I had the good fortune to walk on the (Oscar) Wilde side on Saturday after detouring from The Elephant Man across to Covent Garden to the Vaudeville Theatre’s stage door on my post-matinee meandering, where The Importance of Being Earnest is currently playing. I was after a romantic, repressed spinster in love with a village preacher – Miss Laetitia Prism…well not the character, but the actress playing Mr. W’s parody for ‘a woman with a past’, the delightful Michele Dotrice. As Alexandra Coghlan wrote in The Arts Desk, “The unexpected heroes of the night are Michele Dotrice and Richard O’Callaghan as ageing lovers Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble. Quivering with girlish passion, Dotrice balances comedy with a startling pathos in her ‘female of repellent aspect’.”
Michele has a long and distinguished stage career, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of sixteen, but she is probably known more to global audiences as Betty,the long-suffering wife of ‘Oh Frank!’ Spencer (Michael Crawford) in the BBC series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. Forty years on the show still attracts tens of thousands of hits each day on YouTube.
Michele left her character on the stage and slipped out the door to have a bite to eat before going back for a sold-out evening performance. With a line from Miss Prism’s dialogue in mind, “I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moments notice”, I disrupted her journey and asked if she could sign my sketch, which she did ‘with pleasure’ and my trusty black Pentel fine point pen. She must have had that same line in her mind, using the ‘good’ word, for the drawing, not necessarily the drawer.