Many years ago I was Production manager at the Roundhouse Theatre in North London, a theatre that was something of an icon back in those far off days. We staged all manner of shows there, film festivals, weekly pop concerts, avant guard classical music concerts – basically, you name it, we showed it.
Among the many other shows that we had there were two very famous and to a greater or lesser degree, pornographic ones.
Specifically these were Oh Calcutta, which after Hair, was the first show in London to have on-stage nudity and a show by Andy Warhol called Pork – Such subtlety eh?
So. what were they like, these two splendid examples of the theatrical arts?
Oh Calcutta was a very dreary show, more or less entirely at the mental level of a smutty 14 year old schoolboy’s sense of humour – not surprisingly, as it had been written mainly by a number of English theatrical luminaries who were products of the British Public School System – In Britain a Public School means a very exclusive, expensive and in those days, boys only school, which churned out generations of men who somehow never quite grew up.
And Oh Calcutta was a very good example of their juvenile sense of humour.
Basically Oh Calcutta consisted of a load of shortish sketches, all dealing with sex in one way or another – but all in a school boy, sniggering fashion, so a sort of variety show really, and as I mentioned above, was one of the first theatrical shows in London with nudity, and also people apparently having sex as well (however, there was a clause in the contracts of the male actors that should they get an erection on-stage, they would be fired!). There was also a short playlet by Joe Orton which was actually quite funny, but for the rest, it was smutty dross.
There were as far as I was concerned, only two good things about it.
The first of these was a ballet sequence in it performed by two naked dancers, a man and a woman, which was incredibly beautiful to watch, and the second was that everyone and his uncle wanted to see the show, so we who worked at the Roundhouse did a roaring trade in smuggling people into the theatre to see the show – We stuffed people into the lighting booth, all around the auditorium and absolutely anywhere we could think of that would allow them to see the stage… And charged much fine money for this obviously..
There was one somewhat funny, yet sad thing that occurred to me in this respect. I was mooching around outside the theatre looking for anyone who might wish to pay me to get them into the show, when an Indian family (Mother, father and youngish teenage daughter) approached me, and asked if I could get them into the show. So I made the deal and took them into the Roundhouse and parked them on some kitchen chairs on the balcony, and left them to enjoy the show.