Play ‘took the lid off’ the town

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POOLIES looking for an intellectually-stimulating night out still head for the Town Hall Theatre, just as they did 40 years ago.

But ANDREW LEVETT thinks it unlikely that upcoming attractions in September 2013 such as Mary Poppins and Ashley Fripp’s piano recital will cause quite the furore one play did this week in 1973.

THEY say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so the promoters of Hartlepool With The Lid Off must have been rubbing their hands together with glee.

A councillor – whose own son was a member of the cast – had attacked the play as “vulgar and obscene”.

The play’s co-authors, Trevor Smith and Adrian Bjorkeroth, rushed to assure the Mail that the show would go on Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre despite the criticism, describing Coun Frank Rogers’ intervention as a “petty attempt at censorship aimed at stopping the performance of the play”.

The row began when Coun Rogers refused to sell tickets in his York Road bookshop after reading the script, which he described for good measure as “not at all humorous”.

He told the Mail: “I do not want to be associated with the production at all. I am not forced to sell tickets. I do it out of the goodness of my heart.

“There were references to certain people in this play and after reading it I decided I did not want to be associated with it.”

But another councillor, Labour’s Bill Iseley, lauded the work as “deliciously outrageous”.

He said: “There are references to many local personalities. In fact I am unmercifully lampooned.

“But I don’t think any of the councillors should be touchy about the script.”

Coun Rogers insisted: “I have a good sense of humour and expect criticism in public office. I am not even mentioned in the play.”

His 18-year-old son, Andrew, had a part in the play and Coun Rogers said: “It is his choice and he is of an age to make his own decision – but it is not with my approval.”

Mr Bjorkereth refuted the obscenity allegation, saying: “This play is a reflection of life in Hartlepool and we are merely using the everyday vocabulary of the people in this town.”

Law graduate Trevor Smith added: “It has come to a sorry state of affairs when people cannot take a little fun and laugh at themselves.

“We only hope that other people see the funny side of our town.”

Did the publicity in the Mail ensure a full house? What do you remember about the play?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.

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