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Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman (1976)

Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman

A play by John O'Keeffe, performed at the Aldwych Theatre, London, with its opening night on 14 December 1976 (previews began 9 December); transferred to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon on 8 March 1977; and transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre, London on 18 April 1977.  After a break, the production transferred to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 20 February 1979, then returned to the Aldwych on 2 July 1979.

Performance length: 2 hours and 15 minutes (including interval)


Photos


Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman image #1Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman image #2Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman image #3


The first photo shows Jane (played by ZoŽ Wanamaker) and Farmer Gammon (Raymond Westwell).  The second shows Ephraim Smooth (Patrick Godfrey) and Jane.  The third shows (from left to right) characters including Trap (Joe Dunlop), John Dory (Joe Melia), Lady Amaranth (Lisa Harrow), Rover (Alan Howard), Ephraim Smooth, Harry Thunder (Jeremy Irons), Jane, and Lamp (Richard Simpson).

With thanks to Natalie for the photos and poster.

Overview

In Wild Oats, an eighteenth-century comedy, young Jack Rover leaves India for England.  There he joins a band of strolling players and adventures ensue.

Cast

John Dory, valet de chambre to Sir George ... Joe Melia
Sir George Thunder, a retired naval officer ... Norman Rodway
Ephraim Smooth, a Quaker and steward to Lady Amaranth ... Patrick Godfrey
Lady Amaranth ... Lisa Harrow
Zachariah, servant to Lady Amaranth ... Simon Jones
Midge, servant to Harry Thunder ... Doyne Bird
Harry Thunder, son to Sir George ... Jeremy Irons
Rover ... Alan Howard
Farmer Gammon ... Raymond Westwell
Sim, son to Farmer Gammon ... Tim Wylton
Jane, daughter to Farmer Gammon ... ZoŽ Wanamaker
Banks, an unbeneficed clergyman ... John Bott
Twitch, a bailiff ... Tim Barlow
Waiters ... Billie Brown and James Cormack
Landlord of 'The Sun' ... Raymond Marlowe
Trap, partner to Lamp ... Joe Dunlop
Lamp, a theatrical manager ... Richard Simpson
Maids to Lady Amaranth ... Emma Williams and Diana Rowan
Amelia, sister to Banks ... Eve Pearce
First Ruffian ... Bille Brown
Second Ruffian ... Ben Cross
Third Ruffian ... Doyne Bird
Musicians ... Jeremy Barlow (flute), Michael Lewin (guitar), Kathleen Malet (violin), Tony Mcvey/John Riley (percussion), Peter Whittaker (bassoon), Gordom Kember (music director/harpsichord)

Some cast changes were made when the production moved between theatres.

Crew

Director: Clifford Williams
Designer: Ralph Koltai
Costume Designer: Judith Bland
Lighting Designer: Robert Ornbo
Music: Marc Wilkinson
Assistant to the Director: Amanda Knott
Stage Manager: Ruth Atkinson
Deputy Stage Manager: Titus Grant
Assistant Stage Manager: Jill Wellington
Sound: Sandy Bratchell and Roland Morrow
Theatre Programme: Ellen Goodman
Theatre Programme Designer: Allen/Beresford

Notes

Wild Oats is the third production in which Zoe appeared as a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.  She joined the RSC at a very interesting stage in its development, sensing an exciting new dynamic among the actors.  'Some of us now at the RSC have a different sort of energy that has not been smoothed, shined or made acceptable.  I like that', she commented at the time (see 'I Yearn To Be So Free and Comfortable on That Stage' interview).

Working alongside older cast members on Wild Oats seems to have helped Zoe to settle in at the RSC.  'The great thing about the company is that there are actors like Norman Rodway and Alan Howard who have been there a long time and done their stints', she explained, shortly before the production transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre (see Plays & Players interview).

With this revivial, Wild Oats received its first professional production of the twentieth century.  Despite being unfamiliar to contemporary theatregoers, the play proved extremely popular.  The production's move to the Piccadilly was described by The Sunday Times as 'the public-demanded West End transfer'.

After Wild Oats returned to the Aldwych, Ruby Wax (who had previously played a maid in the play) took over Zoe's role as Jane.  Performing together in Wild Oats and also The Taming of the Shrew (1978), she and Zoe became very good friends.  When the former invited several of her closest friends to afternoon tea, as part of a magazine photoshoot in 2005, Zoe was among the attendees and recalled their having met at the RSC.

In addition to Wild Oats, ZoŽ's RSC productions during the 1970s include The Devil's Disciple (1976), Ivanov (1976), The Taming of the Shrew (1978), Captain Swing (1978), Piaf (1978), and Once in a Lifetime (1979).  During the 1980s, she returned to the company for Twelfth Night (1983), The Comedy of Errors (1983), Mother Courage and Her Children (1984), and Othello (1989).

Press coverage

'With Wild Oats (Aldwych) the Royal Shakespeare Company have struck gold', declared Bernard Levin in The Sunday Times.  The production repeated its success in Newcastle: 'Wild Oats [...] left the audience ecstatic', enthused Catherine Hansen, writing for the Shields Gazette.

Merchandise

Wild Oats by John O'Keeffe

Related links

Wild Oats production information - Alan Howard website

Wild Oats (Aldwych, 1976) production information - Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (information about the production at its subsequent venues can be found by searching the RSC Performance Database on the Trust's website)

With thanks to Jan Pick of the Alan Howard website for some production details.


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