Monday, 22 November 2010

The Life and Death of Sandy Stone

'Sandy Stone' aka Barry Humphries (photo Lewis Morley)
Barry Humphries gave his first British solo performances, in his friend Peter Cook's Establishment Club, in 1962. Upstairs from the club was the studio of photographer Lewis Morley, many of whose portraits have become as iconic as their celebrated or glamorous subjects. His most famous was of Christine Keeler astride an Arne Jacobsen chair like the one on which he posed for this photograph:-

Inevitably, Humphries and Morley were introduced, and forty-five years later, to celebrate the performer's fifty years in show business, a set of photographs were commissioned which included Dame Edna, Sir Les Patterson the Cultural Attache, Humphries himself - and, easily my favourite Barry Humphries character, the elderly, childless, simple-living, down-home Sandy Stone, whose monologues from his living room in the Melbourne suburbs featured in the Establishment Club shows and were later collated, edited and published as The Life and Death of Sandy Stone, in 1990.

I leant my copy some years ago to a friend, and when I asked him how he got on he was… polite. I can see how Sandy's soliloquies might seems a little dull, inasmuch as nothing actually happens - for the show, Sandy sits alone in his wheelchair, centre-stage, clutching a hot water bottle - but for a gentle, funny and unutterably poignant study of a lonely but self-contained, even positive old man and his daily ruminations, The Life and Death of Sandy Stone can't be beaten.

I don't think Humphries does Sandy Stone much these days, more's the pity - but if the opportunity arises before the great man retires, I'd love to see a live performance.

I've ordered a copy of the book to replace the one I leant, and will post a passage or two in due course.
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