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Final Daze

Our very own Michael Hasted has written and is directing a show at the Everyman. We went along to find out what it’s all about. crack

This month we turn the spotlight onto one of our very own – Michael Hasted. Michael has been writing for The Cheltonian for a couple of years and his comedy revue Final Daze opens at the Everyman Studio Theatre at the end of April.

We met up with Michael and other members of the cast on the first day of rehearsals in a quiet room at the top of the theatre’s main staircase. Amid the coffee cups, scripts, odd items of costume and some peculiar looking props, Michael explained what it was all about. “Laughs, that’s what it’s about. I suppose you could say this is an old fashioned type of revue along the lines of Beyond the Fringe, Monty Python or the sketches from the Two Ronnies. We’ve got about thirty sketches, some very short and a couple of musical numbers.” And how did it all come about? “I was chatting to Paul Milton, the theatre’s Creative Director, last year about the Everyman Studio and some of the excellent shows that go in there and I said something like, ‘it would be nice if you could put a revue on,’ and he said, ‘Well, why don’t you do one?’ That’s how it all started. The Studio is a great space, very intimate. I think the furthest we are going to be from any member of the audience is about twenty-five feet.

“I wrote and produced some revues when I worked in rep in the old days. In fact, Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington, when we worked together at Lincoln rep many years ago, actually produced one of my shows. I used to put on revues in night clubs as well and I wrote a show for the Edinburgh Festival. I also worked in Edinburgh at the Traverse Theatre with The Scaffold - Roger McGough, John Gorman and Mike, Paul McCartney’s brother and we all shared a flat together. They were mainly known for their hit singles but their revues were excellent and very funny.

“It’s a style of comedy that, with the advent of stand-up, became a little out of fashion. However, I’m glad to say that recently, with the likes of Armstrong & Miller, character based sketches are well and truly back. We call them blackout sketches; there is always a punch line followed by an abrupt blackout. Then the lights come back up and we’re doing something completely different.”

So what sort of sketches are in Final Daze and who else is involved? “There are quite a few running gags. There are two or three really funny courtroom sketches plus that old stand-by, the doctor’s waiting room. There’s a ventriloquist act that all goes wrong as well as a couple of comedy musical numbers.”

“I’m not actually appearing in the show, I’m going to have my hands full writing and directing it but we’ve got four great, versatile actors who between them take on something like fifty different characters.”

Wendy Abrahams is, of course, well known to Everyman audiences having appeared in Flash Garden in the Studio last year and as Dandini in the pantomime, Cinderella, last Christmas. What does she get up to in Final Daze? “I play a wide variety of characters. I play a postmistress who has a deep philosophical debate with an inept gangster who is trying to hold up the post office. I get chatted up at a party by a randy but rather corny young man and I do a fabulous sexy jazz song which will hopefully get a big laugh as well as thunderous applause.”

The three male actors are Robert Whelan, Steven Rayworth and one yet to be chosen. Steven has just appeared in The Threepenny Opera at The Playhouse and was a great success as Quenten Crisp in his one-man show there last year. “I play about ten different characters in Final Daze including a rather strange customer in a bookshop and a judge who has to deal with a tricky divorce.”

Michael Hasted and Robert Whelan both started their theatrical careers at the Everyman on the same day. Michael recalls, “We were at school together and got asked to help out backstage in the early days of rep.

“We both went on to work in rep theatres around the country, I got diverted and became involved in the music business and with my writing but Bob has spent his life as an actor appearing on stage, film and television including Emmerdale and Doctors. “Bob is our leading man, I suppose. He gets to wear a dinner jacket and be important.

“It’s been quite a while since I’ve done anything like this so I’ve had to dust off my red nose and buy a new ribbon for my typewriter. But it’s like falling off a bike, once you’ve done it, you never forget.

“I think people are really going to be in the mood for a good laugh that week. It’s just going to be one big holiday. It’s Easter the weekend before, then the Royal Wedding and then the May Bank Holiday.”

Final Daze runs from Wednesday 27th to Saturday 30th. April with a late show on Friday the Everyman Studio Theatre. Google FINAL DAZE EVERYMAN for all links.