NEW! Some Fickle Circumstance now has an associated Amazon Store where you can get all sorts of excellent stuff. If you're interested in Beyond The Fringe, the people who made it, or just British comedy in general, it's well worth a look... although I would say that, wouldn't I? Oh, go on... take a gander, do.
Take a pew
In 1960, four young graduates - an
historian, a linguist, a musician and a medic - were brought together
to create a late night show for the Edinburgh International Festival of
the Arts. The revue was intended by its organiser to demonstrate that
the Arts Festival, then as now overshadowed by the unofficial Fringe,
wasn't necessarily the stuffy institution its reputation would suggest.
The show would be hip, exciting and above all, funny - and with the
backing of the Edinburgh Festival, it would be a show quite literally
beyond the fringe. It would soon grow beyond the Festival too - through
multiple revisions, into London's West End, and even triumphantly to
Broadway, heralding a British Invasion - of comedy, of film, of music -
which would come to define the decade, while back at home its
revolutionary spirit inspired a generation of comedians.
Some Fickle Circumstance is
the story of this remarkable show and the remarkable people who created
it - and the story of changing times reflected in the comedy of a group
of scholars who never even wanted to be called "satirists".
Clockwise from top: Miller, Bennett, Moore, Cook
This site is no Principia, but it is an attempt to bring
together the various fragments of the story which have emerged in
numerous sources down the years, from contemporary newspaper accounts,
through the various histories of the show and the satire boom that
surrounded it, and up to the more recent biographies of the key figures
in the story. Occasionally I have had to make judgement calls on
which of two or more conflicting accounts to believe, but I think and
hope that I've
managed to pull together an internally consistent storyline from the
I have deliberately kept the details of such extracurricular
ventures as The
Establishment Club and (especially)
Private Eye to a minimum, and
readers interested in learning more about these would be well advised
to seek out Harry Thompson's excellent Peter Cook: A Biography, where
such projects are discussed in depth and in a considerably more
readable tone than I could hope to achieve. Likewise, the wider subject
of the 1960s satire boom is well-covered by Humphrey Carpenter's That
Was Satire That Was , published in the US under the similarly
unsatisfactory title A Big Silly Grin.
One final word: while I've tried to give a flavour of the show, I
strongly recommend anyone interested in
Beyond The Fringe to go and
order either the DVD, CD box set or complete scripts book, or any
combination thereof. There simply is no substitute for going back to
And with that in mind, now read on...