All Things Bright and Beautiful

Written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall

Thurs 14th October - Sat 16th October & Thurs 21st October - Sat 23rd October 1976

Directed by Sharon Rose

The Hesseltines are living in property well overdue for demolition and are looking forward to being rehoused in more beautiful and salubrious surroundings.

AuthorsKeith Waterhouse and Willis Hall

This collaborative duo was one of the most enduring and distinctive dramatic partnerships in the history of theatre, films and television. Their class-conscious satire established Waterhouse and Hall for many years as popular yet sensitive purveyors of regional comedy, rich in northern speech patterns and working-class customs. Born into working-class families in Leeds within a few weeks of one another, they did not begin to work together until each man had won acclaim on his own. Both pupils of Cockburn high school, Leeds, Hall and Waterhouse met at the age of 12. They were members of the same youth clubs, and even compared notes about girls. They wrote many plays together and the film scripts of 'Whistle Down The Wind', 'A Kind of Loving', 'West Eleven', 'Man In The Middle', 'Pretty Polly' and 'Lock Up Your Daughters'.

Keith Waterhouse (1929 - 2009)

Keith Waterhouse was a novelist and playwright, but he was also well known to the public as a newspaper columnist, where he proved a relentless scourge of the politically correct. His career as an author saw him produce some 60 books during his career. In his newspaper columns Waterhouse held forth on topics such as his affection for suburbia; his contempt for computers; disbelief in statistics; and his obsession with the smallest, most ordinary things, such as the change in his pockets. To these subjects he added pen portraits of two mythical shop assistants, Sharon and Tracey, and a bureaucratic monster, Clogthorpe District Council.

He was a fierce upholder of the proper use of the English language, writing a style book for the Mirror and announcing that he had started the Association for the Annihilation of the Aberrant Apostrophe (AAAA). In 1991 he was appointed CBE. He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Willis Hall (1929 - 2005)

Willis Hall's rich vein of material owed much to his Leeds working-class background. Hall, the son of a fitter in an engineering plant, left school at 14 and ambitiously tried his hand at journalism. He then joined the trawler crews sailing from Hull, and became a professional soldier. While working as a signals corporal in Malaya, he wrote plays for the schools department of the local radio station. When he returned to Britain after seven years, it was BBC radio for which he continued to work as a playwright. Hall had considerable experience as a playwright when he wrote a stage play for eight Oxford undergraduates he was taking to the 1958 Edinburgh Festival. The resultant play was Disciplines Of War, later renamed 'The Long And The Short And The Tall', his most famous solo work.

Keenly interested in magic, Hall was a member of many magic circles in Britain and abroad. The president of St Alban's football club in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a season-ticket holder at Chelsea and Fulham, he collaborated with Michael Parkinson on the book Football Classified, and wrote two of his own, My Sporting Life and Football Final.

PlayAll Things Bright and Beautiful

First published in 1963 and set amid the 60s housing boom, this play is a tragi-comedy by one of the most successful playwriting partnerships of that era. 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' centres around the (mis)fortunes of the hapless Hesseltines. Living in a condemned row of terraced houses the family dream of a new estate house with a garden. When their feckless son brings home a most unusual "find" their lives are momentarily transformed then cruelly brought back to harsh reality when the council housing man comes calling with some crushing news. They find that far from a house, they are to be living in a warrenous 'high-rise'. As always with a play by these two authors, the characters are real people, in real situations and the comedy is tinged with sadness.

The Bench Production

All Things Bright and Beautiful poster image

This play was staged under Bench Theatre's original company name of Theatre Union, at their theatre in West Street. It was actually the building in West Street, Havant where most of the Company's early plays were staged (including this one) which was called the Bench Theatre (after its prior use as a magistrates' court). The company's name was changed gradually by word of mouth and general usage between the years 1973 - 1977 when reviewers, and then members themselves, gradually stopped referring to Theatre Union and started calling the company of players 'Bench Theatre'. The new Company name of Bench Theatre was adopted in to all the promotional literature after they moved from the old theatre (which had been their home for nearly 7 years) in to the Old Town Hall building in East Street.


Desmond CooperPeter Holding
Deanna HesseltineJill Duncan
Charles HesseltinePeter Corrigan
BalooJen Jones
Old JakieDavid Spackman
Queenie HesseltineJill Sawyer
Albert HesseltineIan Nelson
Harry Lauder HesseltineSpokey Wheeler
Douglas DobsonDerek Cusdin
Voice of RoryBrian Sweatman


Director Sharon Rose
Stage Manager Peter Duncan
Lighting Hazel Rhymes
Sound Dave Britten
Set Construction Ed Sawyer
Costumes Angela Mansfield
Front of House Eve Moore
Properties Shirley Woodmansey
Publicity Peter and Ingrid Corrigan

Director's Notes

'All Things Bright and Beautiful' is an exuberant and racy comedy which is yet a sad commentary on Twentieth century bureaucracy. The Hesseltines are living in property well overdue for demolition and they are looking forward to being rehoused in more beautiful and salutary surroundings. 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' is one of a long line of successful plays by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall that has included 'Billy Liar', 'Celebration', 'Say Who You Are' and Children's Day'.

Sharon Rose


Bright and beautiful, great and small...

Two of my Yorkshire friends went with me to this area's tiniest theatre and both were impressed by the authenticity of the Yorkshire accents adopted by the, presumably, Southern actors and actresses in a play set in the North Country. The tiny theatre was the Bench Theatre, West Street Havant, ...[and it is] Theatre Union, who present the plays there. The play, 'All Things Bright and Beautiful', by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, was part of the Portsmouth Community Arts Festival 76. Under the direction of Sharon Rose, the cast became convincing Yorkshire folk.

The play concerns the Hesseltine family who are living in property well overdue for demolition and are looking forward to being rehoused in better surroundings. The situation is treated as a broad comedy, but there is a pathos and wistfulness in the central character of Mrs Queenie Hesseltine (beautifully played by Jill Sawyer) as she looks forward to a new home with a garden. Chief complication arises when Harry Lauder Hesseltine (an excellent performance by Spokey Wheeler) brings home the parish church lectern which he has 'found'. Peter Holding played Desmond Cooper, boyfriend of Deana Hesseltine, a young woman played by Jill Duncan with a particularly good Yorkshire accent and manner. Peter Corrigan, with well-simulated fecklessness, played Charles Hesseltine, who its around all day studying racing form, and there was a delightful performance by Jen Jones as the cub Baloo, who comes to the Hesseltine home to inquire why the youngest Hesseltine, Rory, has not been to Cubs.

David Spackman played Old Jakie, a neighbour who visits the family to get the key to the outside communal loo, and Ian Nelson was excellent as the often exasperated Albert Hesseltine, head of the family. A commentary on 20th century bureaucracy is supplied in the character of Douglas Dobson, the man from the Housing Department. Derek Cusdin gave an excellent performance in the role of this petty bureaucrat, who gloats gleefully over the inefficiency of his department and turns nasty when the Hesseltines, deprived of their hope of a house and garden, show a sense of grievance.

In the tiny theatre, where the audience almost touches the players a most realistic kitchen-cum-living room was realized, with an exit for the 'loo door' and dustbins outside the house. Comedy aside, the play has an underlying seriousness.

Production Photographs