London, Sept. 11: Southend-on-Sea’s theatre has threatened to cancel a touring play of the West End stage hit, The Graduate, on the unusual grounds that it has no nudity.
In the two-year London run of the play, Kathleen Turner, Jerry Hall and other actresses playing the middle-aged seductress, Mrs Robinson, excited audiences nightly. In a 20-second scene, Mrs Robinson would let slip her bath towel while attempting to seduce the young Benjamin and, by baring all, help the show clock up £10 million at the box office.
But Southend’s Cliff Pavilion Theatre, which has booked a national touring production of the show for a week next month, has been devastated to learn that the nudity has been cut.
Glynis Barber, best known for playing Makepeace in the television detective series Dempsey and Makepeace and the actress chosen to play Mrs Robinson in the regions, has refused to disrobe fully.
In an angry exchange, the Cliff Pavilion has claimed to Sacha Brooks, the show’s producer, that it was misled when it booked the show. Southend, known as the stag night capital of Essex, had expected to cash in when the nudity came to town.
“We haven’t misled anybody,” Brooks, who also produced the West End hit, insisted. “We never said to anybody there would be nudity and we would never dream of saying what will and what won’t happen on stage six months ahead when booking a tour.”
“We have never insisted on nudity and every actress who played it in London did it slightly differently, playing with the towel in a different way.”
“For the tour, I honestly don’t know what Glynis is wearing under the towel. It has been put around that she asked for a ‘no nudity’ clause but that is absolute rubbish. I do know that she wears nothing on top but that’s all I can say. The towel stays around her waist. It doesn’t hit the deck.
“But the scene is always done in very dim lighting and the real effect is achieved by what you do with the towel. You can drape it this way or that and I can assure you that the scene is just as sensuous and luscious as it was in London.
“I am shocked by Southend. The show is booked in for many towns from Glasgow to Brighton until Christmas and we haven’t had a single complaint from anywhere else.”
“Southend seems to be saying that she’s less nude than they had in mind and that that’s not good enough for Southend. I am quite bemused. As far as I am concerned, it’s plenty nude enough.”
Barber, who has starred in many TV dramas, including The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Mirror Crack’d, won rave reviews when she opened the tour in Cambridge last week.
In The Daily Telegraph, critic Dominic Cavendish applauded her decision to refuse to bare all and said she stood comparison with Hall and Turner.
“Southend has told us that they want to renegotiate the contract or they’ll cancel us. It’s preposterous. We can’t renegotiate the nudity ‘in’ and I see nothing else to negotiate,” Brooks said.