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In an attempt to "blast the British theatre into the seventies," John Mather, former head of the William Morris Agency in Europe, mounted a production of The Avengers on stage. Unfortunately, this oft-overlooked aspect of Avengers history is very likely oft-overlooked because it ran for about five weeks and then quickly faded from the public consciousness.

Mather certainly tried his best, creating what could rightly be considered an "authoritative" production. Veteran Avengers writers Terence Feely and Brian Clemens produced the script. Patrick Macnee was asked to appear, but he turned it down, in spite of his copious stage experience, citing his belief that the only proper place for The Avengers was the small screen. Simon Oates won the role of John Steed. And his partner? Hannah Wild, played by Sue Lloyd. (It is worth noting that the entire principal cast had guested on the series.)

The plot, for what it's worth, concerns the evil Madame Gerda's efforts to overthrow the governments of the world and infiltrate their spy networks. To carry out this bold plan, she has at her disposal a device known as the Giant Computer Brain, which has the power to render invisible Gerda and her entourage of female students. Because Steed is somehow the only person able to see the invisible enemy, Mother suspects he's gone potty and commits him to hospital. Steed escapes to find Gerda and gang have compromised all of the world's security ministers. After doing battle once again with the evil-doers, he finally convinces Mother he is sane, but not before he's been court-martialed, stripped of rank and license, and tortured by Gerda—in one scene he is tied to the Giant Computer Brain (itself a phallic symbol) and whipped by a half-naked girl... Yes, it was a comedy; at one point Oates tells a dying robot, "Get on with it, man, robots don't have death scenes!"

Premiering 15 July 1971 (not 20 July, as Dave Rogers indicates), at the Birmingham Theatre, The Avengers on stage was touted as having a "special look." Sixteen high-tech sets (including a helicopter cockpit), 30 nubile female extras and loads of trick props certainly created a "different" theatre experience. Sadly, the production was fraught with technical difficulties. Perhaps the best example of this was a trick sofa designed to make Gerda "disappear" by swallowing her whole. Unfortunately, when Jeremy Lloyd sat down on it to have a cup of tea, he fell victim to its unscheduled operation, although due to his size his head still stuck out, and cast and audience alike were hysterical. After at ten-day run at the Birmingham Theatre, it transferred to London's Prince of Wales Theatre for a (very) "limited engagement."
 

PRODUCTION

Directed by

Leslie Phillips

Produced by

John Mather

Written by

Brian Clemens and Terence Feely

Designed by

Michael Young

Fight sequences by

Tim Condron

Mr Oates' suits by

Bentley, Perry and Whitley

Miss Lloyd's costumes by

Berkeley Sutcliffe

Publicity

Fred Hift Associates

PRINCIPAL CAST

John Steed

Simon Oates

Hannah Wild

Sue Lloyd

Madame Gerda

Kate O'Mara

Carruthers

Jeremy Lloyd

Walters

Anthony Sharp

DOPPELGANGERS

Simon Oates

You Have Just Been Murdered
Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Hostage

Sue Lloyd

A Surfeit of H2O

Kate O'Mara

Stay Tuned

Jeremy Lloyd

From Venus With Love
Thingumajig

Anthony Sharp

To Catch a Rat

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Page last modified 26 September 2008.