20 December 2021
Bliss takes many forms, but this fortnight I’ve had the joy of reading the memoir of Derek Salberg, whose family ran the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from the 1930’s to 1970’s. I met Derek when I launched the Birmingham Stage Company and despite being in his 80’s, his support was unstinting. So I couldn’t believe my luck when I came across a copy of his memoir, published in 1978, which tells the story of his involvement with the Alex in amazing detail, right down to the box office returns. It’s interesting to read about a (predominantly) touring theatre from the point of view of the management and it’s helped me understand the many problems a venue faces. It’s also wonderful to read how Derek helped discover Norman Wisdom and how he was involved in the early days of Morcambe and Wise. His repertory seasons were famous throughout the region and in the 60’s the National Theatre tried to lure him from Birmingham with the offer of running the newly created company, but Derek couldn’t bring himself to leave the Alex. His kindness, enthusiasm and generosity leaps from the pages all these years later. Derek was clearly part of the golden age of show business and it drips from every page. If you can get a copy of My Love Affair With Theatre, I can’t recommend it enough.
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