I spent a long and languid weekend in the wise, compassionate, and tremendously funny company of an old friend. I’ve just finished reading Victor Spinetti’s Up Front! As I turned the pages of this terrific (and quite salty) autobiography, I recalled many of the stories Victor used to tell about the famous folk who became his friends—the Beatles, of course, but also Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, Marlene Dietrich, Sean Connery, just for starters. And I remembered with great pleasure how he used to perform those outrageous vignettes with devastatingly spot-on impersonations!
Reading about Joan Littlewood was a treat for me. She was my theatre hero (Oh, What a Lovely War! A Taste of Honey). Victor kindly arranged for me to meet her. My writing mentor, American director Cy Endfield, insisted on coming along too. He hadn’t seen Joan in years. He told me, it was Joan, Victor, and the rest of Theatre Workshop who were creating a relevance in theatre when he first came to Britain in the Fifties, something modern theatre still strives for today but rarely achieves.
But the book is much more than just a reiteration of show biz stories. I got to know the young Victor. The racism he experienced, the kindness he was shown, the harshness of life in the Welsh valleys and the sheer bloody mindedness he dealt with so very close to home. Like Up Front, Victor is, and always has been, refreshingly real. I know that for a fact. He never played “the star” when we worked together many years ago.
I am convinced anyone reading Up Front will feel they are not just reading a smashing book but making a wonderful (though outrageous) friend in the process. For me, I feel I have rekindled a friendship. I am so glad Victor wrote the book. So pleased to have read it. So chuffed to have spent so much time in an old friend’s great company, once again. Victor, it was a wonderful weekend!