When I was a teenager, my family and I listened repeatedly to the Broadway Cast Recording of “Beyond the Fringe,” the devastatingly funny satirical revue that had originated a few years earlier, in 1960, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The four brilliant writer/performers – Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller – skewered politicians, the British class system, traditional views of history, sexual stereotypes, false prophets, and in fact anything skewer-worthy. Many of the sketches remain in my memory today, nearly fifty years later. If pressed, I can recite nearly verbatim Alan Bennett’s send-up of a high-Anglican sermon, which quotes that famous passage from the Old Testament: “My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man.”
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (both deceased) continued performing, together and separately, and then Dudley Moore, who was also an accomplished jazz musician, became an international movie star with such films as 10 and Arthur. Alan Bennett is a much-praised author and playwright. Jonathan Miller resumed his medical career and, several years later, began directing plays and operas. He now enjoys an international reputation as both an inventive opera director and an authority on medical issues, in particular neuropsychology. In 2002, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Given my history with Sir Jonathan (a title he does not use), I was delighted when VO announced that he would be here to direct our co-production of La traviata, which originated at Glimmerglass Opera in 2009. I look forward to meeting and talking with this insightful, devastatingly intelligent Renaissance man.
Here is a video of the Beyond the Fringe foursome, in “Aftermyth of War.”
And here is Jonathan Miller talking about the other three and Peter Sellars.