As I wrote here, the revue Beyond the Fringe was made up of some awfully remarkable people, not just as comic performers within the troupe, but (remarkably, given the fame of the show) perhaps more what they did individually after -- Peter Cooke, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett (playwright of The Madness of King George III and The History Boys) and Dr. Jonathan Miller (National Theatre opera director, Shakespearean director, and neuropsychologist). It had its start at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960, when four young talented men from Oxford and Cambridge Universities were brought together.
I've posted several sketches from the famous show, and the other day suggested in a reply to a comment that I had come across something special and would be posting it soon.
Today is soon enough.
Here is Beyond the Fringe. Not a sketch or two...but the whole freaking thing. The legendary show. When you have two hours, sit back and revel in it. Or bookmark the video and make it through piecemeal.
The show opened on the West End in 1961 and later transferred to Broadway, where Jonathan Miller was eventually replaced by Paxton Whitehead, who appears on the second Broadway album, Beyond the Fringe '64. (Among his many acclaimed credits and stage awards, he's probably most recognized for playing the husband of the snooty British couple across the hall from Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser in Mad About You.)
This performance comes from the final "gala farewell" on London's West End. Though the show ran until 1966, I suspect this comes from 1962, when the original cast left to take the show to Broadway. The voiceover announcer notes that the play has played on Broadway, but since is the cast's final performance before going to Broadway, by the time this film was released it was legitimate to say that the show had played in New York.
Fun too is the brief introduction with the camera maneuvering around the West End and seeing the marquees of the shows that were playing at the time, including Camelot with Laurence Harvey, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Frankie Howerd, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Oliver!, among the many.
The video isn't up to today's movie production standard, but seriously who cares? This is from a live stage production with the original cast, and captures it all for posterity, and that's about as good as it gets.
It may not all translate ideally to a video, where we tend to expect things faster paced and more image oriented. This is a stage show, after all, recorded on video. It's talky, thoughtful, very smart, with some of the material dated politically perhaps. It's also vibrantly clever and anti-authority in suits and ties. And generally is utterly and blissfully funny. And that it exists in its entirety is stunning.
In the image below, from left to right are Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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