We Interview Ann Hamilton - page2
Did you see them before you worked with them?
I’d seen them on television. They were hilarious and naturally I was thrilled when I was asked to play opposite them in one of their sketches.
Did they approach you or were there auditions?
I didn’t approach them and I didn’t audition. I’d been playing opposite lovely Bruce Forsyth in the West End, in the musical “Little Me”. After it finished Bruce asked me to do his TV show at Thames TV. At that time Green and Hills were writing for Bruce, and they were also writing for Morecambe and Wise. I believe Syd and Dick told Eric and Ernie that the girl working with Bruce was very good so it was the writers who took me over to Eric and Ernie for just one show, the “Man From Uncle” sketch.
During your time with Eric and Ern and Sid and Dick, did you ever have any input into characters or sketches?
Only into my own characters but I would never have dreamt of saying “why don’t you do this” or “why don’t you do that”. That was the only sketch I was in for Sid and Dick. Shortly after that Eric and Ernie moved to the BBC and then Eddie Braben took over.
So you moved over to the BBC with them?
Yes, my agent phoned me up and told me they wanted me to work with them at the BBC and I was delighted.
You played a huge variety of characters with Eric and Ern, favourites such as Hetty Benson, did you have any favourites?
No not really. They were all so different and a joy to play. Some were glamorous, some were old hags. Some had northern accents like Hetty, but mainly I played them in my own voice.
Was it fun to work with them?
Work is the wrong word. Imagine being paid to spend time with Eric and Ernie. It was a wonderful happy, family atmosphere. Especially while we were at the BBC. Eric had a family, I had a family, so we only worked term time. Rehearsals were very civilised. We’d start about 10.30 and work through to 3.
We didn’t stop for lunch, we just worked straight through. No I wouldn’t actually call it work. Going down the mines or working in a shop, that’s work, but working with Eric and Ernie… that was a joy.
Did the atmosphere continue when they moved to Thames?
I didn’t go to Thames with them. I may have done a few shows, but that was all.
Did you feel the move to Thames was a mistake?
Most of the sketches at Thames were Eddie Braben’s, re-worked. Because the whole of commercial television was so star struck, the people who had played the supporting roles, like myself, were replaced by stars.
I think that completely unbalanced the sketches because they didn’t re-write them. They had a star to play a psychiatrist for example, when it written for a feed. They placed a star in my role, gave them my lines; my lines only, they didn’t re-write them, and unbalanced the whole sketch. The sketches were written for Eric, Ernie and a feed.
Doing that would move the attention away from the lines, and onto the star…
That’s right. If the sketch wasn’t written that way, it would unbalance it. Moving all the attention to the star when it wasn’t a star part. By re-casting Eddie’s beautifully crafted sketches, the way they did, it just didn’t work in my opinion, and they lost an awful lot.
Do you recall any sketches that proved difficult?
Not really. The only one I recall is when a prop was left off the set once. Even though it wasn’t live, it was treated as a live show; we didn’t go back on anything. A vital prop was left off, I think it was a wig shop sketch, and a hand mirror wasn’t there.
We’d been through the dress run, and it was part of the tag for Eric. He had to pick up the hand mirror with a wig on his head and deliver the tag. He couldn’t say the line without looking in the mirror. We got all the way through the sketch and the hand mirror wasn’t there. We had to start again, which didn’t please him, or anybody else really. But that was just once in how many shows?
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