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Beyond the Fringe (1964)

A TV version of the stage show originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe (August 1962) and subsequently in London (Fortune Theatre) and Broadway.


Duncan Wood

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Credited cast:
Alan Bennett ... Various Characters
Peter Cook ... Various Characters
Jonathan Miller Jonathan Miller ... Various Characters
Dudley Moore ... Various Characters


A TV version of the stage show originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe (August 1962) and subsequently in London (Fortune Theatre) and Broadway.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated






Release Date:

12 December 1964 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Beyond the Fringe See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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Did You Know?


The full recording of this show was believed lost or erased, but it has been found. The Museum of Television and Radio showed it in March, 2005. See more »


Referenced in The South Bank Show: The Making of Sgt. Pepper (1992) See more »

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User Reviews

Brilliantly anarchic hilarity.
14 August 2005 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

I was delighted to view this tele-recording for two reasons. Firstly, it's well and truly hilarious. Secondly, the recovery of this long-lost recording vindicates for television something I've long maintained for cinema films: no movie or TV programme should be considered 'lost' unless it was deliberately destroyed. Sadly, the BBC are notorious for wiping their own programmes and taping over them ... and so, far too many great moments of British television history are indeed gone forever. Unless the transmission patterns are still bouncing off Alpha Centauri.

Another IMDb contributor, Elena-48, has already reviewed this recording. Elena's review is perceptive but contains one niggling error: Alan Bennett's sermon is ostensibly about Esau and Jacob, not Ezra. Bennett's sermon is hilarious, as he piously and pretentiously draws metaphors between sardine tins and human existence. ('I wonder: is there a little bit you can't reach under the sardine tin of your life? I know there is under mine.') Here's something which this recording doesn't mention: an audiotape of Bennett's hilariously pretentious sermon is now used as a training tape in the Anglican church, warning newly ordained priests of the sort of claptrap they must avoid.

The opening sketch, with its references to the Cold War and Harold Macmillan, is necessarily dated but still funny ... especially when Peter Cook warns the gaunt Jonathan Miller to 'try to look well-fed'. Elsewhere, we have Miller as a prisoner in a death cell: Cook bookends this routine, setting the scene and then returning for the punchline.

Cook and Dudley Moore perform their brilliant 'One Leg Too Few' sketch, with Moore as the one-legged 'unidexter' auditioning for the role of Tarzan. Over the decades, Cook and Moore performed this routine hundreds of times, forcing Moore to spend many cumulative hours hopping on one foot. As Moore actually had a clubfoot (only partially corrected), the effect on him was not pleasant. But the routine is uproarious.

At intervals throughout, Moore performs his brilliant piano solos. The entire cast perform 'So That's the Way You Like It', skewering Shakespeare hilariously. Less effective is a routine in which all four portray camp homosexuals. A high point is Jonathan Miller's bizarre monologue, 'The Heat-Death of the Universe', pondering the fate of trousers that are abandoned on British Railway trains.

My own favourite here -- a quietly hilarious set-piece -- is Cook's solo turn, as a demented monologist sitting on a bench, explaining why he could have been a judge but ended up being a coal miner. Although the character is never named here, Cook privately named this creation E.L. Wisty, and depicted him many times over the decades. Cook's E.L. Wisty routine changed significantly at each performance, as Cook introduced new improvisations.

Periodically throughout this taped performance, the camera cuts away to show the audience. I felt this was a mistake, as the laughter on the soundtrack makes it clear that there's a live audience. Much more effective are the close-in shots, enabling us to see the expressions on the faces of the cast as the sadistic Cook ad-libs, trying to 'corpse' his castmates (especially Moore) and make them break character as they burst out laughing.

With Cuddly Dudley and 'Cookie' now both dead, and Bennett and Miller having largely forsaken performance in favour of their other talents, it's a delight to be able to see this crucial record of these four comedic geniuses at their peak. And this show is pretty damned funny, too. I'll rate it absolutely 10 out of 10.

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