Saturday 26th October 1991
Just 14 weeks after seeing Rik and Ade record an episode of Bottom, my mum and I had bought tickets to see them in Waiting for Godot, in London’s West End.
Gathering everything I needed to take with me for the day ahead, at the last minute I decided to pack my autograph book.
It was half term, so the train to London was absolutely packed out, my mum and I ended up sitting on the floor for the whole journey. We had decided to visit Madame Tussaud’s in the morning, we got our tube tickets and headed for Baker Street. Having to queue for what seemed like ages to get in, I was wearing my Blue Peter badge (upside down like Rick from The Young Ones) and was allowed to get in free! It was really crowded, and we weren’t enjoying it that much, so we decided to leave and head for Oxford Street. My mum wanted to go into some fabric shops in Soho. Inside one of the shops was a photo of Alexei Sayle on the wall, I was delighted to learn that he had apparently bought fabric for some of his suits from here. We had a while until we needed to be at the theatre and we were now a bit stuck as to know what to do. So like any good mother and daughter we started to argue. We weren’t far from The Queens Theatre, so after a big row, decided to go and take a look. As soon as I saw the theatre my whole mood lifted, I was stunned and couldn’t believe the size of the huge cut-outs of Rik and Ade on the side of the theatre, I just had to take a photo. However, in doing so, I discovered the film in my very cheap Dixon’s camera wasn’t loaded properly, it had got stuck several times and I couldn’t seam to wind it on, damn cheap thing! So any photos I had taken earlier at Madame Tussaud’s would now not come out. I had a go at fixing it, took the film out, re-loaded it and was now keeping my fingers crossed it would be alright…
Luckily it was, and here’s the photo of The Queens Theatre. Next to Theatre there was a huge publicity board. I just had to have my photo taken with it. I’m a little camouflaged, standing under Rik’s name – of course!
As we were now at the theatre we decided to pick up our tickets, it was only 3pm and the show didn’t start until 5.30pm. So we had a wonder around Covent Garden, but I kept wanting to be back at the theatre. We decided to go back and Mum suggested we have a look to see if there was anyone at the stage door. Just as we turned the corner, we saw Christopher Ryan having his photo taken, but as soon as we got there, and I had fumbled in my bag to find my autograph book, he had gone into the theatre. There were only about four other people waiting at the stage door, they were all autograph hunters and each had a big fat folder, with loads of photos of famous people. They happily chatted to us, telling us how they go round all the London theatres collecting autographs. We waited with them for about 45 minutes, until Phillip Jackson arrived, so I was able to join in and get his autograph. He was really nice and very happy to sign my autograph book. I wasn’t totally sure who he was at the time, I just knew he was in the play too, so it was easy to talk to him. Then at about 4.30pm, who arrived? Rik Mayall, that’s who! He came strolling up the street at the back of the theatre, straight towards me, chewing some gum and had a massive grin on his face! He seemed to pop out from no where, walking up to me first, saying something like “Ah! this where you all are is it, oh hello again?” I couldn’t believe my eyes, they were most probably out on stalks…hang on a minuite, had he recognised me from the Bottom recording? Surly not! Looking back I wish I had said something about that evening, if only just to tell him how much I’d enjoyed it, but I was too shy and star struck to think clearly.
I was clutching my autograph book and my Mum had my camera, I did somehow managed to casually ask him to sign it.
Ceasing the opportunity, whilst probably gazing at him in awe, I plucked up the courage to ask, if he wouldn’t mind having his photo taken with me? He turned, looked me straight in the eye, smiled and said:
“No, of course not, where’s the camera?”
I giggly pointed to my mum who I had entrusted my very cheap and dodgy camera, that only a little while earlier wasn’t working properly! Rik spotted and instinctively smiled at the camera, he then leaned over so hard next to me, that he almost pushed me over. I smiled as hard as I possibly could and my mum pressed down on the camera, click, with one shot, this photo was taken. I was sixteen, I hardly spoke to him, but he took the time and made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Rik was quite happy to then speak to and sign the autograph hunters folders, by now a few other passers by had also stopped to see him. He was very obliging and polite to everyone, he said his goodbyes and made his way into the theatre to get ready for the play. While all this was happening Ade had sneakily arrived, he went straight into the theatre without really stopping and speaking to anyone. My mum and I thought they had planned it this way, Rik would get all the attention, while Ade could just go in and get ready. I was by now on a complete high, I couldn’t quite believe what had just happened. In a daze we went round to the front of the theatre, so I could buy a programme (can you believe they were only £1 each?) plus I picked up a few flyers or two, well maybe a handful, for my bedroom wall. Happily receiving a few comments from the theatre staff about my Blue Peter badge.
The auditorium was now open, so we went and found our seats, in the stalls, 2nd row from the front. We were both amazed at how small and intimate the theatre was. Behind us were two young girls, my kind of age, both talking about Rik and Ade, I was amused by what I was overhearing, as to me, it seemed like they weren’t quite getting their facts right.
I had never seen a play in the West End before, and at the time didn’t know a lot about Waiting for Godot or Samuel Beckett for that matter, I found myself totally entranced and engrossed in all 2 hours of it. I could now really see where a lot of their own humour and inspiration had come from. It was such a treat to see them so close, live on stage and performing like this, it totally reinforced to me what I’d always thought, what truly great comic actors they really are.
I have since read a few times how it’s claimed Bottom was written because of their time of being in this play, but I say the pilot and first series of Bottom was written long before they even started working on this production. They were certainly both very familiar with Waiting for Godot and as drama students studied it and Samuel Beckett at University. There’s no doubt Bottom takes inspiration from Waiting for Godot, especially within the first series. I would also say that Steptoe and Son and Hancock’s Half Hour were of an equal influence for their inspiration of Bottom too.
But chronologically, from the dates in my diary, and as mentioned here in the Radio Times, they were rehearsing and staring in this production of Waiting for Godot after the first series of Bottom had been written and made. When Bottom first aired in the Autumn of 1991, they were appearing in the play, and at the end credits each week, a voiceover would advertise them being in Waiting for Godot. This would have meant that both pieces of work would have hit the public consciousness at the same time.
They were both doing a lot of publicity at this time, with magazine interviews and appearing on various chat shows. Like the extreamly awful and cringe-worthy interview Jonathan Ross gave them on his chat show. Far better is Rik’s appearance on Wogan interviewed by the lovely Gloria Hunniford, who I think manages to put Rik far more at ease. He definitely had a lot to plug then, because Drop Dread Fred was also out in the UK Cinemas in the Autumn of 1991 as well. It was a busy time!