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His Life & Career - Reginald Perrin - Rising Damp

The Life & Career of Leonard Rossiter

Theatre Performances: 1954 - 1955

A chronological guide to the theatre performances of Leonard Rossiter in 1954 and 1955. All dates are performance dates.


On This Page A - Z:

A Day By The Sea
A Question Of Fact
A Streetcar Named Desire
Angels In Love
Anna Christie
As Long As They're Happy
Au Revoir
Beside The Seaside
Bespoke Overcoat, The

Both Ends Meet
Burning Glass
Come Live With Me
Dear Charles
Down Came A Blackbird
Gay Dog, The
I Am A Camera
It's Never Too Late
Lady Windermere's Fan
Little Hut, The
Little Lambs Eat Ivy
Living Room, The
Loophole
Love's A Luxury
Man In Possession, The
Meet A Body
Orchard Walls, The
Perfect Woman, The
Peril At End House
Respectable Prostitute, The
Robinson Crusoe
Rookery Nook
Sabrina Fair
Same Sky, The
Seagulls Over Sorrento
Secret Tent, The
Seven Year Itch
She Would And She Would Not
Sleeping Prince, The (1954)
Sleeping Prince, The (1955)
Thark (1955)
When We Are Married
Witness For The Prosecution

The Early Days:
While still working as an insurance clerk at Commercial Union, Leonard Rossiter had started to act in his spare time. His first public performance was with the Adastra Players in a play by Terence Rattigan called Flare Path, in which he played the role of Flight Lieutenant Graham. He then became a member of The Centre Players of The Wavertree Community Centre Drama Group, in the famous Penny Lane of Liverpool, Leonard's home town. Altogether, he was a member of five local amateur dramatic societies before he decided to give up his job and act professionally. In 1954, he auditioned for the Preston Repertory Company - known as 'Preston Rep.' - at the Royal Hippodrome, Preston. The part being auditioned was that of Bert Gay in Joseph Colton's The Gay Dog. Despite two terrible read-throughs - and the director of the play, Alan Foss, rejecting him - the manager of the theatre, Reginald Salberg, sensed a talent within this nervous 27-year old, and Alan Foss reluctantly changed his mind. And so, on September 6th 1954, Leonard Rossiter made his first professional appearance as an actor. The rest, as they say, is history...and below is the first part of that history.

Leonard's Roles Remembered:
"I first met Len in 1949 when I was acting with The Centre Players. One of the first things that struck me about him was his great sense of fun - and by God he needed it because subsequently we joined four other dramatic societies and seemed to be learning lines and rehearsing every evening and keeping the day jobs going at the same time!" - Keith Smith.

Notes:
Keith Smith appeared in the final episode of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin with Leonard, almost thirty years later. He played Percy Lisburn, the gay manager of one of Reggie's Grot shops.

Picture:
A rare picture of Leonard in action on stage with The Centre Players in 1951. The performance was Gathering Storm, directed by David Davies. Leonard played a man who murdered his grandmother and then persuaded his simple brother that he had killed her while he was sleep-walking. From left to right: June Holland, Eleanor Hunt, John Roden, Leonard Rossiter, Myfanwy Williams, and George Pickersgill.



The Gay Dog
September 1954
Written by Joseph Colton
Directed by Alan Foss
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Leonard played the role of Bert Gay.

Notes: The play co-starred John Barron and Frederick Jaeger, who both appeared with Leonard in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, many years later.

Leonard's Role Remembered:
"He gave such a good performance that we engaged him as Assistant Stage Manager/actor...Len was a very loyal man and always acknowledged his debt to me,  not only because I launched him on his career, but because I talked him out of giving up the stage at a time, a few years later, when he felt his career was making insufficient progress." - Reggie Salberg.
"Len was dedicated and a perfectionist even in those days. He was so intense about his work which meant he wasn't the most relaxed of people. But he was always word perfect and one of the most professional actors I've ever worked with. He expected everyone to work as hard as he did. You had to keep up with him, or otherwise you'd know it!" - Frederick Jaeger.

Leonard Remembers:
"It was 1954 that I did my very first job in Preston, at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre, which hs long since disappeared - I think it's C & A's now. I came here for a fortnight from Liverpool, which is my home town."  "I left the job with the insurance company when I got the job for a fortnight here [Preston]. At the end of the fortnight, the manger Reggie Salberg said I could stay on if I wanted as Assistant Stage Manager, which I did. I was here for about five months - and then the theatre closed!"
 



The Little Hut
October 1954
Written by Andre Roussin
Directed by Anthony Finigan
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

The story of a love triangle played out on a desert island after a husband, his wife and her best friend are shipwrecked.

Leonard played the role of First Stranger.

Leonard's Role Remembered:
"..For this part a man of excellent physique was needed. Len used to say how worried he was when I asked him to strip off (to see if he was well enough equipped); he thought all those stories of sexually perverted managers must have been true!"



The Sleeping Prince
October 1954
Written by Terence Rattigan
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

The Grand Duke Charles, on the eve of his coronation, decides to spend it with a chorus girl. She feels sorry for the loneliness his life must endure, and they fall in love.

Leonard played First Footman.

Notes: Leonard starred in this play again in May 1955



Come Live With Me
October 1954
Written by Dorothy and Campbell Christie
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Leonard played the role of Gustave.



The Perfect Woman
November 1954
Written by Wallace Geoffrey and Basil Mitchell
Directed by Oliver Gordon
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

A professor creates a robotic woman and decides to get a man and his valet to 'try her out' around town. However, the professor's niece, fed up at not being allowed out lest she meet men, decides to impersonate the robot. A farcical comedy that ends in chaos.

Leonard played the role of Winkel, the waiter in the restaurant.

Leonard's Role Remembered:
"...In spite of suffering unspeakable indignities (such as having a large vegetable dish, full, stuffed down the front of his trousers by Oliver Gordon and myself) gave a brilliantly funny performance - one of the many to come - and it didn't need a clairvoyant to predict that here was a very rare talent indeed....Only the best was good enough, and the best was what the public invariably got." - Frederick Jaeger.



Dear Charles
November 1954
Written by Alan Melville
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Leonard played the role of Dominique Lecler



The Burning Glass
November 1954
Written by Charles Morgan
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

A scientist has discovered a device that can harness the power of the Sun. But the Government have their own uses planned for it.

Leonard played the role of Gerry Hardlip.



Loophole
December 1954
Written by Cecil Madden
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Leonard played the role of Emrys Garron



As Long As They're Happy
December 1954
Written by Vernon Sylvaine
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

A farcical comedy concerning the worries John Bentley, a father, has over his three irrepressible daughters and their husbands. Hiring the German psychiatrist Hermann Schneider (Rossiter), he tells Bentley to act the same, to give them a taste of their own medicine. The plan, eventually, works.

Leonard played the role of the German psychiatrist Hermann Schneider.



Thark
January 1955
Written by Ben Travers
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Aristocrat Sir Hector Benbow invites a party to his Norfolk home of Thark, but the house is haunted. Farce and terror combine.

Leonard played the role of Jones, the sinister butler.



The Man In Possession
January 1955
Written by H. M. Harwood
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

A penniless society girl living by her wits finds herself falling in love with the handsome sheriff's man sent to keep an eye on her belongings.

Leonard played the role of Mr. McAllister



The Orchard Walls
January 1955
Written by R. F. Delderfield
Directed by Adrian Cairns
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

A typical Delderfield English family saga.

Leonard played the role of Godfrey Pritchard.



When We Are Married
February 1955
Written by J. B. Priestley
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Three families, the Helliwells, Parkers and Soppitts, who were married on the same day by the same parson, gather to celebrate their silver anniversary. But panic sets in when they hear that the parson was not authorised to conduct marriage ceremonies.

Leonard played Alderman Joseph Helliwell.



The Same Sky
February 1955
Written by Yvonne Mitchell
Directed by Geoffrey Wardwell
Performed at Preston Repertory Company, Royal Hippodrome Preston.

Leonard played the role of Jeff Smith



Angels In Love
April 1955
Written by Hugh Mills
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

A comedy by Hugh Mills

Leonard played the role of Furse.

Notes:
During his time at The Grand, Leonard was often directed by John Barron. Many years later, after they had become good friends, John and Leonard teamed up as Reginald Perrin and his tyrannical boss C.J., in 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin'.

Leonard Remembers his Rep. years:
"There was no time to discuss the finer points of interpretation. You studied your part, you did it, and then you studied the next part. I developed a frightening capacity for learning lines. The plays became like Elastoplast, which you just stuck on and then tore off. It was the perfect preparation for rehearsing situation comedy on television at the rate of one episode a week." - quoted by Jim Grace, Sunday Telegraph.

Links:
 Wolverhampton Grand Theatre



A Day By The Sea
April 1955
Written by N. C. Hunter
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of David Hanson.



The Sleeping Prince
May 1955
Written by Terence Rattigan
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

The Grand Duke Charles, on the eve of his coronation, decides to spend it with a chorus girl. She feels sorry for the loneliness his life must endure, and they fall in love.

Leonard played the role of Major-Domo

Notes:
This was the second time in a year that Leonard starred in this play.



Peril At End House
May 1955
Written by Agatha Christie
Directed by Geoffrey Lumsden
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

An Hercule Poirot murder mystery in which Miss Buckley of End House has escaped four attacks on her life in as many days.

Leonard played the role of Henry.



A Question Of Fact
May 1955
Written by Wynyard Browne
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of Charles Trafford



Both Ends Meet
May 1955
Written by Arthur Macrae
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of Sir George Treherne
 



Rookery Nook
May 1955
Written by Ben Travers
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

A man, Gerald,  rents Rookery Nook where his wife, Clara,  will join him later. Meanwhile a pretty girl, on the run from her horrible stepfather, begs to stay with him. Gerald tries to conceal her presence when his wife arrives.

Leonard played the role of Harold Twine.



The Secret Tent
June 1955
Written by Elizabeth Addyman
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of Inspector Thornton



The Living Room
June 1955
Written by Graham Greene
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

After her mother's death young Rose comes to live with her two elderly, religious aunts and their brother James, a crippled priest (Rossiter). Every room where someone has died has been shut up, leaving only one open. Rose, who has been the mistress of an elderly psychologist, wants to go away with him. She begs the help of the priest but when he can offer her no comfort she commits suicide in the one remaining room - the 'living room'.

Leonard played the role of Father James Browne.



Down Came A Blackbird
June 1955
Written by Peter Blackmore
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of Ali



Love's A Luxury
July 1955
Written by Guy Paxton and Edward Hoile
Directed by Geoffrey Lumsden
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of Mr. Mole



A Streetcar Named Desire
July 1955
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Blanche DuBois comes to live in the slums of Elysian Fields, New Orleans, with her sister Stella and Stella's husband Stanley Kowalski. Blanche enrages Stanley by her airs and affectations, her perpetual reminiscences about her genteel past and her open distaste for his coarse vitality. When he discovers that all her refinement is a mere facade, he has no compunction in destroying Blanche's only hope of salvation, which is to marry his friend Mitch.

Leonard played the role of Howard Mitchell



Meet A Body
August 1955
Written by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Hawkins (Rossiter), is a timid watchmaker with a part time job he is also a professional assassin. Hawkins bumps off all the people we love to hate, but when pompous MP Sir Gregory Upshott is the intended target, bungling vacuum cleaner salesman William Blake always gets in the way. As the time of the assassination draws ever closer, Hawkins tracks his victim to a dilapidated seaside hotel called the Green Man, and the laughs and the tension steadily rise to a brilliant climax.

Leonard played the lead role of Mr. Hawkins.

Notes:
This play was made into a classic British film called 'The Green Man', starring Alastair Sim and George Cole.



Little Lambs Eat Ivy
August 1955
Written by Noel Langley
Directed by Hazel Vincent Wallace
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played the role of Corder



Witness For The Prosecution
August 1955
Written by Agatha Christie
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Although circumstantial evidence is damning, Leonard Vole (Rossiter) convinces even the perceptive Sir Wilfred that he is innocent of murder. In the mounting tension of the trial there are three amazing developments. Vole's wife takes the stand and coldly swears away her husband's alibi. A brassy young woman then sells Sir Wilfred letters proving Mrs Vole has committed perjury. Vole is acquitted but only then does Sir Wilfred discover how this acquittal has been engineered by Mrs Vole.

Leonard played the lead role of Leonard Vole.



Sabrina Fair
August 1955
Written by Samuel Taylor
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

The classic rags-to-riches tale of a chauffeur's daughter who falls in love with the wealthy son of the family her father works for.

Leonard played the role of Paul d'Argenson.

Notes:
This story had recently been released on the big screen, starring Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden.



Beside The Seaside
August 1955
Written by Leslie Sands
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

The story of a typical holiday romp by the sea.

Leonard played the role of Wilf Pearson

Notes:
Leslie Sands later starred with Leonard as Thruxton Appleby, one of Reggie Perrin's community guests in 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin'. He is the author of many successful plays.
 



Lady Windermere's Fan
September 1955
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Mrs Erlynne, the mother of Lady Windermere - her daughter does not know about her - wants to be introduced in society, so that she can marry Lord Augustus Lorton. Lord Windermere, who helped her with a cheque, invites her to his wife's birthday party, but Lady Windermere thinks, she has reason to be jealous, so she decides to leave her husband and go to Lord Darlington, who is pining for her. Mrs Erlynne finds this out and tries to prevent her of this mistake, but her daughter leaves her fan in Lord Darlingtons residence.

Leonard played the role of Mr. Dumby



It's Never Too Late
September 1955
Written by Felicity Douglas
Directed by Roger Winton
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

A housewife-turned-scriptwriter goes to Hollywood to make her fortune but realises she needs her demanding family around her in order to write.

Leonard played the role of Stephen Hodgson



I Am A Camera
September 1955
Written by John van Druten
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

In the early 1930s, aspiring writer Christopher Isherwood, living in Berlin, meets the vivacious, penniless singer Sally Bowles. They develop a platonic relationship while Sally has a wild time spending other peoples money.

Leonard played the role of Clive Mortimer.



Seven Year Itch
September 1955
Written by George Axelrod
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Like many other Manhattan husbands, Richard Sherman sends his wife and son to the country for the summer, while he stays behind to toil. Though revelling in temporary bachelor freedom of lifestyle, he's resolved not to carouse and philander like some others. But his overactive, over-vivid imagination goes into overdrive when a delightfully unconventional, voluptuous blonde moves in upstairs.

Leonard played the role of The Voice Of Richard's Conscience.



Seagulls Over Sorrento
October 1955
Written by Hugh Hastings
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Four naval ratings doing experimental work on an island in Scapa Flow find a hard life made harder by a bullying Petty Officer and the death in an explosion of one of their number. Matters do not improve when they are joined by a technician who turns out to be the man who stole the cockney Badger's (Rossiter) wife, but they battle on to the end of their mission and are rewarded with leave.

Leonard played the role of Able Seaman Badger.



Anna Christie
October 1955
Written by Eugene O'Neill
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

The passion of a coal barge captain's daughter and a handsome sailor takes a tumultuous turn when secrets from her past are revealed.

Leonard played the role of Chris Christopherson

Links:
Eugene O'Neill



Au Revoir
October 1955
Written by various
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Leonard played a variety of roles.



The Bespoke Overcoat
October 1955
Written by Wolf Mankowitz
Directed by Joan White
Performed at Salisbury Repertory Company, The Playhouse, Salisbury.

Morry (Rossiter), a bespoke tailor in the East End, mourns the death of an old customer, Fender, who dies before his new overcoat is complete.

Leonard played the lead role of Mr. Morry.

Links:
 Salisbury Playhouse



The Respectable Prostitute
November 1955
Written by Jean-Paul Sartre
Directed by Joan White
Performed at Salisbury Repertory Company, The Playhouse, Salisbury.

A version of Sartre's play 'La Putain Respectueuse'.

Leonard played the role of The Negro.



She Would And She Would Not
December 1955
Written by Colley Cibber
Directed by John Barron
Performed at Salisbury Repertory Company, The Playhouse, Salisbury.

In this 18th Century comedy of intrigue, a heroine dresses up as a man and acts the rival to her own lover.

Leonard played the role of Trappanti, a brazen, lying varlet.

Critical Reviews:
"Leonard Rossiter brought gusto to a stock character." - W. A. Darlington, Daily Telegraph.
"The real life of the revival is Mr. Rossiter who, made up to look like a frontispiece to a whole volume of roguery, often gave the plot real animation." - The Times.

Notes:
Such a rarely-performed play, critics from London journeyed specially to Salisbury to see this play. It co-starred John Graham and Doreen Andrew, pictured, with Leonard on the right.



Robinson Crusoe
December 1955
Written by Harry Bright and Peter Powell
Directed by Peter Powell
Performed at Wolverhampton Repertory Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

A version of Daniel Defoe's classic shipwreck tale.

Leonard played the dual roles of King Neptune and Man Friday.

Notes:
Due to his dual roles, Leonard spent half of the play in green paint, and the other half in black!
The play co-starred Hylda Baker and Jimmy Young.
 
 



 

Move on to Theatre: 1956 - 1959
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Text (c) Paul Fisher
Pictures (c) their respective owners.