Beyond the Fringe

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Beyond the Fringe was a British comedy stage revue written and performed by Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Jonathan Miller. It played in London's West End and then on New York's Broadway in the early 1960s, and is widely regarded as seminal to the rise of satire in 1960s Britain.


The show

The show was conceived in 1960 by an Oxford man, Robert Ponsonby, artistic director for the Edinburgh International Festival, with the idea of bringing together the best of the Cambridge Footlights and The Oxford Revue that in previous years had transferred to Edinburgh for short runs. John Bassett, Wadham College, Oxford graduate and assistant to Ponsonby, recommended jazz band mate and rising cabaret talent Dudley Moore, who in turn recommended Alan Bennett, who had been a hit at Edinburgh a few years before. Bassett also identified Jonathan Miller, a Footlights star in 1957. Miller recommended Cook. While Bennett and Miller were already pursuing traditional careers, Cook had an agent due to his having written a West End revue for Kenneth Williams; as a result, Cook's agent negotiated a higher weekly fee for him to participate, although by the time the agent's fee was deducted, Cook actually earned less than the others from the initial run.

The show's runs in Edinburgh and the provinces had a lukewarm response; however, when the revue transferred to the Fortune Theatre in London, produced by Donald Albery and William Donaldson, it became a sensation, thanks in some part to a favorable review by Kenneth Tynan.[1] The show crossed the Atlantic to New York with its original cast in 1962, with then-current U.S. President John F. Kennedy attending a performance.

The majority of sketches were by Cook, based on material written for other revues, including "One Leg Too Few". Amongst the entirely new material, the stand-outs were "The End of the World," "TVPM," and "The Great Train Robbery." Cook and Moore revived some of the sketches on their later television and stage shows, most famously the two hander "One Leg Too Few," in which Cook played a theatrical producer auditioning a one-legged Moore for the part of Tarzan.

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