A 60-year timeline charting the origins and development of Chiswick's Stopgap Theatre Company, founded in 1985 by Mick Loftus

 

 

 

 

1961

 

Mick Loftus aged 17 moves from Bournemouth to London to join the Home Office and is posted to Marylebone Magistrates' Court, where he deals daily with budding Rumpoles, hardened policemen, west London working girls, couples in the throes of separation and maintenance disputes and young girls seeking what were then known as Bastardy Orders.

 

All the drama of real life in London.

 

After a few months he is transferred to the newly created Fixed Penalty Office, where his only clients are disgruntled motorists, and he misses the cut and thrust of the Separation and Maintenance department

 

 

 

1962

 

Bored to tears and struggling to get by on a wage of £7 and a daily luncheon voucher worth all of 5p Mick takes an evening job at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Ave selling ice creams, programmes, LPs, teas and coffees in the rarefied atmosphere of the Gallery Bar in the topmost tier of the 1400 seater. Intoxicated by the West End, Soho and theatreland he abandons the courts service and commits to a life of sleeping late in a shared Balham flat, working eight shows a week and watching the show nightly till he knows all the lines by heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When not watching the show he turns

 

his attention to a beautiful girl who has recently joined the Dress Circle staff.

 

He learns her name is Valerie Homewood and he is smitten. By Christmas they are engaged and plan to marry in September 1964. But Val's mother does not approve.

 

 

 

So they decide to wait until Valerie is 21. Their engagement will last two and a half

 

years, not at all remarkable in those days

 

By this time Mick has become somewhat

 

of a layabout, and feels he must raise his

 

game to hold on to Valerie. He opens a

 

Post Office account and sets about securing a steady job. Still a bit starry-eyed, he lands a position in trendy Wardour Street where,

 

as it happens, Val works at Young's Dress Hire, virtually opposite the Warner building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1963

 

Realising he will never amount to much as a booking clerk at Warner's, Mick finds a job at Unilever's ad agency Lintas, where he graduates from cost clerk to progress chaser working on Birds Eye, Wall's Ice cream, Stork margarine, Square Deal Surf and more. While there he becomes familiar with all the pubs and dives in Fleet Street

 

1964

 

Mick and Val join Acton Dramatic Society and remain loyal members for the next 25 years

 

 

 

1965

 

Mick and Val finally get married having lived for 3 years in separate West Ealing bedsitters. They move into a rented first floor flat in King's Avenue W5 just north of Haven Green - their home for the next four years

 

 

 

1966

 

Mick, by now a junior copywriter at a small advertising agency in Fitzroy Square, is working hard to hit his earnings target of 20 quid a week. One of his jobs is writing fake testimonial letters praising products made by his clients, which include the National Coal Board, Tricity Cookers and Chandris Cruises

 

 

 

1967

 

 

Mick develops a fear of flying and he and Val take a rail holiday to Spain.

 

In the same year he passes his driving test which paves the way for many happy holidays driving and camping throughout western Europe. His first car is a pale blue 1959 Hillman Minx convertible, and motoring in those days is a joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1968

 

After three and a half years as a small agency copywriter Mick lands a job with Thames Television, the newly-appointed London ITV contractor, who have sacked their big ad agency in favour of handling their own publicity. For the next six years as a writer-executive Mick will be creating ads, brochures, promotional films, publications, competitions and other public events, all designed to attract audiences and advertisers in roughly equal measure.

 

 

 

1969

 

Mick and Valerie move from Ealing to their first house in Heston. It's right under the Heathrow flight path but they soon get used to it and stay there quite happily for the next eight years. Part of Mick's remit at Thames is to act as duty officer on selected evenings, sitting alone in the press office, watching the evening's output and taking phone calls from the press and the public. The office contains a comfy sofa, a TV set, a telephone and a cocktail cabinet. There is also a notebook to record complaints, queries, suggestions etc. A glance at the entries next day reveals Mick's handwriting deteriorating from his usual scrawl into a Jackson Pollack painting. This problem gets worse...

 

 

 

1970

 

Mick spends six weeks drying out in Epsom's West Park Hospital under the care of aptly-named Dr Julius Merry and his lovely Spanish nurse Manuela.

 

He shares a ward with alcoholic doctors, priests, bank managers, head waiters and meth drinkers from bomb sites. Part of the therapy is to play badminton, ping-pong and bingo with schizophrenics and depressives from other wards. He also bakes cornbread locked in a kitchen with a large black guy who has been put away for his own good after committing a murder. On the worktop is a long sharp knife which they both use. On his discharge Mick considers he is lucky to have been diagnosed at 26, and is grateful to Thames for holding his job open. For the next five years he will regularly attend AA meetings and will stay sober and teetotal for the next 35 years

 

 

 

1971-1973

 

Safely back in his office at Thames, Mick adds comedy writing to his portfolio and sells scripts to The Two Ronnies and Marty Feldman, as well as penning Christmas revues for ADS. He is lucky to be represented by agent Jimmy Grafton who famously launched The Goon Show from his pub The Grafton Arms in Victoria and often locked Spike Milligan in the upper room until he had produced that week's script.

 

 

 

1974

 

Mick goes freelance and is retained by Thames TV for the next 15 years. Throughout that time he will also work for a huge range of international companies including Sony, Toshiba, EMI, WEA Records, Cunard, Eurostar and Heathrow and Gatwick airports while also dabbling in situation comedy and song writing. His compositions for a film documentary project are recorded at Wardour Street's Marquee studios. He also co-writes a musical with Raymond Froggatt and Louis Clark of ELO fame. His employer in this enterprise is Don Arden, the Mr Big of music talent management, manager of Black Sabbath and father of Sharon Osbourne, also notorious for holding rival manager Robert Stigwood out of a fourth floor window for trying to poach key Arden act The Small Faces. Arden later sells the Loftus-Froggatt property to ATM Music, who produce it as a TV movie that is never aired. Given the people involved, Mick is content to have been paid good money for the original script and moves on

 

 

 

1977

 

The year is remarkable in two important ways. First, ADS announces it will stage Sandy Wilson's charming 1920s pastiche musical The Boyfriend to raise its profile and shake things up a bit after years of favouring dramas, thrillers and comedies. They show their good intent by hiring a team of pro's to handle direction, choreography and music. To everyone's surprise, Mick & Val, hitherto overlooked or at least under-used by ADS producers, land the key roles of Bobby and Maisie. Later that year, in another surprise development, the pair move into the house in Chiswick that will become the clubhouse and production centre for ADS and later for Stopgap Theatre

 

 

 

1980

 

Weary of the continuing tribulations of keeping ADS afloat, and having enjoyed their recent foray into musical theatre, Mick and Val escape for a while to join the chorus in a production of The Pajama Game by Fulham's Broadway Theatre Company. Mick in particular is so inspired, he writes and directs his first ADS production A.L.A.D.D.I.N - A Loose Adaptation Decidedly Different in Niceties

 

With a cast of 24 and a 3-piece band it is rehearsed in his front room and the elaborate composite set is built by cast and crew members in the garden and in the Loftus loft, a production convention that will later become a Stopgap staple

 

 

1981

 

Mick compiles, scripts and directs

 

an evening of Olde Tyme Music Hall

 

and follows it up with an ambitious staging of the Mermaid Theatre's

 

80th birthday tribute to Noel Coward

 

 

1982

 

John Maxwell joins ADS and Mick begins to think about forming a new kind of amateur theatre company that shuns formal membership, stuffy committees, AGMs and all the other trappings of your average amateur dramatic society

 

1983

 

Chiswick Town Hall becomes our home for the next fifteen years.

 

It offers two performance spaces: a large main hall and the smaller more intimate Hogarth Hall just across the corridor. Under the ADS banner we stage The End of the Pierrot Show, written and directed by Mick

 

1984

 

Mick directs his first drama, Jean Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon, on the main stage at Chiswick Town Hall. For the smaller, more intimate Hogarth Hall he devises a more up-to-date and wider-ranging music hall format, Floor Show, with songs firmly redolent of the 20th century mixed with titbits of nostalgia.

 

 

 

1985

 

For ADS we stage Fly Away Home by William Humble in the Hogarth Hall.

 

Later that year we launch Stopgap Theatre Company and air it again at

 

Ealing's New Inn pub theatre. We also produce a second Floor Show

 

 

 

1986

 

Cabaret

 

Dick & Larry & Oscar

 

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

 

 

 

1987

 

Guys & Dolls

 

Too Marvellous for Words

 

Mr Cinders

 

 

 

1988

 

Worzel Gummidge

 

 

 

1989

 

The Pajama Game

 

Keep Smiling Through

 

 

 

1990

 

Plaza Suite

 

Songbook

 

Pack of Lies

 

 

 

1991

 

The Sound of Music

 

Dames at Sea

 

A Chorus of Disapproval

 

 

 

1992

 

Bye Bye Birdie

 

Chapter Two

 

 

 

1993

 

Play It Again Sam

 

Cowardy Custard

 

 

 

1994

 

Missing Persons

 

Hit the Road

 

The Music Man

 

 

 

1995

 

Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood

 

84 Charing Cross Road

 

 

 

1996

 

Can-Can

 

Ordinary People

 

 

 

1997

 

Thanks for the Memory

 

Rough Crossing

 

 

 

1998

 

She Loves Me

 

They're Playing Our Song

 

 

 

1999

 

Flowers for Algernon

 

The Pajama Game

 

 

 

2000

 

Thanks a Millennium

 

A Little Night Music

 

Woman in Mind

 

 

 

2001

 

Beyond Therapy

 

Cole

 

 

 

2002

 

Lend Me a Tenor

 

'Allo 'Allo

 

 

 

2003

 

Dick & Larry & Oscar

 

Shadowlands

 

 

 

2004

 

Disposing of the Body

 

Once in a Lifetime

 

 

 

2005

 

Spread a Little Happiness

 

Map of the Heart

 

 

 

2006

 

Fawlty Towers

 

Alarms & Excursions

 

 

 

2007

 

Kindly Leave the Stage

 

Songbook 2

 

 

 

2008

 

Particular Friendships

 

Songs from the Heart

 

 

 

2009

 

Absurd Person Singular

 

I Remember You

 

 

 

2010

 

California Suite

 

Rehearsal for Murder

 

 

 

2011

 

Confusions

 

Ding Dong

 

 

 

2012

 

Passion Play

 

A Small Family Business

 

 

 

2013

 

Be My Baby

 

Tribute

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

2020

 

To be continued...

 

 

 

Don Arden is the subject of one of the most famous stories in British showbiz, a fabled altercation between himself and one of the other big movers and shakers of the British pop scene, Robert Stigwood.

 

Sometime during 1966 one of Stigwood's staff made the mistake of discussing a possible change of management with of one of Arden's top acts, The Small Faces. Not surprisingly, Arden took exception to this, and in spite of the fact that Stigwood had never met the group personally, Arden decided to pay him a visit with some of his minders, t

Click here 

to see the script

A 60-year timeline charting the origins and development of Chiswick's Stopgap Theatre Company, founded in 1985 by Mick Loftus with his wife Valerie and their close friend John Maxwell

1961

Mick Loftus aged 17 moves from Bournemouth to London to join the Home Office and is posted to Marylebone Magistrates' Court, where he deals daily with budding Rumpoles, hardened policemen, west London working girls, couples in the throes of separation and maintenance disputes and young girls seeking what were then known as Bastardy Orders.

All the drama of real life in London.

After a few months he is transferred to the newly created Fixed Penalty Office, where his only clients are disgruntled motorists, and he misses the cut and thrust of the Separation and Maintenance department

1962

Bored to tears and struggling to get by on a wage of £7 and a daily luncheon voucher worth all of 5p Mick takes an evening job at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Ave selling ice creams, programmes, LPs, teas and coffees in the rarefied atmosphere of the Gallery Bar in the topmost tier of the 1400 seater. Intoxicated by the West End, Soho and theatreland he abandons the courts service and commits to a life of sleeping late in a shared Balham flat, working eight shows a week and watching the show nightly till he knows all the lines by heart

When not watching the show he turns

his attention to a beautiful girl who has recently joined the Dress Circle staff.

He learns her name is Valerie Homewood and he is smitten. By Christmas they are engaged and plan to marry in September 1964. But Val's mother does not approve.

So they decide to wait until Valerie is 21. Their engagement will last two and a half years, not at all remarkable in those days

1963

By this time Mick has become somewhat of a layabout, and feels he must raise his game to hold on to Valerie. He opens a Post Office account and sets about securing a steady job. Still a bit starry-eyed, he lands a position in trendy Wardour Street where, as it happens, Val works at Young's Dress Hire, virtually opposite the Warner building

1963

Realising he will never amount to much as a booking clerk at Warner's, Mick finds a job at Unilever's ad agency Lintas, where he graduates from cost clerk to progress chaser working on Birds Eye, Wall's Ice cream, Stork margarine, Square Deal Surf and more. While there he becomes familiar with all the pubs and dives in Fleet Street

 

1964

 

Mick and Val join Acton Dramatic Society and remain loyal members for the next 25 years

 

 

 

1965

 

Mick and Val finally get married having lived for 3 years in separate West Ealing bedsitters. They move into a rented first floor flat in King's Avenue W5 just north of Haven Green - their home for the next four years

 

 

 

1966

 

Mick, by now a junior copywriter at a small advertising agency in Fitzroy Square, is working hard to hit his earnings target of 20 quid a week. One of his jobs is writing fake testimonial letters praising products made by his clients, which include the National Coal Board, Tricity Cookers and Chandris Cruises

 

 

 

1967

 

 

Mick develops a fear of flying and he and Val take a rail holiday to Spain.

 

In the same year he passes his driving test which paves the way for many happy holidays driving and camping throughout western Europe. His first car is a pale blue 1959 Hillman Minx convertible, and motoring in those days is a joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1968

 

After three and a half years as a small agency copywriter Mick lands a job with Thames Television, the newly-appointed London ITV contractor, who have sacked their big ad agency in favour of handling their own publicity. For the next six years as a writer-executive Mick will be creating ads, brochures, promotional films, publications, competitions and other public events, all designed to attract audiences and advertisers in roughly equal measure.

 

 

 

1969

 

Mick and Valerie move from Ealing to their first house in Heston. It's right under the Heathrow flight path but they soon get used to it and stay there quite happily for the next eight years. Part of Mick's remit at Thames is to act as duty officer on selected evenings, sitting alone in the press office, watching the evening's output and taking phone calls from the press and the public. The office contains a comfy sofa, a TV set, a telephone and a cocktail cabinet. There is also a notebook to record complaints, queries, suggestions etc. A glance at the entries next day reveals Mick's handwriting deteriorating from his usual scrawl into a Jackson Pollack painting. This problem gets worse...

 

 

 

1970

 

Mick spends six weeks drying out in Epsom's West Park Hospital under the care of aptly-named Dr Julius Merry and his lovely Spanish nurse Manuela.

 

He shares a ward with alcoholic doctors, priests, bank managers, head waiters and meth drinkers from bomb sites. Part of the therapy is to play badminton, ping-pong and bingo with schizophrenics and depressives from other wards. He also bakes cornbread locked in a kitchen with a large black guy who has been put away for his own good after committing a murder. On the worktop is a long sharp knife which they both use. On his discharge Mick considers he is lucky to have been diagnosed at 26, and is grateful to Thames for holding his job open. For the next five years he will regularly attend AA meetings and will stay sober and teetotal for the next 35 years

 

 

 

1971-1973

 

Safely back in his office at Thames, Mick adds comedy writing to his portfolio and sells scripts to The Two Ronnies and Marty Feldman, as well as penning Christmas revues for ADS. He is lucky to be represented by agent Jimmy Grafton who famously launched The Goon Show from his pub The Grafton Arms in Victoria and often locked Spike Milligan in the upper room until he had produced that week's script.

 

 

 

1974

 

Mick goes freelance and is retained by Thames TV for the next 15 years. Throughout that time he will also work for a huge range of international companies including Sony, Toshiba, EMI, WEA Records, Cunard, Eurostar and Heathrow and Gatwick airports while also dabbling in situation comedy and song writing. His compositions for a film documentary project are recorded at Wardour Street's Marquee studios. He also co-writes a musical with Raymond Froggatt and Louis Clark of ELO fame. His employer in this enterprise is Don Arden, the Mr Big of music talent management, manager of Black Sabbath and father of Sharon Osbourne, also notorious for holding rival manager Robert Stigwood out of a fourth floor window for trying to poach key Arden act The Small Faces. Arden later sells the Loftus-Froggatt property to ATM Music, who produce it as a TV movie that is never aired. Given the people involved, Mick is content to have been paid good money for the original script and moves on

 

 

 

1977

 

The year is remarkable in two important ways. First, ADS announces it will stage Sandy Wilson's charming 1920s pastiche musical The Boyfriend to raise its profile and shake things up a bit after years of favouring dramas, thrillers and comedies. They show their good intent by hiring a team of pro's to handle direction, choreography and music. To everyone's surprise, Mick & Val, hitherto overlooked or at least under-used by ADS producers, land the key roles of Bobby and Maisie. Later that year, in another surprise development, the pair move into the house in Chiswick that will become the clubhouse and production centre for ADS and later for Stopgap Theatre

 

 

 

1980

 

Weary of the continuing tribulations of keeping ADS afloat, and having enjoyed their recent foray into musical theatre, Mick and Val escape for a while to join the chorus in a production of The Pajama Game by Fulham's Broadway Theatre Company. Mick in particular is so inspired, he writes and directs his first ADS production A.L.A.D.D.I.N - A Loose Adaptation Decidedly Different in Niceties

 

With a cast of 24 and a 3-piece band it is rehearsed in his front room and the elaborate composite set is built by cast and crew members in the garden and in the Loftus loft, a production convention that will later become a Stopgap staple

 

 

1981

 

Mick compiles, scripts and directs

 

an evening of Olde Tyme Music Hall

 

and follows it up with an ambitious staging of the Mermaid Theatre's

 

80th birthday tribute to Noel Coward

 

 

1982

 

John Maxwell joins ADS and Mick begins to think about forming a new kind of amateur theatre company that shuns formal membership, stuffy committees, AGMs and all the other trappings of your average amateur dramatic society

 

1983

 

Chiswick Town Hall becomes our home for the next fifteen years.

 

It offers two performance spaces: a large main hall and the smaller more intimate Hogarth Hall just across the corridor. Under the ADS banner we stage The End of the Pierrot Show, written and directed by Mick

 

1984

 

Mick directs his first drama, Jean Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon, on the main stage at Chiswick Town Hall. For the smaller, more intimate Hogarth Hall he devises a more up-to-date and wider-ranging music hall format, Floor Show, with songs firmly redolent of the 20th century mixed with titbits of nostalgia.

 

 

 

1985

 

For ADS we stage Fly Away Home by William Humble in the Hogarth Hall.

 

Later that year we launch Stopgap Theatre Company and air it again at

 

Ealing's New Inn pub theatre. We also produce a second Floor Show

 

 

 

1986

 

Cabaret

 

Dick & Larry & Oscar

 

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

 

 

 

1987

 

Guys & Dolls

 

Too Marvellous for Words

 

Mr Cinders

 

 

 

1988

 

Worzel Gummidge

 

 

 

1989

 

The Pajama Game

 

Keep Smiling Through

 

 

 

1990

 

Plaza Suite

 

Songbook

 

Pack of Lies

 

 

 

1991

 

The Sound of Music

 

Dames at Sea

 

A Chorus of Disapproval

 

 

 

1992

 

Bye Bye Birdie

 

Chapter Two

 

 

 

1993

 

Play It Again Sam

 

Cowardy Custard

 

 

 

1994

 

Missing Persons

 

Hit the Road

 

The Music Man

 

 

 

1995

 

Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood

 

84 Charing Cross Road

 

 

 

1996

 

Can-Can

 

Ordinary People

 

 

 

1997

 

Thanks for the Memory

 

Rough Crossing

 

 

 

1998

 

She Loves Me

 

They're Playing Our Song

 

 

 

1999

 

Flowers for Algernon

 

The Pajama Game

 

 

 

2000

 

Thanks a Millennium

 

A Little Night Music

 

Woman in Mind

 

 

 

2001

 

Beyond Therapy

 

Cole

 

 

 

2002

 

Lend Me a Tenor

 

'Allo 'Allo

 

 

 

2003

 

Dick & Larry & Oscar

 

Shadowlands

 

 

 

2004

 

Disposing of the Body

 

Once in a Lifetime

 

 

 

2005

 

Spread a Little Happiness

 

Map of the Heart

 

 

 

2006

 

Fawlty Towers

 

Alarms & Excursions

 

 

 

2007

 

Kindly Leave the Stage

 

Songbook 2

 

 

 

2008

 

Particular Friendships

 

Songs from the Heart

 

 

 

2009

 

Absurd Person Singular

 

I Remember You

 

 

 

2010

 

California Suite

 

Rehearsal for Murder

 

 

 

2011

 

Confusions

 

Ding Dong

 

 

 

2012

 

Passion Play

 

A Small Family Business

 

 

 

2013

 

Be My Baby

 

Tribute

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

2019

2020

 

To be continued...