Date of Birth: 12 November 1943, Kingston, Jamaica
Birth Name: Lester Errol Brown
Nicknames: Errol Brown
Errol Brown was the lead singer of Hot Chocolate, the British soul band best known for the 1975 disco anthem You Sexy Thing; the group’s funky and harmonious sound was defined by Brown’s seductive voice and charismatic stage presence.
Bald-headed and slinky-hipped, Brown was a master of the art of the come-hither look (and gently come-hither lyrics) but when he originally wrote You Sexy Thing it was intended to be a B-side for Hot Chocolate’s single Blue Night. The band’s producer, Mickie Most, remixed the song several months later and it became an instant hit, reaching No 2 in the British charts and No 3 in America. It was, Brown later recalled, “a joyous song. I remember when I thought of the title I had a shiver go through me. Because it was such a nice way of using sex in a title without it being crude.”
In 1997 the track underwent a renaissance when it featured in the film The Full Monty, which told the story of six unemployed steel-workers from Sheffield who decide to form a striptease act. The scene in which the actor Robert Carlyle grinds his hips to You Sexy Thing attracted a new generation of fans and gave Brown’s career a major boost.
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said, “it relaunched my career and took me back into the Top 10. Then at my first gig in Scotland shortly after its release I was rushed on stage by about a hundred screaming girls it was like the old days. I played more gigs the year after the film than I’d ever previously done over a 12-month period.”
In 2005, buoyed up by the renewed adulation, Brown released an album titled Still Sexy. The promotional video for the single, Still Sexy (Yes U Are), showed a still dapper Brown, impeccably dressed in a grey silk suit and grooving in the back of a limousine with two attractive young women, while You Sexy Thing played in the background.
“You Sexy Thing is a hook that’ll last for decades and decades,” he explained, “because it’s such a nice, pleasant thing to say to somebody.”
Lester Errol Brown was born on November 12 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, where he spent his early childhood before his mother brought the family to London. When he was in his early teens his mother took him out of secondary modern school to attend a private school, where, as he later recalled, “everyone there was very wealthy and I came to appreciate good clothes and good food. You could say I was a teenage yuppy”.
At this stage, Brown showed very little interest in the music business, although he liked singing. He preferred the prospect of a proper job with a regular payslip and for a time did temporary clerical work at the Treasury, which he found unrewarding.
In his early twenties he met and became friends with Tony Wilson, a Trinidad-born musician, who suggested they should try writing music together. “Tony and I used to go out 10-pin bowling,” Brown recalled, “and while driving I’d start to sing. When asked what I was singing, I’d tell him it was just a tune I had in my head. This happened a few times and Tony suggested I try writing songs with him so we did and that’s how I got into songwriting.”
Brown could not play the guitar at this point, but he soon picked it up and within six months he and Wilson had cut a demo of John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance, performed in a reggae rhythm. He sent the tape to the Beatles’ label, Apple, and Lennon signed the pair called The Hot Chocolate Band virtually on the spot.
Their recording of Give Peace a Chance failed to make any impact on the charts, but the next single, Love is Life, proved more fruitful. Brown’s verve, flair and musical imagination were essential to the band’s success. He refused to be pigeonholed as a black musician, preferring his music to reflect the multi-racial mixture of West Indian and British influences in his cultural background. To this end he included strings and a rock guitarist in the band.
“It was never my intention to make black music,” he said. “I just wanted to make music. You have to understand, the only reason I’ve survived so long is because I make music that’s true to me… I’m influenced by all the things I listened to growing up and that’s what comes out in my music.”
The Hot Chocolate Band was quickly taken over by the British record producer Mickie Most and his Rak Records label. Most, who had a sharp ear for a hit, had been responsible for acts including The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Lulu and Suzi Quatro. The first thing he did was to shorten the name of Brown’s group to the snappier “Hot Chocolate”. Under Most’s tutelage the band for most of its life a five-piece led by Brown, with his distinctive shiny shaved head became a regular fixture in the UK Top 40 through the disco era of the mid-1970s, with Brown and Wilson writing most of the songs.
Harvie Hinsley was taken on in 1970 and the principal other members were Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson and Patrick Olive. Love is Life reached No 6 in Britain in September 1970. You Could Have Been a Lady fared less well, then I Believe (in Love) entered the Top 10.
All in all Hot Chocolate recorded more than 20 hits at a rate of roughly one a year, among them Every One’s A Winner, It Started With A Kiss, No Doubt About It and So You Win Again, a soulful, funky ballad which was, in 1977, the band’s only No 1.
By the early 1980s Hot Chocolate had become a treasured part of British culture: as an indicator of their status, they were invited to perform at a reception in 1981 at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the imminent marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. Three of their singles reached the charts in the mid-1980s: No Doubt About It, Are You Getting Enough Happiness? and Love Me to Sleep.
By now, however, there were worrying signs of friction between band members. “We took everything pretty lightly for 12 years,” Brown recalled, “but at the end of the day, the laughter turned into animosity.” In 1987 he went solo for WEA Records.
He continued touring in later life and enjoyed the fruits of his fame, claiming to have made £2 million from You Sexy Thing before The Full Monty and the same after it. He voted Conservative, took up golf he was a member of Loch Lomond Golf Club and owned National Hunt horses, including Gainsay, trained by Jenny Pitman.
Errol Brown was appointed MBE in 2003.
Date of Birth: 21 June 1954, Oldham, Lancashire, UK
Birth Name: Anne Kirkbride
Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre, the bespectacled, careworn femme fatale in ITV’s record-breaking soap opera Coronation Street for more than 40 years, and became renowned for her cracked, throaty voice, caused by chain-smoking in real life, and straining neck cords that were even more alarming than her enormous glasses.
In 1998, during a bitter ratings war with the BBC’s EastEnders, when Deirdre was wrongfully imprisoned after a relationship with a con-man called Jon Lindsay, the nation reacted with the “Free the Weatherfield One” campaign. In Parliament, even Tony Blair passed comment on her sentencing. It was not, commentators agreed, the prime minister’s finest hour. Producers at Granada Television decided to free Deirdre after three weeks.
Anne Kirkbride first came to Granada’s notice in 1972 in the ITV series Another Sunday and Sweet FA and was offered the bit part of the teenage dolly-bird Deirdre Hunt in Coronation Street later that year. When the character’s popularity grew after a few appearances, Anne Kirkbride signed a contract in 1974 and had been in the soap ever since.
With her distinctive owlish spectacles, she played Deirdre with a passion, steering the character through a calamitous tangle of marriages, broken engagements and affairs that produced an on-screen daughter Tracy in 1977, 20 years later the programme’s most notorious wild child and the Street’s spectacularly dull husband, Ken Barlow (William Roache). Dumped, divorced and widowed, Deirdre’s edgiest moment came with her affair with Mike Baldwin (played by Johnny Briggs) only two years after her wedding to Ken in 1981, and which started a feud between the two rivals that ended only with Baldwin’s death 25 years later.
Anne Kirkbride’s Deirdre was nearly written out of the series in 1978, three years after her screen marriage to Ray Langton (Neville Buswell). When Buswell decided to leave the programme, the producers believed there were already enough single women in the fictional Street. After Buswell intervened, however, the writers decided that Deirdre the single mother would be an interesting concept, and Anne Kirkbride was asked to stay.
One of the highlights of her career was her on-screen wedding to Ken Barlow in July 1981, on the day the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. But even this was eclipsed by Deirdre’s extra-marital affair with Baldwin in 1983. As Britain held its breath, a bishop in London warned Granada of the dangers of it all seeming too realistic; a woman in Halifax gave birth in an ambulance, having delayed her departure to hospital to witness the lovers’ first illicit kiss; and the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, one of the Street’s greatest fans, declared that Ken Barlow deserved better.
The fling excited the divided consternation of Fleet Street’s finest, with Jean Rook of the Daily Express advising Deirdre to “stick with Ken” and her Daily Mail rival Lynda Lee Potter urging her to leave boring Ken for exciting Mike.
In the showdown between the two, Anne Kirkbride thought Bill Roache had gone mad when unrehearsed and unscripted he grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the Barlows’ front door as Baldwin stood on the step. “I was literally fighting to get away,” she remembered. Tracked by the cameras, she ran to an adjoining room and burst into tears.
When Deirdre and Barlow were reconciled in the next episode, the Daily Mail hired the electronic scoreboard at Old Trafford and, to the approving roar of 56,000 fans watching Manchester United play Arsenal, flashed up the news: “Deirdre and Ken united again!”
In 1987, when Deirdre by now working as a shop assistant became Councillor Barlow, Anne Kirkbride complained at this improbable turn of events, but soon realised that it got Deirdre out from behind the bacon slicer and into the swim of mainstream Street life. However, she remained upset at the decision to have Deirdre divorce Ken over his affair with his secretary.
Her character received a fresh lease of life in 1994 when Anne Kirkbride returned from a six months’ absence due to illness; at 39, she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but, after chemotherapy, recovered. On screen, however, a planned reconciliation with Ken Barlow had to be scrapped, and instead Deirdre embarked on a holiday romance with a 21-year-old toyboy, a Moroccan waiter, Samir Rachid (Al Nedjari), whom she later married.
“Anne Kirkbride is celebrating her return to health with a crackling storyline, a marvellous performance and a whole new vocabulary,” wrote Margaret Forwood in the Express.
The marriage was short-lived, however, and in 1995 Deirdre’s third husband died on his way to hospital to donate a kidney to Deirdre’s wayward daughter Tracy. She was reunited with Ken in 1999 and married him for a second time in 2005, despite Ken finding out that she had slept with the supersmooth corner shop owner Dev Alahan.
Anne Kirkbride was called as a character witness in Roache’s trial on sex assault charges in 2014 (he was found not guilty): she said her colleague was “always a perfect gentleman”.
As an actress, Anne Kirkbride possessed a photographic memory; she could read through a page of script and almost instantly know it by heart.
Anne Kirkbride was born on June 21 1954 at Oldham, Lancashire, the daughter of Jack Kirkbride, a painter and decorator who became a cartoonist for the Oldham Evening Chronicle. It was her father who encouraged her to go on the stage, having spotted her acting talent when she was only seven.
She developed it at Oldham Rep’s junior theatregoers’ club, and at the age of 11 joined the Saddleworth junior players and then the Oldham youth theatre. On leaving Count Hill grammar school she took a job at Oldham Rep as a student assistant stage manager at £1 a week, combining buying props and helping to build sets with several small acting parts.
When the company’s director, Carl Paulson, took her aside and told her she would be acting full-time on £18 a week, she said she ran through the streets “as if I’d just won the pools”. A Coronation Street talent scout saw her in a Jack Rosenthal play and she was asked to read for a walk-on part.
She hated her gravelly voice but revelled in the nine-to-five routine of a soap star, and never wanted to play Shakespeare or longed for the peripatetic life of a repertory actress. “Sometimes I think I should have made more of an effort to get out and do other stuff,” she admitted in 2001, “but then again I’ve never been terribly ambitious.” In a television confessional, Deirdre and Me (2001), Anne Kirkbride admitted to a compulsion to scrub and clean incessantly (even the lavatories at the Granada studios), and to the depression that in 1998 almost ruined her appearance on This Is Your Life, an ordeal she managed to survive only with the aid of Valium.
She took a leave of absence from Coronation Street in September 2014 and was written out of the script, but had been expected to return.
A lifelong heavy smoker, she also confessed to suicidal feelings and to a compulsion to iron her knickers.
In 1992 Anne Kirkbride married the actor David Beckett, whom she met on the Coronation Street set when he briefly played a handyman in the soap.
Date of Birth: 6 June 1032, Coventry, UK
Birth Name: Billie Honor Whitelaw
Nicknames: Billie Whitelaw
“I could have easily have become a nun, or a prostitute, or both,” said Billie Whitelaw, who has died aged 82. Instead, she claimed that acting had allowed her to use both these sides of herself in a career that included theatre, films, television and a special place in the affection and inspiration of Samuel Beckett.
By the time the playwright died in 1989, Whitelaw had established herself not only as one of his favourite interpreters, if not the favourite, but also as one of his trusted confidantes.
Her voice had as big an effect on Beckett as that of the Irish actor Patrick Magee. When he saw her in his work Play in a National Theatre production at the Old Vic in 1964 occupying one of three urns alongside Rosemary Harris and Robert Stephens he determined to write especially for her.
The result was Not I, a 16-minute monologue for a jabbering mouth picked out in a dark void. Although Jessica Tandy played the first performances in New York in 1972, Whitelaw’s pell-mell, pent-up words of a lifetime were a sensation at the Royal Court theatre in London the following year. She called the experience “the most telling event of my professional life”.
Beckett then directed her in the premiere of Footfalls (1976), a rapt dialogue for a woman and her unseen mother; also in a revival of Happy Days (1979) in which the post-nuclear Winnie is seen buried up to her waist, then her neck both at the Royal Court. When Winnie sang her love song to the waltz of The Merry Widow, she did so just as Beckett had sung it to her, in a frail and quavering voice.
Rockaby, which Whitelaw first performed in New York in 1981, and in the following year at the National in London, was an entirely submerged Winnie, a gaunt human relic in a black dress covered in jet sequins, rocking herself to oblivion while listening to a recording of her own voice.
One of the attractions of Whitelaw for Beckett was her intellectual innocence. There was no attempt to justify the work. She performed what he wrote and became, much to her own surprise, a lecturer on the American college circuit, though she only ever talked about the plays she knew and had appeared in. “Like many men,” she said, “the older he got the more attractive he became at least as seen through a woman’s eyes.”
Billie Whitelaw was born in Coventry, on a housing estate owned by the General Electric Company, to Perceval, an electrician, and Frances (nee Williams). A shadowy “Uncle Len” lived in the same house, with Billie’s mother and her elder sister, Constance. In her autobiography, Billie Whitelaw...Who He? (1995), Whitelaw said that she always had two men in her life: two fathers, then husband and lover, later husband and son.
Her parents came from Liverpool, where Billie lived at the start of the second world war before the family moved to Bradford in 1941. There she went to Thornton grammar school and the Grange grammar school for girls.
In 1943 she was sent to the Bradford Civic Playhouse, then run by JB Priestley and the formidable Esme Church, in an attempt to rectify her stutter. She was soon playing children’s roles on the radio, and met Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl at the BBC in Manchester.
When Billie was 16, Littlewood asked her to join her acting group, but her parents would not let her. Instead, she joined Harry Hanson’s company in Leeds in 1948 and played in repertory theatres in Dewsbury, New Brighton and Oxford, where she worked with Peter Hall and Maggie Smith. She became one of the most familiar faces on television drama in the next two decades, usually cast as a battling working-class figure in either kitchen-sink dramas or what she called “trouble up at t’mill” plays.
Through John Dexter, who directed her in England, Our England (1962), a West End revue by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, she came to the attention of Laurence Olivier, and she joined his illustrious first company at the National in 1963, sharing a dressing room with Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Geraldine McEwan. Her time there included playing Desdemona to Olivier’s Othello.
Kenneth Tynan dubbed her “a female version of Albert Finney” (with whom she had a brief affair and longer friendship), and she had all those qualities of freshness, vitality and sensuality typical of the new postwar, beyond-London generation of actors on stage and screen. An unforced, gritty realism was complemented, in her case, with a natural voluptuousness.
For the Royal Shakespeare Company she appeared in John Barton’s 1980 epic ten-play cycle The Greeks as a grieving Andromache and the goddess Athene, sliding down on a cloud of dry ice, and in Peter Nichols’s mordantly brilliant Passion Play (1981) a favourite project in which her adulterous alter ego was Eileen Atkins. In 1983, she returned to the National as Hetty Mann, dipsomaniac wife of the novelist Heinrich Mann, in Christopher Hampton’s brilliant account of wartime European literary émigrés in Tinsel Town, Tales from Hollywood; the cast list included the movie stars Johnny Weissmuller, Chico and Harpo Marx, Greta Garbo, and dramatists Ödön von Horváth and Bertolt Brecht, but Whitelaw upstaged them all by entering a party bearing a birthday cake and wearing just a white mini-pinny.
Her last stage appearance apart from her unceasing cycle of Beckett solo shows and readings came in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Young Vic (1986), where she was a full-on slatternly Martha opposite Patrick Stewart’s intimidated, bespectacled George. In her autobiography she recounts how she was mysteriously struck by stage fright and struggled to complete the run.
She married the actor Peter Vaughan, nine years her senior, in 1952, and started a relationship with the writer and critic Robert Muller as the marriage failed; it ended in divorce in 1966. The following year she married Muller, and they had a son, Matthew.
Whitelaw’s film career was patchy; she made a more consistent mark on television, starting as a maid in an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1952) and as Mary Dixon, daughter of the police constable played by Jack Warner in the first series of Dixon of Dock Green (1955). She took the role of Countess Ilona in two episodes of Supernatural (1977), written by Muller, and her TV work continued until the start of the new century.
Film appearances included Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972); The Omen (1976), as the chilling nanny Mrs Baylock; The Krays (1990), as Violet, the mother of the East End gangster brothers; and the police comedy Hot Fuzz (2007). She was at her vibrant, blowzy best in two early films with Finney, Charlie Bubbles (1967) and Gumshoe (1971). In 1991 she was appointed CBE.
Whitelaw divided her time between a flat in Hampstead and a cottage in Suffolk, and never quite believed her luck: “When I wake up at dawn, and that grey cloud of work anxiety is there, I only have to get up and open the window to feel so free and happy that I think I’m going to go off pop.”
Date of Birth: 15 August 1920, Mariampole, Lithuania
Birth Name: Natascha Sliviskas
Nicknames: Eva Tovarich
Eva Tovarich, was a post-war circus artiste who balanced Big Top drama with power and ingenuity in an act billed as “The World’s Greatest Equilibrists”.
As one of the foundations of The Tovarich Troupe, she entertained audiences in variety theatres and circuses across Britain, Europe and America, from the late 1940s through to the mid-1970s. Equilibrism involves performers balancing on props or, as often was the case in the Tovarich act, the bodies of their fellow acrobats. Each member then fits together into a towering human scaffold. It is a precarious art, to which Eva’s statuesque figure was well suited.
Her husband, Joe, was the troupe’s founder and linchpin, while Eva Tovarich was the “bearer” the person who lifted the other members into the air.
She proved a formidable and striking presence in the circus ring: “A marvellous physique, tall and large-boned, with not a hint of fat,” judged one Bertram Mills Circus employee. “So elegant and graceful, yet strong.”
Natascha Slivinskas (professionally known as Eva Tovarich) was born August 15 1920 in Mariampole, Lithuania. Her father was a miner who brought the family to Hamilton, Scotland. It was there that she later met Joseph “Joe” Slivinski, whose Russian family had gone into exile following the 1917 revolution. Joe formed the Zarovs, an acrobatic group, before creating the family act and, post-war, The Tovarich Troupe moved from the Blackpool Tower Circus to the famous Bertram Mills arena after being spotted by Cyril Mills, son of the circus’ eponymous founder.
To begin with their performances included Joe’s three sons from his first marriage. Later, Eva performed with two of the couple’s daughters in an all-female aerial act under the name “Eva, Toots and Eva”. Two of the sons went on to form The Two Harvards, a comedy routine performed on ice skates. In various incarnations the family performed at the Belle Vue Circus, Manchester (1955-56), the Boswell’s Circus in South Africa (1961), the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth (1964) and with the Cirque Pinder in France (1965). In 1967 they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in America.
The couple retired in the mid-1970s and settled in Benidorm, where Joe Slivinski died in 1992. Four years later tragedy struck when armed intruders broke into their villa. Their son, Jan Juri, was murdered and Eva Tovarich was left in a coma. However, with a constitution fortified by a career under the canvas of the world’s greatest circus tops, she recovered from her injuries and continued to live in Spain for the rest of her life.
Date of Birth: 2 August 1932, Connemara, Ireland
Birth Name: Seamus Peter O’Toole
Nicknames: Peter O’Toole
Peter O'Toole, the Irish-born actor was one of the most charismatic, unpredictable, eccentric and individualistic players of his generation.
Hailed both as a classicist and as an exponent of post-war realism in the new British drama, he seemed destined for greatness on the stage until David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) turned him into a film star.
It was one of the most spectacular screen breakthroughs of the post-war years. Though his screen debut was in Kidnapped (1960), he had till Lawrence made little impression. Although Lawrence was presented as an heroic figure, Robert Bolt’s screenplay did not avoid the more debatable aspects of his life, including his sexuality. There is a revealing moment when he first dons Arab clothes and performs a little dance almost as if he were a woman in disguise. Moviegoers twigged instantly that this would be no ordinary portrayal.
Tall, lean, blue-eyed, watchful, whimsical and by middle age, so emaciated that his friends feared for his health O’Toole seemed regularly to veer close to self destruction. A self-confessed lover of sleaze, he once said: “I can’t stand light; I hate weather; my idea of heaven is moving from one smoke-filled room to another.”
When Laurence Olivier chose him in 1973 to inaugurate the National Theatre at the Old Vic in the title role of Hamlet, it was because O’Toole seemed like Britain’s next great actor. But the status of an Olivier, a Redgrave or a Gielgud always eluded him or perhaps he it.
Though he became a greatly popular player, he did not stay with Olivier’s new National Theatre Company and went on to divide his career between stage and screen. The success of Lawrence of Arabia led to a flood of screen offers in meaty parts that contemporary actors envied. These included two aspects of King Henry II, first in Becket (1964), based on Jean Anouilh’s account of his troubled relations with Thomas à Becket, and secondly in The Lion in Winter (1968), James Goldman’s play about the ageing king’s dispute with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Though Katharine Hepburn won an Oscar as Eleanor, the conflict was even-handed and the two performers were equally riveting.
His acting ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. It could be subtle, reserved, sensitive and deeply affecting. It could also be loud, self-regarding, mannered and imitative of the worst of the 19th-century barnstormers.
Among the more ridiculous was the Macbeth he played at the Old Vic in 1980. It was an attempt to restore the fortunes of that playhouse after the National Theatre had left it in 1976. Contradicting the advice he had given as Hamlet to the players at the same theatre under Olivier’s direction 17 years earlier, he sawed the air with his hands, tore passions to tatters, and ranted until the audience laughed in his face.
Undismayed, he joined in, especially when he heard one night, as he descended the staircase after dispatching Duncan, the siren of an ambulance passing the theatre. “I was dripping with blood. The ambulance howled as it went up the Waterloo Road. I got the giggles. So did the audience. It was bloody marvellous.”
Nonetheless, the production, disowned by fellow members of the Old Vic board, broke records in London and in the provinces. “I just wanted a crack at Macbeth on the principle of getting the worst over first. In the history of the British theatre, only three actors have pulled it off: Macready, Garrick, and Wolfit and now me. I enjoyed every second.”
Among his more sublime performances was that of the dazed and lonely protagonist journalist in Keith Waterhouse’s Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (Apollo, 1989; revived 1999), reminiscing, ruminating, urinating, swaying, and stranded overnight in a London pub with a plastic carrier bag of liquor.O’Toole, himself an experienced alcoholic, long since reformed, brought so much authenticity, poise and painful sincerity to the performance that many play-goers could not believe he was acting.
He loved the excitement and uncertainty of the theatre. “If I hadn’t become an actor I probably would have become a criminal,” he said once. “I’m a very physical actor. I use everything toes, teeth, ears, everything. I don’t simply mean physical in the sense of movement and vigour. I find myself remembering the shape of a scene by how I’m standing, what I’m doing.”
Having achieved immediate recognition as TE Lawrence, the desert adventurer opposite Omar Sharif, he observed: “Stardom is insidious. It creeps up through the toes. You don’t realise what’s happening until it reaches your nut. That’s when it becomes dangerous.”
His scores of screen roles at this time included Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1965), an angel in John Huston’s The Bible (1966), and a musical remake of Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969) opposite Petula Clark. Though he was Oscar-nominated for that role, the film as a whole was an embarrassment, and he should have taken note that Rex Harrison and Richard Burton had turned it down before him.
In 1972 he appeared in another musical, Man of La Mancha, opposite Sophia Loren, in which he played Don Quixote. These two films were temporary diversions he was wise not to repeat. Fortunately, in the same year (1972) he gave one of his best performances in the lead role in Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class, as a berserk British baronet who imagines himself to be Jesus Christ one minute and Jack the Ripper the next.
The son of an Irish bookmaker, Seamus Peter O’Toole was born at Connemara, Co Galway, on August 2 1932. The family moved to England when O’Toole was a boy. The young Peter left school at 14, and moved with his parents to Yorkshire.
He worked variously as a copy boy and reporter on the Yorkshire Evening News, as a jazz band drummer, and as a vacuum cleaner salesman. He first acted professionally at the Civic Theatre, Leeds, in 1949.
After National Service as a signalman in the Royal Navy, he saw Michael Redgrave’s King Lear at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1953; it was this that resolved him to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He hitch-hiked to London and won an audition and a scholarship.
He joined the Bristol Old Vic, where between 1955 and 1958 he acted 73 parts, notably Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger (1957), John Tanner in Man and Superman, the title part in Hamlet and Peter Shirley in Shaw’s Major Barbara, in which he made his first London appearance (Old Vic, 1956).
His first West End part came in another Bristol transfer, this time as Uncle Gustave in the Swiss musical comedy Oh, My Papa! (Garrick, 1957).
It was, however, as the cynical Cockney Pete Bamforth, who befriended a Japanese captive in Willis Hall’s wartime jungle drama The Long and the Short and the Tall (Royal Court, 1959, and New, now Albery), that O’Toole first won wide critical acclaim.
Of that performance Kenneth Tynan wrote: “To convey violence beneath banter, and a soured embarrassed goodness beneath both, is not the simplest task for a young player, yet Mr O’Toole achieved it without sweating a drop.”
At Stratford-upon-Avon in The Merchant of Venice his dashing young Shylock, a nouveau riche mercantile adventurer with social pretensions, was much admired, as were his playful Petruchio (opposite the 52-year-old Peggy Ashcroft) in The Taming of the Shrew and his powerful and thrilling Thersites in Troilus and Cressida.
Back in the West End in the title part of Brecht’s Baal (Phoenix, 1963) his acting soared above the play so impressively that one of Brecht’s biographers, Martin Esslin, dubbed O’Toole “the greatest potential force among all English-speaking actors”.
After the disappointment of his acceptable but uninspiring Hamlet at the launch of the National Theatre Company, he played one of his favourite types of character, the self-destructive hero, in David Mercer’s Ride a Cock Horse (Piccadilly, 1965), agonising over relationships with three women.
The following year, back in Ireland, he played Capt Boyle in O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, and three years after that he was back in Dublin again as John Tanner in Shaw’s Man and Superman, one of his favourite parts which he had played at Bristol 11 years earlier and which he played yet again in the West End (Haymarket, 1982).
At Dublin’s Abbey in 1969 his scarecrow Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot came in what The Daily Telegraph at the time called “the Chaplin tradition: baggy trousers, battered bowler, clownish, absentmindedly surveying the audience as if it were infinity”. He later acted the part at Nottingham Playhouse.
Returning to his training ground, the Bristol Old Vic, in 1973, he took the title role in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, “shuffling, weary, pale and unprofiteering… one of the best things O’Toole ever did”, according to one critic. He also played King Magnus “indolent, elegant, condescending” in Shaw’s The Apple Cart, a role which he repeated in the West End (Haymarket, 1986).
When he led, in 1978, a tour of North America as Uncle Vanya, he also added Coward’s Present Laughter to his repertoire. As the flamboyant matinée idol, Garry Essendine, O’Toole used his own mannered and sometimes irritating self-indulgence with authority.
Following the fiasco of his Macbeth for Prospect Productions at the ailing Old Vic two years later, his mercurial Professor Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion (Shaftesbury, 1984) was warmly approved for its zest, rhythm, tonal variety, and tender eccentricity. It was seen on Broadway three years later.
In 1991 his ideas about the older Jimmy Porter in Osborne’s new play Déjà Vu clashed with the author’s at rehearsal and the Liverpool production was cancelled.
One of his better screen performances in the 1970s came in Clive Donner’s thriller for television Rogue Male (1976). O’Toole was engaging and, when it mattered, moving, as the resourceful but desperate hero, a British sportsman and would-be assassin of Hitler who, ruthlessly hunted down by Nazis, is forced to live like an animal.
The following year he acted in the dubious Roman epic Caligula, described by Variety magazine as “an anthology of sexual aberrations in which incest is the only face-saving relationship”.
In the uncommercial but intriguing film The Stuntman (1980), he was entirely at home as an impatient and overbearing director on a crazed film project which seemed to make sense only to him. O’Toole, who was again Oscar-nominated, later admitted that he had based his performance on the martinet David Lean, who had directed him in Lawrence of Arabia.
Less impressive were his outings in such schlock as Powerplay (1978), Strumpet City (1980), Supergirl (1984) and Buried Alive (1984).
His performance in Neil Jordan’s big budget Hollywood comedy High Spirits (1988), about a family who move into a haunted house, was nothing if not ebullient; he extracted more humour than the rest of the cast from a weak script in what became one of the turkeys of the year.
It is fitting that his swansong was on the West End stage, which he loved and dominated like no other. Keith Waterhouse’s Our Song provided him with another Bernard-like character or at least that was how he played the hard-drinking advertising man infatuated with a younger woman.
Even those critics who professed to a sense of déjà vu were not inclined to complain about it, but rather revelled in another chance to see O’Toole running the entire gamut of his physical and vocal range. “The exhilarating theatrical swagger of his performance is matched by a real depth of emotion,” said the Telegraph. The play was a sell-out success.
The year 1992 also saw the publication of the first volume of his autobiography, Loitering With Intent. Besides committing to record his own account of a life rich in myth and hyperbole, O’Toole revealed a genuine writing talent whose promise is sadly cut short.
Having been denied as best actor Oscar many times, in 2003 O’Toole received a special honorary award, effectively for his lifetime’s work. He joked about this when, in 2006, he received yet another best-actor nomination, playing a 70-year-old roué in Venus, who romances his best friend’s grand-niece. The lifetime’s recognition, he quipped, had been premature because there was life in the old dog yet.
Date of Birth: 16 February 1918, Anglesey, Minnesota, US
Birth Name: Patricia Marie Andrews
Nicknames: Patty Andrews
Patty Andrews was the lead singer and soloist with the Andrews Sisters. The swinging American trio, comprising Patty and her older siblings, LaVerne and Maxene, achieved their greatest success in the 1940s, contributing to the war effort with catchy songs including Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) and, with Bing Crosby, Don't Fence Me In.
The Andrews Sisters performed at military bases and raised money for war bonds; their hits were sung by the troops and by women working in factories. Patty, LaVerne and Maxene accompanied the most popular singers and big bands of the day; enjoyed success not just on radio but also in musical comedy films; and spawned a host of other sister acts not all of whom were real siblings.
Patricia Marie Andrews was born in Minnesota, the third daughter of a Greek immigrant, Peter (who had anglicised his surname), and his Norwegian wife, Olga. The parents ran a restaurant. Inspired by the success of the Boswell Sisters, the pretty, blonde Patty and her siblings began in vaudeville in the early 1930s. "There were just three girls in the family," she recalled. "LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene's was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts." The sisters toured America with the Larry Rich band and before long were starring at the Hotel Edison in New York with Leon Belasco.
The Andrews family relocated to New York in 1937 and the sisters were offered a recording contract by Decca. Things took a momentous turn when they recorded Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin's revamped version of an old Yiddish standard. It reached No 1 in the US in 1938, establishing Cahn and Chaplin as ace songwriters and making the Andrews Sisters the hottest name in the record business. The song has now come to be emblematic of the age often used when a film or TV drama deals with the era of jitterbugs and evacuation, to say nothing of Land Girls, who sang it as they stacked the hay.
Further hits followed for the trio including Beer Barrel Polka and Hold Tight, Hold Tight (both 1939) and in 1940 they were signed by Universal Pictures and appeared in the film Argentine Nights with the Ritz Brothers. They then made two wartime comedies starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Buck Privates and In the Navy (both 1941), and also appeared in Private Buckaroo (1942), which followed new recruits doing their basic training and included the sisters' patriotic We've Got a Job to Do. The sisters appeared as themselves in the all-star film Hollywood Canteen (1944), about the ever-open cafe for American servicemen, founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield, and where Hollywood celebrities volunteered during the war. The sisters' voices were also featured in the Disney cartoon Make Mine Music in 1946.
After the success of the uptempo Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar and the sentimental ballad (I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time, the sisters accompanied Crosby on a No 1 hit, Don't Fence Me In, in 1944. It was one of several successful collaborations with the crooner, including Pistol Packin' Mama, Jingle Bells, Is You Is Or Is You Ain't (Ma Baby) and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. The sisters also appeared with him and Bob Hope in Road to Rio (1947). Danny Kaye partnered them on, among others, The Woody Woodpecker; and with Carmen Miranda, the trio sang Cuanto Le Gusta. By themselves, the sisters had number one hits with I Can Dream, Can't I? and I Wanna Be Loved.
In many ways Patty was the most successful member of the group. Certainly, her solos made her the most prominent sister. In the mid 1950s she broke away from the group, but people still wanted more of the Andrews Sisters and they were soon back together.
It was the death of LaVerne in 1967 that eventually broke up the group. In the early 70s Bette Midler had success with her recording of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and people once more went looking for the original, which had a renewed success. In 1974 Maxene and Patty were back in business, starring in a Broadway musical, Over Here!, about the group's wartime success. The show featured a third "borrowed" sister and ran for almost a year, closing after the sisters had an argument. Patty, who had solo success in Las Vegas and performed on cruise ships, continued to work after Maxene's death in 1995.
Date of Birth: 3 December 1927, Wall Lake, Iowa, US
Birth Name: Howard Andrew
Nicknames: Andy Williams
Through the popularity of his television show and his mellifluous tenor voice, Andy Williams, who has died aged 84 after suffering from bladder cancer, was one of the best-loved figures in American popular culture. In a career that spanned eight decades, he sold more than 100m albums. Ronald Reagan described Williams's distinctive voice as a "national treasure".
The Andy Williams Show was also a favourite on British television and he had numerous UK hits in the 1960s and 70s. Among the biggest were Can't Get Used to Losing You (1963), Can't Help Falling in Love (1970) and Where Do I Begin (1971), the theme from the 1970 film Love Story.
Williams's British career was revived in 1998 when his 30-year-old hit Can't Take My Eyes Off You was used in a commercial for Peugeot cars. Soon, a Fiat advertisement revived Music to Watch Girls By, and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (from one of his eight Christmas albums) was chosen for a Marks & Spencer Christmas campaign in 2002. He even appeared in an episode of Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 to sing Moon River.
Williams grew up in Wall Lake, Iowa, the second youngest of six children, to Jay and Florence Williams. His father, a railway worker, arranged for Andy and his three elder brothers, Bob, Don and Dick, to be the choir at the town's Presbyterian church. The quality of their harmonising inspired Jay to train the quartet for a professional career, beginning with performances at weddings and socials. His ambition for the boys led the family to move to Des Moines in 1936 to seek a regular radio show. There, Jay's perfectionism hardened into an obsession: Andy was to claim that his self-confidence was deeply dented by Jay's edict that "you have to practise harder because you're not as good as others out there".
The Williams Brothers were eventually awarded their own 15-minute show on a station where Reagan was a sports reporter. But the family were still not well off, and when the youngest child died of spinal meningitis, the only way the family could pay the funeral costs was for the brothers to sing hymns at the funeral parlour after school for several months.
There were further moves to Chicago and Cincinnati so that the Williams Brothers could perform on more prestigious radio stations, and in 1944 the family uprooted again to Los Angeles. There, Jay Williams, by now his sons' full-time manager, negotiated a studio contract with MGM, which gave the quartet cameo roles in several B movies. He also persuaded Bing Crosby to employ them as backing singers on his hit record Swinging on a Star.
The group broke up as each brother was called up for second world war service – the 17-year-old Andy was briefly in the merchant navy and did not re-form until 1947. They next performed as a cabaret act, appearing in Las Vegas and the Café de Paris in London before splitting up in 1953. The actor and choreographer Kay Thompson then launched Andy on a solo career, which ignited when he landed a job as resident vocalist on Steve Allen's late night television show on NBC (1954-56).
In 1956 he signed a recording contract with Cadence, and the following year had a No 1 hit in both the US and Britain with Butterfly. Although Williams studied Elvis Presley's recordings, he avoided rock'n'roll and had four more top 10 hits with ballads. In 1961 CBS offered him a lucrative record deal.
The 1960s were to be his golden decade. The Andy Williams Show ran on NBC from 1962 to 1971, with consistently high ratings, and he had at least one album in the US top 10 in every year, aided by his musical director, the acclaimed jazz pianist Dave Grusin. The essential blandness of the show was reassuring to middle America, but it introduced new singers, notably the Osmonds, whom Jay Williams had spotted performing at Disneyland, and the fledgling Jackson Five, featuring a seven-year-old Michael.
The popularity of the show kept the crooning Williams afloat during the tidal wave of pop in the 1960s. Also, while contemporaries such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett were baritones, Williams, a tenor, shared his vocal range with the Beatles and Beach Boys.
All his albums of the 1960s sold more than one million copies each, with Moon River and Days of Wine and Roses each selling almost 2m. The latter was No 1 in the album charts for 16 weeks in 1963. When his contract with CBS came up for renewal in 1966, his manager, Alan Bernard, negotiated an unprecedented guarantee against royalties of £0.93m. In return, Williams agreed to record 15 albums over the next five years.
The formula for his albums was carefully calculated to attract fans of the television show. Williams seldom recorded new or unknown songs. Instead, he chose a mix of titles from successful movies, Broadway shows and versions of recent pop hits. Williams and his producer, Bob Mersey, were careful to include material by songwriters of the rock era, albeit their most melodic numbers. Thus, he recorded songs from the pens of Lennon and McCartney (Michelle), Burt Bacharach (Don't You Believe It) and Jim Webb (McArthur Park).
On one occasion, he decided to experiment with a "concept" album of songs by the arranger Mason Williams (no relation), depicting existence from birth to death. Clive Davis, the head of CBS Records, warned him that sales would suffer. After some haggling, the concept songs took up one side of the LP Bridge Over Troubled Water. Davis was proved right and the album sold only half a million copies.
The loss of his television show led to falling record sales for Williams in the early 1970s. However, his celebrity enabled him to play lucrative concerts and cabaret engagements throughout the US and Europe. In 1992 he opened his own Moon River theatre in Branson, Missouri, where he appeared for several months each year.
Although he was a lifelong Republican, Williams became a close friend of Robert and Ethel Kennedy in the mid-60s. He was present when Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles during the 1968 campaign for the presidential nomination. Williams sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic at the funeral and voted for George McGovern at the Democratic party convention, having been nominated as a delegate by Kennedy. More in keeping with his political convictions was his outspoken criticism of Barack Obama, and he allowed the rightwing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh to broadcast his recording of Born Free with added gunshot sounds. Sony Music (now the owner of CBS Records) forced Limbaugh to remove it.
Williams was married twice. He had three children, Noelle, Christian and Bobby, named after Robert Kennedy, with his first wife, the singer and dancer Claudine Longet. After their divorce, he was publicly supportive when, following the death of her new partner in a shooting incident, she was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in 1977. He is survived by his second wife, Debbie Haas, and his children.
Date of Birth: 16 October 1922, Rotherhithe, London, England, UK
Birth Name: Walter William Bygraves
Nicknames: Max Bygraves
Max Bygraves was a singer and comedian who became famous for his stage performances, notably in 19 Royal Variety Performances, and went on to lead the market in the kind of foot-tapping nostalgia which characterised his “Singalongamax” recordings.
Millions were charmed by his disarmingly homely delivery of catchphrases such as “I wanna tell you a story”, “I’ve arrived’, “dollar lolly”, and “Big ’Ead” though to many observers, including most press critics, his repartee often seemed insipid and predictable, and the scale of his enduring appeal remained enigmatic.
The ease with which he combined Danny Kaye’s style of intimate yet polite comic delivery with frequent reference to his own deprived childhood in East London, made his stardom seem universally attainable; and the fact that some of his jokes were familiar or mediocre only enhanced this effect. He was, as one critic said, “The boy next door writ large”.
Bygraves was still a soprano when he appeared in Tony Gerrard’s “Go as you Please” talent contest at the New Cross Empire. His rendition of It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today, given while clutching a half-starved mongrel dog whose level of house-training proved unequal to the testing demands of live Variety, was irresistible to the Empire audience.
This success led to Sandy Powell impressions, and precocious performances of songs such as Melancholy Baby. He later observed that audiences “liked nothing more than a kid singing grown-up words”, a formula he was to invert, with great success, with songs like You’re a Pink Toothbrush, I’m a Blue Toothbrush, I’ll Take the Legs From Some Old Table, and Gilly, Gilly, Ossenfeffer, Katzenellen Bogen by the Sea.
He was born Walter William Bygraves in Rotherhithe on October 16th 1922, the son of a professional flyweight boxer who then worked on the Surrey Commercial Docks. “Wally” was one of six children brought up in a two-bedroom flat. He would acquire his stage name during the war as a result of his Max Miller impressions, performed in RAF reviews.
In his early teens he supplemented the family income by repairing footwear, and went into the business on his own account during the summer holidays, an early indication of an acute business sense not always found in showbusiness types. Lionel Bart, for instance, sold Bygraves his Oliver score for £350; Bygraves resold the rights for £156,756.65 .
Despite his early success at the New Cross Empire, when he left St Joseph’s School, Paradise Street, it was to become a messenger for WS Crawford’s advertising agency, running copy up and down Fleet Street. He spent the war as a fitter in the RAF, and in 1945 went to work as a carpenter in East Ham. A chance meeting with an RAF contact outside the London Palladium secured an appearance in the BBC variety show They’re Out.
The bandleader Jack Payne heard the programme, and this led to a spot in a new show, For the Fun of It, in which Bygraves starred with Donald Peers and a young Frankie Howerd. In 1950 Jack Parnell and Cissie Williams hired him as a replacement for Ted Ray at the Palladium, a role he filled so successfully that he was back in Argyll Street a few weeks later, appearing with Abbott and Costello at the theatre which was to become, for a number of years, his second home.
He gave his first Royal Variety Performance in November 1950, and was invited to join the radio ventriloquist Peter Brough in Educating Archie, the show which “launched”, among others, Tony Hancock; Bygraves’s then scriptwriter, Eric Sykes; and 14-year-old Julie Andrews, who was ousted from her singing spot when Bygraves arrived.
When he accepted an invitation to spend a month supporting Judy Garland at the Palladium, she was sufficiently impressed to ask him to appear with her at the Palace, New York, where together they sang A Couple of Swells. Notices were generally good and, in some sections of the British press, ecstatic. His performances also won praise from Marlene Dietrich.
Bygraves later said that he considered Judy Garland’s act to be “mediocre because of its simplicity”. He was able, nevertheless, to make the trip to Hollywood for The Judy Garland Show, which led to invitations also accepted to meet Clark Gable and James Mason.
During the 1950s there were numerous stage appearances in Britain, notably in Wonderful Time, and in We’re Having a Ball, which also starred the Kaye Sisters and Joan Regan. Bygraves took some time off from having a ball to write You Need Hands, a song which ran for several months in the Top 20.
The show Do Re Mi brought more success, in Manchester and London in 1961, though many considered him less suited to the role of the self-seeking and unprincipled New Yorker Hubie Cram than its American interpreter, Phil Silvers. In another revue from the early Sixties, Round About Piccadilly, he had a 20-minute spot with his son Anthony, though their partnership was never quite the success he had hoped.
With the arrival of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Bygraves became, seemingly overnight, part of the “Old Guard”. Only two years before the Royal Variety Performance during which he heard John Lennon urge the “expensive seats” to “rattle your jewellery”, he had been appearing in the same event with The Crazy Gang. His response to concentrate on television was typically astute. With writer Spike Mullins, he made Max in 1969, and his relaxed, cosy style adapted well to the small screen, although he still did not convince the serious critics.
At the suggestion of his mother, in 1972 Bygraves recorded an album of songs, including Daisy and If You Were the Only Girl in the World, with relatively sparse arrangements for two pianos and a chorus. Sing Along with Max was an instant success, and the first of a series of recordings which brought him most of his 31 gold discs. By the time the show Singalongamax was produced in London in 1974, the mood was one of wistful reminiscence.
As the youth culture of the Seventies became increasingly unsympathetic to most of Bygraves’s audience, and The Sex Pistols released an irreverent reading of his song You Need Hands, the appeal of such nostalgia only increased.
He continued to appear on television, drawing massive audiences, and in 1983 was appointed OBE. From 1983 to 1985 he hosted the television show Family Fortunes. By the late Eighties, however, there were fewer listeners prepared to “singalongamax”, and his records were banned from peak time broadcasts on the Bournemouth radio station which he partly owned.
He also appeared in several films, including Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1951), Spare the Rod (1961), Charlie Moon (1956) and A Cry From The Streets (1958). His novel, The Milkman’s On His Way, concerned a working boy who became the highest-paid pop star in the world. He saw no essential difference between literary and musical inspiration, as he explained on the book’s publication in 1977: “Dickens and all those people used to do it, almost the same thing as we do. Only, of course, without the songs.”
He published several volumes of memoirs, including I Wanna Tell You A Story (1976), After Thoughts (1988) and In His Own Words (1997).
In 2001 Bygraves recorded an album for the Royal British Legion, and four years later he emigrated to Australia.
His wife Gladys (known as “Blossom”), whom he married in 1942, died in 2011, and he is survived by their son and two daughters. He is said to have fathered three other children by three different women.
Date of Birth: 23 May 1960, Manchester, England, UK
Birth Name: Nigel Charnock
Nigel Charnock, the performer, director and choreographer of the DV8 Physical Theatre company
Nigel was one who gave everything he had, emotionally, intellectually and physically. Charnock's work was grounded in improvisation and frequently autobiographical, with a streak of black comedy.
He worked on the fringes of the mainstream, often creating challenging pieces that dealt with his homosexuality.
For the next six years, Nigel continued working together on DV8 projects. His unsparing performance in Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men (1990) and tragicomic character in Strange Fish (1992), subsequently captured on film, remain testimony to his extraordinary physicality and talent with text; he was touching, tragic, hilarious, honest.
Born in Manchester, Nigel studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff and then went on to train at the London School of Contemporary Dance (1981) before working with Ludus Dance company (1982-85) and Extemporary Dance Theatre (1985-86).
After leaving DV8 in 1993, he created a series of solos for himself: Human Being, Hell Bent, Original Sin, Resurrection and Frank, which all revolved around themes of love, redemption, loneliness and nihilism. These themes recurred through his life's work. He formed Nigel Charnock + Company in 1995, but continued to make pieces for other companies in Britain and abroad. At the time of his death, he was working on Ten Men for his own company, an excerpt of which premiered to great acclaim at the British Dance Edition showcase in February 2012.
There may have been an element of defensiveness in his statements, but Nigel was scathing about the elitism of contemporary dance and ballet. He disliked arty pretentiousness: "I'm more of an entertainer, I make shows, really, I make pieces, I don't make work."
He said last year in a filmed interview: "I don't take anything seriously, oh well here we go, let's do this, come on, you're not here for very long, you could get cancer tomorrow, it's only life, its really not important." But Nigel was a bundle of contradictions: he took many things seriously and railed fearlessly against religion, homophobia, bad hairstyles or whatever was topical that day.
In 2007, during a performance of his improvised solo Frank in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, he inadvertently caused a cultural furore by dancing on the Armenian and British flags. The Armenian minister for culture said: "It is unacceptable for us that someone who is considered a national treasure to Britain would bring such low-quality art to Armenia." It was reported that some audience members likened the solo to a "strip act" and felt uncomfortable because Nigel challenged their "conservative definitions of art".