July 1931 - November 2003
Siddons Music Hall
I worked with Don, his co-writer Alan Coleman, and the team at Siddons, for three wonderful seasons - starting in Autumn 1992 and ending in Spring 1995. As writer, costume designer & creator, and performer, Don was an unsurpassed professional, and a complete joy to work with.
After his death, I wrote the following to his partner of many years, Ken:
"He was, without exception, the finest stand-up comedian I have ever seen, professional or amateur. I have worked in amateur theatre since I was eleven years old, and have never seen anybody else who could place a line, a laugh, a look, with such economy and precision - and effect. In particular, his double-act work with Alan and his monologues will remain in my memory as examples of the very best. He shared that skill with all those who passed through the Siddons portal - be it for one season or dozens - and was simply a joy to work with and be directed by.
I treasure his notes to me at different times, but rather wryly one of the last. I very much wanted to take part in the last of the Siddons shows, but other commitments made it impossible to commit to the long six-month run. I've come across a postcard from Don, after I'd sadly told him that there was no way I could join the cast. It shows two charladies (natch), with his message "This could have been you and me performing together for the last time. I'm heartbroken." That brought a lump to my throat on Saturday.
I continue to encounter folks in all corners of my life who had seen Siddons performances - some had actually seen me in them, without realising the connection when we met in some other life, nearly a decade later! - and others who had been attending shows for as long as they could remember. And all remember Don as the queen of the stage...
The standard of performance was always so high - much higher than, I think, many people expected when one tried to explain its "behind-the-bike-sheds" humour; the quality of the hysterical laughter was unlike anything I've met anywhere else; the training in audience control and manipulation couldn't have been bettered anywhere in the entertainment industry.
All I know, Ken, is that what happens to us after this life will be based on what we did with our time in this one. And if heaven is fun and laughter and affection and joy, and if our own dose of it reflects how much we gave out in our lifetime - then there's no doubt at all where Don is now. I'd be happy to think I'd leave even a hundredth as much happiness when my time comes."