He notched up 45 plays, 26 hits, wrote three
Marx Brothers films, got through 16 collaborators, two wives, countless
mistresses, and gave the actress Mary Astor 20 orgasms (according to her
diary). James Thurber called him 'the man who was comedy.
Patricia Routledge is best known for being
Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced 'Bouquet) in BBC TV's ‑Keeping up Appearances.
She's also no stranger to American musical theatre ‑ Leonard Bernstein wrote
solos ‑ for her and her roles in Candide and Carousel are fondly remembered.
Alan Bennett wrote the monologues A Woman of No Importance and A Lady of
Letters for her.
Like Patricia, Roy Hudd is a British
institution. 'Better to be one than be in one,' as he says. Performer, music
man and Coronation Street stalwart, he's also a radio record‑buster. The
News Huddlines on BBC Radio 2 is the longest‑running radio comedy.
Before his co‑star arrives, Roy explains to me
that lan McKellen ‑ whose voice is used for the taped narration between the
scenes for Cadillac came to him for advice on playing Widow Twankey in
Aladdin which he is doing at the Old Vic this year. Nobody knows more about
panto than 'Orrible Huddie, who has written and staged literally dozens.
When Patricia appears (A pint of draught
Drambuie for Pat!' demands Roy), the pair talk panto before getting to the
subject of their play. 'I come from Birkenhead where my father was a
"high‑class gentlemen's outfitter'", she explains. 'We were always
"high‑class" in the north, you know. There was a great sense of theatre in
the family. 'Me Argyle was a famous music hall there, and my parents had
complimentary tickets each week. But the magic really crystallised for me
when 1 saw my first pantomime at the Liverpool Empire with Sandy Powell ‑
"Can you hear me, mother?" ‑ as Buttons. I'll never forget it'.
'My gran took me to the Croydon Empire and
that was it. Smitten!' says Roy, who recalls that the young Patricia might
have seen Revnell and West in Liverpool, famous female Ugly Sisters of the
day. 'You don't usually have two girls playing the Ugly Sisters. The fact is
you cannot put a pie up a real woman's jacksie; it's got to be a bloke in
What about George S Kaufman Does his name mean
anything to theatre audiences today? 'I suspect The Man Who Came to Dinner
still strikes a chord', says Patricia Neither she nor Roy sadly, can recall
seeing Margaret Rutherford and Sid James who were in the 1965 original
London production of Cadillac 'I can't imagine Margaret doing an American
voice ‑ but 1 think she may have been rather wonderful says her follow-up in
This play was brought to my attention eight or
nine years ago and 1 thought it was very amusing she continues. 'But 1
didn't think it would have enough resonance. Today, corruption and fat cats
in business are everywhere in the press. This is the story about quite an
ordinary little woman who goes to her first shareholders' meeting and has a
mind to winkle out the skulduggery going on. It is highly topical and
there's not a dud part in it'.
'I play McKeever, says Roy. 'He's the guy who
ran the company and has gone to work for the Senate ‑ and it's driving him
mad. This lady comes along and says, "Give it up"...'
'But we don't want to give too much of the
plot away, thank you, Roy,' chips in his co‑star. Duly ticked off, Roy adds,
'I've been a huge fan of Pat's since 1 saw her many years ago in a revue
called Out of my Mind at the Hammersmith Lyceum. I tell you something, it's
such a shame she doesn't sing because she's got a great voice. I think you
should do a bit of an aria'.
'Well I'm not singing in this,' says Patricia
‑ and that's final. What about Hyacinth Bucket? Is she fed up of the old
bat? 'No, I'm not fed up of her, but it's sometimes a little irritating that
that's all people want to know about. But it would be churlish for me to be
ungrateful. If it helps bring people to this play, so much the better. 'The