Back for another bite: why classic movies of the 70s and 80s are new stars on the scene | To organise
Tthere is a lot of talk about Britain in the 1970s and 80s – and not much good: warnings of a “winter of discontent” to match that of 1978-79, talk of runaway inflation, predictions that Financial fallout from the pandemic could make the crash of the late 1980s look like a picnic. All these elements evoke gloom and grayness to correspond to a past analog age.
Strange, then, that a strong wave of nostalgia for these same times brings the public back to the theaters of the country reopening. Shows based on screen hits from the ’70s and’ 80s are now the best at the box office. The demand for such a heartwarming form of time travel became clear when supporters of Robert Zemecki’s new musical version Back to the future extended its run in the West End until July 2022.
Next month will also see the theatrical recreation of the boat at Jaws, in a celebration of Steven Spielberg’s cinematic blockbuster 1975, and a loving return to Surbiton Street where the 1970s sitcom The good life was put in.
The names of these movie classics alone are enough to sell tickets to an audience looking to encourage familiarity. But once the crowds have taken their places in the auditorium, the real challenge begins. Can these productions convince fans to watch the genuine item again?
As designer of the new piece The shark is broken, which tells the story of how Jaws, Duncan Henderson oversaw the recreation of the Orca, the fishing boat that’s almost as big a star in the movie as the great white shark. When the curtain rises on October 9 and Chef Brody, Hooper, and Quint sit down around that cabin table, preparing to swap stories and show their scars, Henderson knows that hundreds of pairs of eyes in The Ambassadors Theater will focus on the details of the decor.
“You get more than just a reminder of the movie with this piece,” he said, “but I always wanted to make it as specific as possible because it’s coming from such an authentic place.”
The play, which was a smash hit at the Edinburgh Festival two years ago, is co-written by actor Ian Shaw, son of the late Robert Shaw who played Quint, the saltiest sea bass in the screen. Shaw plays his own father in a festival of performances that critics describe as “gloriously relaxed” and “bossy.” Richard Dreyfuss, who played Hooper, and Roy Scheider, who played Brody, make up the dramatis personae, as tension builds on sets and the tight filming schedule derails. In London, Dreyfuss will be played by Liam Murray Scott and Scheider by Demetri Goritsas.
“Ian and Joseph Nixon have broadened their storyline a bit for the West End, so you see more of Dreyfuss appearing Dreyfuss style,” Henderson said. “But we wanted to keep the claustrophobia of the setting I had built for Edinburgh. When the lights went on up there, you could hear the audience’s reaction. People knew they were watching the Orca they remembered, but in the end they told us they felt like they were actually on board. They were drawn. “
With a larger budget for London production, Henderson returned to studying the film. “I loved doing it. I tend to get wrapped up in the details anyway. The boat no longer exists, so I was reduced to the old tradition of looking at the length of the actors’ forearms and comparing it to the props to get the right proportions.
Spielberg shot on a real boat and on a movie set, but the play merges the two. “I tried to be faithful, but when you watch the movie you can see that they cut corners at different points, so I like to think mine is based on the original boat, rather than on later versions simulated and built as a whole. ” Henderson thinks the show will appeal to more than just hardcore Jaws Fans. “People who have never seen the film will understand it anyway. But of course familiarity is part of it. We’ve all had a rough ride and a movie like Jaws is a friend. The same with Back to the future Where The good life, which was a nice sitcom.
Even if The shark is broken Taking a look at the behind-the-scenes drama while directing some beloved entertainment, Shaw agrees with Henderson that his play inevitably builds on the love for the film. “Going back to the things of our childhood fills a void,” he told the Observer. “And there is a certain nostalgia around. But I also wonder if the reason why there are so many shows focused on past successes now is that the producers suddenly realized how much people still care. Jaws there are many fans. They even have websites like The Daily Jaws which can find something new to say almost every day.
Proof that the film still strikes a chord came this summer when it was revealed the Prime Minister had privately compared himself to the mayor of Amity as the pandemic loomed.
“The reason Johnson mentioned Jaws was because he knew he still had change. Although you must be wondering if he actually saw the movie when he makes that kind of comment, ”Shaw said. In the film, the mayor is notoriously concerned with protecting the image of his resort as a tourist attraction rather than protecting tourists.
“Jaws was a great moment in my father’s career, even though he found it difficult. He then did some sort of follow-up with The abyss, who co-starred with Nick Nolte, who became his good friend and drinking companion, ”said Shaw, adding that he remained“ extremely proud ”of his father, who died in 1978 at the age of 51.
From the original Jaws trio of actors, only Dreyfuss survives, and Shaw has learned that the 73-year-old American actor has given the new production “his seal of approval” and is hoping to see it.
Felicity Kendal and Penelope Keith, the ladies of the The good life actors, are also invited to the new incarnation of their sitcom, which was written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde and aired nationally from 1975 to 1978 on BBC One. As next door neighbors and wives of characters played by Richard Briers and Paul Eddington, they embodied the opposing attitudes of the middle class to capitalism.
Kendal’s Barbara Good, along with her on-screen husband Tom, were the early advocates of Green Living, while Keith and Eddington, who played Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, were ambitious and greedy. The new version sees Rufus Hound as Tom Good and uses storylines from the original episodes to weave a new storyline into a Jeremy Sams script.
Audiences at the Theater Royal Bath, where the touring show opens on October 7, will be faced with a setting that purposely functions as a tribute to the sitcom rather than a reproduction.
“For us, it wasn’t about recreating the TV show,” said designer Michael Taylor. “We are first and foremost a play and the main difficulty for me was technical, because we need a set that rotates to show the two rooms, the Leadbetters’ lounge and the Goods kitchen.
On the contrary, Taylor said he exaggerated the look of the time. “I didn’t go to great lengths to reproduce the entire TV show. If you’re looking for a faithful recreation, you might as well just stay home and watch a recording, ”Taylor said. But he concedes that nostalgia is an important part of his design. “There’s fun in the ’70s attributes now that weren’t there then, of course. We started with the idea that the Leadbetters would have antique reproductions and that Margo would gradually update them with brighter 70s furniture.
Taylor took the same attitude, he said, when he worked on the recent production of The Ladies Killers, a stage version of Ealing’s admired comedy. “A lot of people love this movie, but we didn’t really care about how it looked. When it comes to Back to the future, the designer said it’s all about the car, the DeLorean, and that makes sense. It is certainly true that people are in the mood to feel good and have fun and there is something very lovable about The good life. “
Henderson thinks this kind of retrospective show works best when it brings more to the original: “The shark is broken is based on a wealth of material, Robert Shaw’s diaries, and authentic Shaw family stories and other books. So it’s familiar, but different. Of course, the Orca wasn’t exactly the green living room for actors, but we couldn’t resist. It’s a show about acting, these stars and the human condition. It’s also a play about the wait to act and what could be more appropriate after the wait we’ve all had?