08 March 2007

Those Who Knew Them: John Inman 1935-2007

Dick Whittington's CatIn the latest in our series of tributes to those who have passed away by those who knew them best, we at As A Dodo hand over our columns - barely pausing for the requisite juvenile snigger as we do so - to one of Mr Inman's frequent pantomime co-stars, Dick Whittington's cat.

When they told me that John Inman was dead I'm afraid my instant reaction was a full-throated "Oh no he isn't". For, however well he was known for his light-footed work as the eternally "free" and extraordinarily camp Mr Humphries in "Are You Being Served?", John's true place was undoubtedly on stage and costumed (in one of the incredible creations he himself put together) as a pantomime dame.

John having starred in more than 40 pantomimes during his life I'm sure many of your readers will have had the chance to witness his genius at work on stage. I certainly know many whose life was forever altered by a sight of his extraordinary Twankey. Indeed his very first role saw him unleashing it on the Blackpool stage when he was just 14 years old.

From then on, John and panto were inseparable. I had the privilege of appearing with him many times in Dick Whittington and - having been caught in the rain before one performance - can honestly say that his Sarah the Cook took the best possible care of her soaking pussy, outdoing even Are You Being Served's Mrs Slocombe. Whether the script required Sarah to polish up the Lord Mayor's baubles or sort out King Rat's ballcock, John always rose to the occasion with alacrity. I would that we had been able to work together more often but sadly on his last outing as Sarah I was on another stage, giving my all to the Student Prince.

Whatever anyone may think of the role of Mr Humphries, as a dame John was one of the true greats, a walking encyclopaedia of panto lore. If only, like Peter Pan's Tinkerbell, we could wish him back to life. For now though, I must leave his memory and your readers: this little pussy's got 12 miles to London and there's still no sign of Dick.


Jungle VIP said...

Sad thing. I heard a recording of him on the radio yesterday acepting an award. He did so with decency, great dignity and a sense of fun. Sometimes, I wonder whether we've thrown out the baby with bath water with PC

james higham said...

Yes I ran a little post on him too. This is good, As Dead As.

MW said...

John's contribution to television and theatre should never be forgotten.A fitting tribute to John can be found here. RIP you comic genius.