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Theatre / Beyond the Fringe

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Stage revue show written by and (originally) starring two Cambridge grads, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller and two Oxford grads, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. Debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in the Summer of 1960 and later enjoyed long runs in the West End and Broadway. Considered the Pet Sounds to the Monty Python's Sgt. Pepper (interestingly a snippet from a recording of the show was used on Sgt. Peppernote ) and the emergence of the modern British Comedy movement of the 1960s.


Beyond The Fringe provides examples of:

  • After the End: In "Civil War", a heckler (Moore) asks when public transport services will resume following a nuclear holocaust. (As soon as possible, but it will be a skeleton service.)
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Die Flabbergast" and "The Weill Song", both parody/pastiche songs (of Schubert and Weill respectively) in mock-German.
  • Black Comedy: In a parody of post-war British WW2 films, Peter Cook as a senior RAF officer orders Jonathan Miller to go on what amounts to a suicide mission, because the war isn't going too well and "we need a futile gesture at this point":
    Cook: Perkins?
    Miller: Sah?
    Cook: I want you get into a plane —
    Miller: Sah.
    Cook: Pop over to Bremen —
    Miller: Sah.
    Cook: Take a shufti —note 
    Miller: Sah.
    Cook: Don't come back. ...Goodbye, Perkins.
    Miller: Goodbye, sir. Or is revoir?
    Cook: [Beat] No, Perkins.
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  • Bowdlerise: Alan Bennett's vicar does this because he's giving a sermon.
    Alan Bennett: As I was on my way here tonight, I arrived at the station and by an oversight I happened to go out by the way one is supposed to come in. And as I was going out, an employee of the railway company hailed me. "Hey, Jack," he shouted, "where d'you think you're going?" ...That, at any rate, was the gist of what he said.
  • Brick Joke: Alan Bennett's vicar chooses as the text for his sermon one of the silliest verses in the Bible, Genesis 27:11: "But my brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man." He then rambles on without any reference to this for several minutes, until:
    Alan Bennett: And so now I draw to a close. I want you, when you go out into the world, in times of trouble and sorrow, and hopelessness and despair, amid the hurly-burly of modern life, if ever you're tempted to say "Stuff this for a lark," I want you, at such times, to cast your minds back to the words of my first text to you tonight: "But my brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man."
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  • Camp Gay: "Bollard" features three of them, having a discussion before adopting butch personas for a cigarette advertisement.
  • Captain Obvious:
    Cook: Who is that fellow who keeps coming in and playing "God Save the Queen"?
    Miller: I don't know, but he's not English. No Englishman would come and keep playing the National Anthem quite like that.
    Bennett: He's not English, certainly.
    Cook: You know what I think he is? I think he's a member of the Moscow State Circus.
    Miller: What makes you say that?
    Cook: I was in the washroom the other day chatting to him, he was developing some photographs or something, when I asked him what he's doing over here, and he said "I am a member of the Moscow State Circus." So I put two and two together, and the whole thing adds up.
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: Played for laughs (of course) in the "One Leg Too Few" sketch with the one-legged man auditioning for the role of Tarzan.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: There's CD available recorded during the pre-West End tour when they were still knocking the material into shape. It's very strange to hear some of the sketches still lacking their most famous lines.
  • The End Is Nigh: the closing sketch features a doomsday cult waiting for the end of the world. It doesn't come.
  • Informed Judaism: Played straight in "Real Class":
    Alan Bennett: Well, I...I suppose we are working-class. But, eh...I wonder how many of these people have realised that Jonathan Miller's a Jew?
    Dudley Moore: I suppose he gets away with it because of his ginger hair, actually.
    Alan Bennett: I'd rather be working-class than be a Jew.
    Dudley Moore: Oh, anyday. But think of the awful situation if you were...working-class, and a Jew?
    Alan Bennett: There's always somebody worse off than yourself.
    Jonathan Miller: In fact, I'm not really a Jew. Just Jew-ish. Not the whole hog, you know.
  • Large Ham: Everyone in "So That's The Way You Like It", a parody of a Shakespeare history play.
  • Literal-Minded / Mathematician's Answer: The policeman in "The Great Train Robbery".
  • Metaphorgotten: Alan Bennett's vicar:
    Alan Bennett: Life, you know, is rather like opening a tin of sardines. We're all of us looking for the key. And, I wonder, how many of you here tonight have wasted years of your lives looking behind the kitchen dressers of this life, for that key. I know I have. Others think they've found the key, don't they? They roll back the lid of the sardine tin of life, they reveal the sardines, the riches of life, therein, and they get them out, they enjoy them. But, you know...there's always a little bit in the corner you can't get out. I wonder, is there a little bit in the corner of your life? I know there is in mine.
  • Mood Whiplash: Invoked by Alan Bennett's vicar.
    Alan Bennett: Very many years ago, when I was about as old as some of you are now, I went mountain-climbing in Scotland with a friend of mine, and there was this mountain, you see, and we decided to climb it. And so, very early one morning, we arose and began to climb. All day, we climbed. Up and up and up. Higherrrr, and higherrrr, and higherrrr, until the valley lay very small below us, and the mists of the evening began to come down, and the sun to set. And when we reached the summit, we sat down to watch this magnificent sight of the sun going down behind the mountains. And as we watched, my friend, very suddenly, and violently...vomited. [Pause] Some of us think life's a bit like that, don't we? But it isn't.
  • Musical Pastiche: All of Dudley Moore's piano solos are this, the targets being Schubert, Benjamin Britten, Beethoven and (in the 1964 update) Kurt Weill.
  • Non-Indicative Title: the sketch "The Heat Death of the Universe" is actually a whimsical monologue about trousers and nothing whatsoever to do with entropy.
  • Overly-Long Gag: the coda of Dudley Moore's piano solo "And The Same To You" (basically, the "Colonel Bogey March" is the style of Beethoven, with Ending Fatigue played for laughs) is a classic example. Peter Cook's "Sitting on the Bench" monologue sometimes got into this too: "Oh look, a lump of coal!".
  • Pastiche: Of war movies, Shakespeare, and religious TV shows.
  • Rule of Three: "Aftermyth of War" has Peter Cook's suburban gardener character pop up three times and deliver variations of the same speech each time.
  • Satire: It was credited with starting a "satire boom".
  • Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: One sketch is about a man in the audience who has been to see the show 367 times, because he'd heard a rumour that members of the royal family were going to attend...some day.
  • Shout-Out: Peter Cook's gardener character who remembers the day war broke out/the day they bombed Civvy Street/the day rationing was declared is this to comedian Robb Wilton, who had a famous monologue beginning "The day war broke out, my missus said to me..."
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: "So That's The Way You Like It" is a spectacular round-up of all the most notorious clichés.
  • Sketch Comedy
  • Spoonerism: As delivered by Miller's vicar: "The apostles of old were rough, toothless... er, tough, ruthless..."
  • Standard Snippet: Dudley Moore punctuates the scenes in "So That's The Way You Like It" with a brief bit of fake-Tudor music (stately piano chords and falsetto warbling).
  • Stiff Upper Lip: "Aftermyth of War" parodies the use of this tropes in war films.
  • Take That!: The "Sea Slug" missile ("a ludicrously cumbersome weapon, relying as it does on a team of highly trained runners carrying it into enemy territory") is this to Britain's aborted Blue Streak ballistic missile project.
    • In "Steppes in the Right Direction", Cook, Bennett and Miller attempt to win Moore (who's playing a Russian) around to the British way of life by getting him to say "Mmmm" to positive British things, but it's not working.
      Miller: All right, well in that case we'll have to start with something quite innocuous, something he can't possibly take exception to, something fatuous like C.P. Snow, and then work up.note 
  • Title Confusion: Most references to the show assume it debuted on the Edinburgh Fringe. In fact, it was part of the main Arts Festival and the title (a minor bit of Executive Meddling) was intended to imply it went beyond what the Fringe was capable of.
  • The Vicar: a traditional one portrayed by Alan Bennett and a modernising one played by Jonathan Miller.
    Jonathan Miller: Please, don't call me Richard, call me Dick, because that's the kind of vicar I am.