1 9 8 1 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Billed as a cross between a variety show and a situation comedy, this Granada Television production aired in January and February 1981 and starred comedian Frank Carson as Frank O’Grady, the lazy, fiddling manager of a faded and crumbling Irish regional variety theatre fighting off the threat of closure with a little help from such international superstars as happened by.
Other regular characters included box office lady, theatre cleaner and village gossip Theresa Halligan (Anna Manahan); barmaids Kathleen McMorrow (Bernadette Shortt) and glum, pregnant – and perpetually silent – Mary (Angela Catherall); Stage Manager-cum-handyman Seamus Maguire (Charlie Roberts); and long-suffering parish priest Father Hennesy (Terry Iland).
The theatre bore more than a passing resemblance to the Ballyshannon Opera House in Donegal, Ireland, where more than two decades earlier, Carson learned his trade “lifting the tickets and being principal comic for £17 a week”.
Granada originally envisaged the series as a sort of Irish Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, set in a tin shack with maybe one microphone.
From there, it grew into a series costing a reported £500,000, with a fine Irish cast of regulars recruited in Dublin and the opera house recreated in the studio. For the exterior of the theatre, Granada used the old Opera House at Buxton in Derbyshire.
The series was written by newcomer Linda Thornber and directed by David Liddiment. John Hamp, Granada’s Head of Light Entertainment (who devised the idea), was the executive producer.
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