bit like the Watford Empire is today, but I saw one production there that I think was quite significant, The Blue Lamp, which was a very, very popular film and it was about a policeman’s family, good old British copper’s family and it was about a particular criminal, a post-war criminal of the new sort. The old criminals were sort of decent working class criminals with flat caps and Woodbine cigarettes and certain specialisms, and were essentially gentle. But the new sort of criminal was the sort of spiv – do you know the expression, ‘spiv‘ as it was called at the time? A slightly unstable young man who was always doing little deals – and he was played extremely well in the film called The Blue Lamp at the time by Dirk Bogarde and you could see this film just by getting it out of the video library and that gives you an exact bit of history of that moment. The film has a voice-over which says, we have a special problem today and it is in these sort of young men. Now the terrible thing in The Blue Lamp is that the copper – who became a national figure, Sergeant Dixon in a television series called Dixon of Dock Green, played by Jack Warner and he enshrined, he made the historical impression, ‘Evenin’ all‘, I think it was. But before it became a television series he appeared in this, and there was a terrible dramatic moment in which the copper confronted the tearaway criminal who drew a gun and, ‘put the gun down, sonny, there is no problem, just put the gun down, it’s alright, you’ll be alright, I’ll look after you, alright‘. And then he shot him, and the audience was astounded that this fantastically reliable policeman could be shot. This was staged in the theatre in which there was a chase of the young criminal around the theatre, he escaped into the auditorium. So, that was more interesting to me than Look Back in Anger which I never really caught on with as being… I mean, I never got sort of involved with Look Back in Anger, but I did get involved with The Entertainer, which I found astoundingly moving. I maybe still have the copy I bought at the time, yes.

We thank the British Library for the use of this extract.

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