Theatrical Memories of Denzil
The memory that I have of Denzil, from when I was a young teenager, is listening to that marvellous voice on radio. I was even more thrilled when I actually got to meet and work with him when we were both cast in the first Australian production of “Me and My Girl”. We became good friends.
The raffle, which was organised by Robert Berry for the whole cast and crew, was a weekly event where you could win a variety of prizes and it was raising money for an end of show party, a marvellous idea. As I had a minor principal role, it was my job to sell the raffle tickets to all the principals in the show. They had more important things to do, like standing in front of the mirrors and making sure how gorgeous they were or learning lines or just chatting. The show was on at the State Theatre in the Victorian Arts Centre, a very tricky place to find your way around.
One night I was selling the raffle tickets as usual in the dressing room occupied by Denzil, John Murphy and Peter Lowry. Now, in the cast as one of the dancers was a girl called Cammie Munro, the most beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous girl with the bluest of blue eyes and we all thought she was just fabulous as well as being a lovely girl and a good dancer. On this particular night Denzil asked what the prize was and I facetiously said that the prize for that week was Cammie Munro. Well, we all laughed a huge amount, then Den said, “I’ll take the whole raffle book”. After lots more laughter I eventually sold him three tickets. Cammie wasn’t the prize and Denzil didn’t win that week either, but it did give us all a good laugh. He had a good sense of humour.
One time Denzil made a pirate copy of the show, with his tape-recorder up to the tannoy in his dressing room to record the whole show. He loved fiddling with gadgets and thinking up ideas. All totally illegal, of course.
It was this show that we met Mike Ockrant who was the Director and also Stephen Fry, the comedian and actor who had both arrived in Australia to direct and maybe re-write the show as both of them had re-written the original 1930s show.
When we toured it to Sydney, John Murphy, Denzil, me and Patricia Forbes all stayed in digs in Glebe, which was very convenient, but quite noisy and right on the bus route that took us straight to Her Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket just off George Street and we mostly travelled to work together. The motel where we were staying also had a pool, so we all spent a lot of time around that pool.
The second time that “Me and My Girl” came around was in 1994 and I think we all auditioned again. Anyway I was cast in the same roles I had played before, but before we were to play in Melbourne there was re-casting of the role of the butler, which was the role that Denzil had played earlier in Melbourne and Sydney. There was just one catch: all of the cast had to dance as well as try to tap-dance. I gave Den dance lessons in the Lambeth Walk and he wasn’t too bad and I turned up at the audition with Denzil to give a bit of courage. I waited quite nervously outside like a mother hen and then we had to wait a day or so to find out that his dancing had let him down. I would have loved to do that show again with Denzil.
Just before Denzil got sick he’d had a prostate operation and my husband Ian had also recently had a prostate operation and the two of them would talk on the phone for ages discussing their bits and pieces and “the urine flow”, which seems to be a topic that needs a lot of discussion between men.
I hope this will bring back some memories as they are lovely memories for me.