“Charles Hawtrey 1914 -1988 – Film, Theatre, Radio and Television Actor Lived Here.” So reads the plaque where Hawtry (of
There is no shortage of humour, be it from the stories, the endless drink pouring, the mincing looks or teetering around on those noisy Cuban heels
Wes Butters, who wrote a biography of Hawtrey in 2010, points out that “the landlord of the local pub will not have a photo of him behind the bar because the customers will not stand for it… They hate him, and it’s understandable. When he arrived the locals would ask him for his autograph but he didn’t like that and would tell them to eff off and rip up their pieces of paper… He would also refer to people down the pub as peasants. ... I’m surprised the plaque hasn’t been egged.”
This is a far cry for the adulation he received from fans of the Carry On films, yet is indicative of his ability to offend, be downright rude and show little concern for others. He lived in a delusional world from the moment he changed his name, if not earlier. Born George Frederick Joffre Hartree, he seized upon its similarity to that of the famous thespian Sir Charles Hawtrey and took his name. It was a case of if not being born great, adopt greatness. However, in his own eyes greatness was always denied him, be it in roles, billings or wages. Then there was the drink.
Alcohol features largely in Jamie Rees’s sparkling reminiscence of Hawtrey’s life, just as it did in reality. The bottle was never far away and Hawtrey was even known to collapse on set after over-drowning his sorrows. This show, however, is more upbeat than most of the reality of Hawtrey life. There is no shortage of humour, be it from the stories, the endless drink pouring, the mincing looks or teetering around on those noisy Cuban heels. Neither is there any shying away from portraying the tortured soul: as the fraught relationships with fellow actors, producers and directors are exposed so is more of the man himself. In relating these, Jamie Rees amusingly draws on his repertoire of voices, most famously that of Kenneth Williams.
Oh Hello is a camp troll through Hawtrey’s that will delight audiences that grew up in the period and remember all the names, faces and films so well. It is entertaining and humorous, withplenty of material that reveals the troubled man that lay beneath the comic facade.