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".

Here they are

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 mess.

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 the source. 

And with that in mind, now read on...