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A legend of British comedy is to come out of retirement in France to appear in a musical romp at Cheltenham Playhouse next year as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations. The Dowager's Oyster is described as a light opera that captures the comic book charades of a 1920s murder mystery farce and at its heart is the return to the stage of Dr Evadne Hinge, one half of the enormously popular double act Hinge and Bracket which entertained audiences with their songs and 'theatrical memories' for 30 years.

The pair were the hit of the 1974 Edinburgh Festival and soon found themselves performing in the West End to enormous acclaim and success. Frequent tours of the UK and abroad followed, plus a 10-year stint on Radio 4, their own BBC2 series in the early 1980s, televised broadcasts of their concerts and two Royal Variety Performances.

The celebrated duo's hugely successful career ended in 2002 with the death of Dame Hilda Bracket's creator, Patrick Fyffe. Dr Hinge (George Logan) went into retirement and relocated to France where he and his partner opened a bed and breakfast business and all attempts to lure Dr Hinge back to the stage had been politely but steadfastly resisted.

Enter young composer Louis Mander, whose works include collaborations with Stephen Fry. He had co-written a comedy operetta entitled The Dowager's Oyster and had geared the title role around Dr Hinge's talents.

"Musically, the show has a roaring 1920s dance band score that nods to Gilbert and Sullivan with a twist of Kurt Weill", explains Louis. "As Hinge and Bracket made G&S very much a central part of their repertoire, the idea that the occasionally imposing pianist Dr Hinge could essay the role of the imperious Dowager just seemed a perfect fit. The question was whether we could persuade her to return to the boards after so many years."

Thinking 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' he dropped an email to George Logan in the hope he could intercede on his behalf with the good doctor.

"I was somewhat surprised to receive the suggestion of taking on the title role in a new piece of theatre written with me in mind, but my curiosity was piqued," says Evadne. "I discovered that Louis had a string of highly regarded works to his credit so I asked to see the score and the script and was delighted to discover the music was direct and melodious. I felt the dialogue needed a few revisions to bring it more in line with my own individual personality and happily Louis and his librettist, Jack Cherry, were agreeable. So I said 'yes'!"

George agreed to perform the role in London in November 2016 and he so enjoyed the experience he said he would be very much open to the possibility of making one more outing as his alter ego at a later date. Shortly after the London premiere, Louis Mander moved to Cheltenham where the Playhouse hosted another of his works and he realised that the intimate theatre would be an ideal venue for The Dowager's Oyster.

"I was always a great fan of Hinge and Bracket myself," says theatre manager Paul Scott, "so when Louis mentioned the show I was very keen to see if we could make it happen here for our 75th anniversary year. George fondly remembers appearing at the Ladies College and Everyman in the 1980s and 1990s and said he'd love to revisit both the town and the role and we're very much looking forward to seeing both him and Dr Hinge here next September."

In fact, so keen is George on the show, he's taking Louis's original four-piece orchestration and re-working it for an eight-piece 1920s 'Great Gatsby' style jazz band for this special anniversary production.

The theatre has recruited one of the county's most recognised theatre practitioners, former associate director of the Everyman, Sheila Mander, to direct the production and there will be just four performances from Wednesday 23 – Saturday 26 September 2020 with tickets going on sale in the new year.

For more information, please contact: Paul Scott, theatre manager on p[email protected]

Louis Mander (composer)

Jack Cherry (librettist)

Sheila Mander (director)