12 May 2015

Theatre Book Prize presentation next Friday

As Freddie's cowriter I will be attending the award ceremony for this year's Theatre Book Prize on Friday week. Even though Funny Bones didn't make the shortlist the record of earlier presentations on the STR website suggests that the chairman and judges may mention some of the other books they enjoyed.

See the complete list of books submitted for the Theatre Book Prize here. This year's shortlist, plus links to records of earlier presentations, can be found here.

Funny Bones was also entered for the Sheridan Morley Prize, but as that has already been awarded (to John Lahr) I think I may now quote with impunity from a judge's account of meeting Freddie.

Some years ago the actor Michael Simkins reminisced in a Guardian article about meeting members of Abba along with other greats such as Arthur Miller and John Malkovich before admitting:
... none of these meetings induced the exotic mixture of thrill and awe I faced in meeting Bjorn and Benny. Except for one. And try to explain this for me.

I'd been to a play at the Wimbledon Theatre and went round afterwards to see a friend who'd played a medley of supporting roles throughout the evening. I thought I would be his only visitor, but someone else had arrived before me. 

My friend, still at the washbasin removing the last of several hairpieces he had donned in the course of the performance, greeted me warmly in the mirror and introduced me to his other guest, a man in his late 50s standing in the corner. 

"Mike, meet Freddie," he said, before returning to his ablutions.
I turned and found myself looking at Freddie "Parrot-face" Davies. I don't know whether the name Freddie "Parrot-face" Davies means much to you. If you're under 40, possibly not. But throughout my childhood he was never off the box, sporting his trademark bowler hat pulled down over his ears and intoning his catchphrase, "I'm sick, sick, sick up to here." One of my most treasured possessions as a kid was a record I was given of him singing his famous novelty song Semolina. I hadn't thought about him for more than 30 years.
Freddie Davies - some years older, minus his bowler hat but sporting a smart blazer and slacks and still instantly recognisable - offered his hand amiably and said: "Pleased to meet you, Mike." I would have loved for him of all people to have seen me relaxed and urbane, but childhood heroes are the most potent and I'd been caught unawares. 

I'm afraid my jaw dropped. I stared open-mouthed and then said simply: "Good God."

It must, I suppose, be accounted a tribute to Mr Simkins' integrity that no lingering vestige of that sense of awe swayed his judgement when carrying out his duties for the Sheridan Morley Prize.

Funny Bones is available from amazon (paperback) or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing (paperback or limited edition hardback).  Read an extract here.

Michael Simkins' Guardian articles about the life of a jobbing actor are collected in What's My Motivation?, a hilarious read which also has the psittacine seal of approval.