Wednesday 18 July 2018

Carry On Blogging Review: Liz Fraser at the Museum of Comedy

On a rather hot and steamy night I made my way to the Museum of Comedy in Central London to see a legend of British comedy. I've long been a fan of Liz Fraser and her work on stage and screen and finally, after several attempts, I was getting a chance to hear from the lady herself on her long and illustrious career in some of the best loved comedy this country has ever produced.

The lovely Robert Ross, comedy historian and author of many books, most of which you'll find on my shelves, was interviewing his long-time friend and sparring partner Ms Fraser in the intimate surroundings of the Museum of Comedy, a delightful venue and a treasure trove for anyone who loves classic funny stuff. It's definitely worth checking out. Large gin and tonic in hand, I braced myself for the arrival of Liz, aware that quite possibly anything could happen!

Having heard Liz Fraser interviewed many times before, on radio, television and in various audio commentaries with Robert, I know her to be a rather formidable presence well known for speaking her mind. And she didn't disappoint on that score! A hugely talented actress who, as she's keen to point out herself, has worked with everyone (most of everyone now being dead), Liz's career dates back to the 1950s and is still going strong today. A recently filmed guest starring role in Midsomer Murders will be coming to a telly near you soon. 

It's clear that Liz and Robert go back a long way, indeed Liz points out they first met when young Robert approached her and asked for an autograph. They clearly know each other rather well and I think there's scope for a national tour as a double act as their interplay throughout the show kept the audience in stitches. Still sharp as a tack, Liz recounted tales of working with legends such as Peter Sellers, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Benny Hill and Jimmy Edwards. Some of the anecdotes were fairly colourful (you'd expect nothing less) but Liz showed great affection for most of her past colleagues, particularly Sid James and Tony Hancock.

I loved hearing tales of some of the theatrical tours Liz took part in during the 1960s and 70s, seemingly always involving the wonderful one off which was Irene Handl. What a double act they must have made. Another actress Liz seemed incredibly fond of was the late, great Dora Bryan. Again, what talent to see on stage. I was pleased to see Robert asking her about some of her later work too - the Confessions and Adventures of films were briefly mentioned as was Liz's slightly bizarre cameo in the Sex Pistols' 1980 film The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. No, I haven't seen it either, but it brought the likes of Liz, Irene Handl and Julian Holloway into contact with the infamous band and another equally infamous figure in the shape of the late Mary Millington. 

Also discussed was some of Liz's fine, if rarely seen work on the small screen with serious parts in the likes of Miss Marple and Eskimos Do It, opposite Jean Boht. This made me think, once again, just how much Liz had to give as an actress and how true that is to this very day.

Liz Fraser is, quite simply, a force of nature. She says a whole lot of things most of us would think but not dare to say aloud! And I kinda like that spirit in someone. Despite many pithy asides, I think deep down she's soft as butter and a bit of a pussycat. It was a privilege to meet both Robert and Liz at the end of the show. I've known Robert's work since I was a schoolboy and my original Carry On Companion is with me still. We've chatted over email and by phone but not met until now, which was lovely. And to shake the hand of the legendary Liz, well that's something very special indeed.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

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