This part fantasy-part documentary – described as “a musical for the 80s” – was written by David Leland, directed by Nigel Finch and produced by Alan Yentob for Arena.
It tells the story of Gordon Shilling (Jason Carter), a Lincolnshire lad living homeless in London while seeking fame and fortune who is taught how to “lig” – the art of freeloading and sponging by eating and drinking for nothing – by the mysterious Eden Rothwell (Tim Curry), and makes his way through life blagging accordingly.
Along the way, he bumps into a succession of weird characters – real and imaginary – from the present day and other points in history, including John Bull (Alexei Sayle), Machiavelli (Sting) and 19th-century reformist Scottish writer and self-help expert Samuel Smiles (Ken Campbell), who show the Lad how to help himself using his wit and ingenuity.
The Lad wines and dines with real-life characters like Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (singing about the stately homes of England), Lady “Bubbles” Rothermere, April Ashley (sex-change sensation of the 1960s) and Baroness Thyssen.
Fanny Cradock looms out of the past to tell him how to drink his soup and to give him more advice about toilets (never call a toilet “the wee small hoose”, she warns).
Filming took place at locations including a cafe society banquet at The Ritz, assorted openings and launches, and a grouse weekend at Ayton Castle in Scotland.
Music was provided by the jazz group Working Week, with the musical highpoint coming when Gordon, despite being told that it was not cool to go the loo in other people’s houses, disappeared into a lavatory to find Gary Glitter singing about shoes.
The film was aired on Arena on Easter Monday, 1985.
Eden Rothwell Esq.
Ritz Lavatory Attendant
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu