A series of improbable Footlighters

Although some of them remained unaware of it, yesterday evening saw the piecemeal unplanned reunion of most of the key members of the 2001-2002 Footlights Committee, due to a series of coincidences revolving around London locations from my favourite screen moments.

Call me a geek, but these locations are something of an interest of mine. I often used to escape from my degree by taking the tube to remote areas to see a place that had featured in a classic TV programme of some sort – random graveyards or bus shelters suddenly took on a whole new significance because they had once been in pivotal scenes of, say, to choose a very random example, Dr Who.

So when I arrived at King’s Cross station yesterday evening to discover that the next train back to Cambridge wasn’t for another fifty minutes – fifty! – I didn’t panic at the thought of waiting around on a cold platform reading a dull book.* I thought, “that’s fine, I’ll wander up the Caledonian Road and have a look at where they once built Mrs Wilberforce’s house for The Ladykillers“. This place, Frederica Street to be precise, has been completely rebuilt since then, but Roger Lewis’ brilliant but harrowing The Life and Death of Peter Sellers informs me that “it is still possible to stand above the railway tunnel and see the strange, smoke-filled panorama”. And I rather fancied a strange, smoke-filled panorama.

Unfortunately I rather miscalculated the amount of time it would take me to walk there, so I meandered a little too lazily and by the time I reached Frederica Street I didn’t have any time left to find the strange, smoke-filled panorama. Very disappointing. But as I ran to leap onto a bus in the hope of not missing my train, suddenly Tom Bell (Footlights vice-president 2001-2002) emerged as if he had been waiting there for the sole purpose of seeing me onto the bus. We exchanged brief hellos and he told me that he’d just been visiting Anthony Windram (Footlights sercial sercreter 2001-2002).

It wouldn’t have seemed so meaningful, except that but an hour earlier I’d been accosted by Ed Weeks (Footlights president 2001-2002), whilst in a completely different area of London – namely the White Hart pub near Waterloo, just around the corner from the location that was Ratcliffe’s yard in the 1988 Dr Who story “Remembrance of the Daleks”.

Who knows, perhaps if I’d bothered to take a trip to Fitzroy Square, the location for the fabulous dance sequence for “Who Will Buy” in Oliver!, and incidentally also in the opening overhead pan of the 1965 Dr Who story “The War Machines”, I might have bumped into Day Macaskill (Footlights membership secretary, 2001-2002).

This speculation aside, I fear nobody else realised the significance of last night, and in all probability they never will. During my conversation with Ed Weeks he declared “I HATE weblogs!” so I feel there is little chance of him reading this; Tom Bell is notoriously badly organised and I suspect he still needs to catch up on his previous mention on our diary here; and if Anthony Windram still keeps up to date with our weblog he’s keeping very quiet about it, especially in view of things like this.

*Alexander McCall Smith’s hugely overrated Von Igelfeld trilogy

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