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The Knowledge,  a revival by Vaughan Williams and Stephen M. Levy

You go to umpteen colleges 'til your brain goes soft and flabby,  but you won't know what Knowledge is until you're a London cabbie. 

It's 1979,  the Thames Television logo appears on the screen like a familiar friend,  then a clinking of mugs and the hiss of a tea urn in the background of three men sitting around a table "French Embassy to Fulham Cemetery? What? Waddya mean what? French where? EMBASSY! Oh! Which embassy? you idle sod,  you aven't learned it! After a little more dialogue between the three our main protagonist Chris (Mick Ford) and his long suffering girlfriend Janet (Kim Taylforth) enter the cafe. After a brief conversation with the cafe owner there is a cut to a brief monologue by Chris "and that was it,  i applied to go on the knowledge.....and i didnt even know what it was.....I found out though,  by 'ell i found out".  Then we cut to the iconic theme belted out by Mick Ford like a crazy cross between Johnny Rotten amd a wailing Banshee. This was to be the introduction of one of the greatest dramas in British television history.  

BAFTA nominated and ranked in the top 100 greatest tv shows in any genre of all time,  The Knowledge was written by the late great Jack Rosenthal CBE. Jack was arguably one of the greatest,  if not the greatest playwright of all time,  a man whose name is synonymous with quality writing. The original play boasted an incredible ensemble cast with Mick Ford as Chris,  Kim Taylforth as his girlfriend Janet,  Michael Elphick as Gordon the wayward and highly lascivious chancer,  Maureen Lipman as his long suffering wife Brenda  Jonathan Lynn as the borderline genius Ted Margolis,  Lesley Joseph as his wife Val,  David Ryall as the perpetually downtrodden Titanic.....and then we have Nigel Hawthorne as Mr Burgess a.k.a THE VAMPIRE,  an examiner loosely based on a real life examiner called Mr Finlay,  possibly the most sadistic examiner in Carriage Office history.  

The story centres around Chris,  Gordon, Ted and Titanic in their quest to become Licensed London Taxi Drivers and the ensuing pitfalls they face along the way. The drama doesn't just concentrate on our main protagonists but also their partners and how they deal with their loved ones voluntarily entering what can only be described as a lunatic asylum. 

From Wimbledon to Lambeth pier it's all part and parcel, go round and round 'til you disappear up your Elephant and Castle.

We now move forward in time 38 years without the aid of a DeLorean time machine and a flux capacitor.....The Knowledge is back courtesy of the incomparable Vaughan Williams and Stephen M. Levy, adapted for the stage by Simon Block and directed by the one and only Maureen Lipman. 

Here is a brief biography of the talent that we have adapting and producing Jack Rosenthals wonderful piece of work.

Simon Block (Adaptor) Simon Block is a BAFTA-nominated leading writer working in both stage and TV. He is best known for his work on The Physician, Home Fires, Hotel Babylon, Wire in the Blood, Inspector Lewis and The Eichmann Show.

Maureen Lipman (Director) Maureen Lipman was born in Hull, trained at LAMDA and learned her trade in Laurence Olivier’s Company at the Old Vic. She is well-known for playing Joyce Grenfell in the biographical show Re:Joyce! on stage and on TV and for Beattie in a long-running series of award-winning TV commercials for British Telecom. Maureen’s 19 West End productions include Wonderful Town, See How They Run (Olivier Award), Oklahoma! (Olivier nomination), Peggy For You, Lost In Yonkers, The Sisters Roseneweig, Florence Foster Jenkins in Glorious, and her one-woman show Alive and Kicking. In 2012, Maureen directed and appeared in a successful tour of Barefoot in the Park and in 2013 she appeared in Sarah Wooley’s Old Money at Hampstead Theatre. At the Garrick she played Clara in Chris Luscombe’s production of Priestley’s When We Are Married and Mme Armfeldt in Trevor Nunn’s A Little Night Music. At the Theatre Royal Haymarket she played Ellie in Oliver Cotton’s Daytona and Vita in Harvey. Last year Maureen starred in an acclaimed production of My Mother Said I Never Should at the St James Theatre. Earlier this year she starred in Trevor Nunn’s Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Maureen’s multitude of TV credits range from playing the landlady of The Rover’s Return in Coronation Street, The Wire in Doctor Who and the Princess of France in Love’s Labours Lost to Smiley’s People, He Kills Coppers, Holby City and Midsummer Murders. Film work includes Educating Rita and the mother in Polanski’s The Pianist. Maureen’s own TV shows include Agony, Agony Again, About Face, Ladies of Letters, Plebs, Bull and the award-winning The Evacuees, The Knowledge and Eskimo Days by her late husband Jack Rosenthal. Maureen is also a prolific writer, covering a wide range from autobiography to politics. She was awarded a CBE in 1999.

Nicolai Hart-Hansen (Set Design) Nicolai trained as a set and costume designer at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (BA) and The Slade School of Fine Art (MFA), and has worked in the UK. Europe and the US. Selected work includes: La Traviata (Stand Moutier, Switzerland), The Window (Rambert Dance Company) The Divided Laing (Arcola Theatre), Cock/Bull (Aalborg Teater, Denmark), The Lilly of The Valley (ROH2), Nordost (Salisbury Playhouse), Fanciulla del West (Opera Up Close), Vieux Carre (Kings Head/ Charing Cross Theatre), Playing the Victim (Royal Court Theatre, Told by An Idiot).

Jonathan Lipman (Costume Design) Selected theatre credits include: Ragtime, Death Takes A Holiday, The Braille Legacy (Charing Cross Theatre), Grey Gardens, Allegro (Southwark Playhouse), a US tour of Peter Pan, The Country Girl, directed by Rufus Norris (West End & UK tour), and the UK tours of Lark Rise to Candleford and Jekyll & Hyde - The Musical.

Andrew Johnson (Sound Design) Andrew’s recent credits include the Olivier Award-winning smash hit The Play That Goes Wrong (West End and Broadway), Titanic, Ragtime, Death Takes a Holiday (Charing Cross), Grey Gardens, The Toxic Avenger - The Musical, Grand Hotel, Dogfight, Victor/Victoria (Southwark Playhouse), Calamity Jane (UK tour), Let It Be (UK tour, Moscow, Japan), The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (UK tour), Midnight Tango (West End & UK tour), Top Hat (UK tour), A Clockwork Orange (Theatre Royal, Stratford East).

Vaughan Williams (Producer) Vaughan has for almost 20 years lived in Islington, 30 yards from Gibson Square, and he has a serious black cab habit. Vaughan was a founder shareholder in and is Chairman of the Charing Cross Theatre, where he has been a regular producer. Following an English Literature degree at London University, Vaughan enjoyed a long career in the City of London. Initially qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with Deloitte, he then joined merchant bankers Morgan Grenfell & Co., where he was appointed to the main Board in 1993. Following the merger with Deutsche Bank, he was appointed a Managing Director in Deutsche’s Investment Bank. Since retiring from banking in 2012, Vaughan divides his time between the theatre and property industries. His theatre productions include: Death Takes A Holiday, Christina Bianco: O Come All Ye Divas!, Ragtime (Offie Award for Best Musical), Titanic, 6 Actors In Search of A Director; the UK premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World, the Olivier Award-winning production of La Bohème, In the Bar of A Tokyo Hotel, by Tennessee Williams, and a number of shows currently in development. Vaughan has also recently fulfilled a long-held ambition to appear as lead guitarist in a rock and roll band.

Steven M. Levy (Producer) Steven has spent the past 30 years as a theatrical producer, general manager and theatre owner in both New York and London. Broadway includes: Whoopi - The 20th Anniversary Show, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All starring Ellen Burstyn, Our Town starring Paul Newman, I’m Not Rappaport starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour; The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The Lonesome West, Waiting In The Wings starring Lauren Bacall. West End includes: Titanic, Ragtime, Death Takes a Holiday, In The Bar Of A Tokyo Hotel, Piaf, The Mikado, Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris, Long Story Short, Finian’s Rainbow, Ushers: The Front Of House Musical, Jerry Herman’s Dear World, the Olivier Award-winning La Bohème, 6 Actors In Search Of A Director (written and directed by Steven Berkoff), Fascinating Aïda – Cheap Flights, The Man On Her Mind, John Leguizamo - Ghetto Klown, Patricia Routledge - Facing The Music, Thrill Me (Charing Cross), Singular Sensations, Tom Stoppard’s The Invention Of Love (Theatre Royal, Haymarket), Nixon’s Nixon (Comedy), Gross Indecency (Gielgud), The Boys In The Band (Aldwych). Film includes: Our Town starring Paul Newman, Whoopi (HBO, starring Whoopi Goldberg), The Man On Her Mind (The Talking Pictures Company). Steven’s productions have been the recipients of 14 Tony Award nominations, 5 Tony Awards, as well as the recipients of the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and OBIE Awards. 

Jack Rosenthal (Writer)

Jack Morris Rosenthal CBE (8 September 1931 - 29 May 2004) wrote 129 early episodes of the ITV soap Coronation Street and over 150 screenplays, including original TV plays, feature films and adaptations. He wrote the 1986 TV film London’s Burning, which proved so successful that it was adapted into a TV series of the same name, which ran from 1988 until 2002. He won three BAFTA awards for Bar Mitzvah Boy, The Evacuees (based on his own wartime evacuation) and Spend, Spend, Spend (about Viv Nicholson who won £152,319 - equivalent to £3,167,827.29 adjusted for inflation - on the football pools in 1961). In 1983 he co-wrote the film Yentl with Barbra Streisand. He did uncredited work on the screenplay of Chicken Run. He also wrote the book for the musical version of Bar Mitzvah Boy, with music by Jule Styne. He married Maureen Lipman in 1974 and was awarded the CBE in 1994.

The play is to be held at the Charing Cross Theatre in London and here is some hot news, the cast will be revealed next week, we await with anticipation as to who will be entering the proverbial torture chamber.

For those that wish to attend and witness a piece of history being revived here are the full performance details.

Monday 4 September - Saturday 11 November. Press night Monday 11 September at 7.30pm. Charing Cross Theatre The Arches Villiers Street London WC2N 6NL Box office: 08444 930 650 Performances: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm Wednesday matinee at 2.30pm Saturday matinee at 3.00pm Tickets: £35.00 stalls £25.00 balcony £17.50 slips Premium £42.50 which includes prime stalls locations, a programme and a glass of bubbly A booking fee applies to phone and internet orders; no booking fee to personal callers. The box office is open from 2 hours before curtain time on performance days. How to get here: Nearest underground stations: Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines) Embankment (Bakerloo, Northern, Circle and District lines)

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