Fringe Box



Play Reveals Life And Laughter Of Norman Wisdom

Published on: 31 Jan, 2016
Updated on: 31 Jan, 2016

Ferenc Hepp talks to Jack Lane about his one-man play based on the life of comedian Norman Wisdom

Written and performed by Jack Lane, the roller-coaster one-man play Wisdom of a Fool comes to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from Friday to Saturday, February 5 to 6.

Wisdom 01Jack takes you behind Norman Wisdom’s well-known character to reveal a tough and lonely childhood. Follow his journey as he joins the army, discovers a passion for comedy and begins to perfect an act that would go on to shape his unique style.

Tell us a bit about how you got into theatre? Have you had any training?

“I was never an academic. In fact, I hated school. I had no interest in further education, I had found my passion by then, theatre and cinema.

“I started with a local am dram group who would produce plays at The Capitol in Horsham, it wasn’t long before I began working at the theatre, I stayed for over ten years as a technician and film projectionist.

“It gave me a grounding in the business from a young age. I was watching and learning from hundreds of actors, directors, producers, dancers, writers and designers. You simply don’t get that at drama school.

“My route was one many actors used to take before the loss of rep houses and the like. My interest in acting didn’t fire up until seeing my first West End show – The Producers musical.

“Every aspect of the production blew me away from the sheer hilarity of Mel Brooks’ script to the superb songs and musical arrangements, even the slickness of the automated set which complemented the grandeur of the gorgeous Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

“I remember thinking, I want to do that, I want to make an audience forget their worries for two hours and transport them to another place.”

Wisdom of a Fool

Jack Lane in his one-man play Wisdom of a Fool.

Why Norman Wisdom? How did this project start?

“I grew up on classic comedy which of course included, Norman Wisdom. I adored him, so much so aged 13 I felt compelled to write to him and to my astonishment, he wrote back.

“It stuck with me that he’d made the effort to reply to this young lad who admired him like millions of others.

I had the idea after he passed away, I had seen many plays and TV dramas on comic performers but Norman seemed to have been left out, I couldn’t understand why. For me his story was the most interesting.

“I began making notes in his book, finding the moments which fuelled him to become the man and performer he was. I approached his son, Nick Wisdom for his blessing. It took over a year to write, with Martyn Bell adding material to act two.

“We work-shopped and rehearsed it for nearly five months. I didn’t want to screw it up or let anyone down. I had many sleepless nights.”

What have the most difficult challenges been about producing and performing a one man show?

“There have been many challenges. Some people associated to Norman didn’t want me to do it. To this day I’m still not sure why but I suspect it was simply because I’d got there first.

“Finding a creative team that would work for next to nothing but still give complete commitment was tough, but through close friends and some chance encounters, a wonderful team assembled. I am indebted to Mike Simmonds, Kenny Clayton, Daniel Barnes, David Phillips and Kit Fordham.”

What are your future plans with Wisdom of a Fool?

“We opened to an incredible response from audience, critics and Norman’s family in 2015. I’m chuffed to say the future looks bright.

“A UK tour kicks off at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre before heading to Dave’s Comedy Festival and beyond.

“From the initial thought, it’s been five years in the making and a complete labour of love, something which I wouldn’t swap for the world.”

Jack last performed in Guildford as Albert Steptoe in his co-adaptation of the classic BBC sitcom, Steptoe and Son.

In Wisdom’s wise words, “When life trips you up, make ’em laugh!”

Tickets for Wisdom of a Fool are on sale now. Book yours by calling the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre box office on 01483 440000 or by visiting the website at

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