Temptation 1990 Westminster London Poster Toby

Temptation (West End)

Company and Stage Manager for Václav Havel’s TEMPTATION, a drama translated from the Czech by George Theiner, which opened at the Westminster Theatre (now re-built), in London’s West End on June 6, 1990 and closed on July 14, 1990, after 48 performances and a budget of £250,000.

Produced by Hugh Steadman Williams for Westminster Productions Ltd. and presented at the Westminster Theatre.  

Directed by James Roose-Evans; Set Design by Bruno Santini and Michael T. Roberts; Costume Design by Ian MacNeil; Lighting Design by David Lawrence; Sound Design & Incidental Music by Kevin Malpass; Company and Stage Managed by Toby Simkin; Movement Adviser: Geraldine Stephenson and Magic / Illusion Consultant: Ali Bongo.

STARRING Sylvester McCoy (Albert Fistula); Frank Middlemass (The Director / Vogue & Evacuation Voice Over); Aden Gillett (Dr. Henry Forster); Rula Lenska [aka Countess Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska] (Valerie Vilma, Scientist / Vogue Voice Over); Robert Longden (Deputy Director); Christopher Adamson (Dr. Alex Nevison); Mark Montinaro (Lt. Jones (Warder to the Institute)); Anna Barnes (Lt. Smith (Warder to the Institute)); Sukie Smith (Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Lawrence / Mrs. Hobson (Dr. Forster’s Landlady)); Angela Clerkin (Maggie Clarke); Sara Stweart (Poppy Petts); Andrew Lawden (Secretary to the Director / Boris); Jerome Turner (Dr. William Kotters); Tristram Davies (Inspector Stevens); Toby Simkin (Vogue & Evacuation Voice Over); Franc Fioli & Penelope Diamond (Lovers) [in the onstage film] with musicians on Viola: Kate Musker; Guitar: Derek Parris and Oboe: Chris Parsons.

Assistant Costume Designer: Celia Griffiths; Dance Teacher (Lambarda): Kerry Ribchester; Dance Researcher (Vogue): Andrew Lawden; Casting Consultant: Penny Wesson; Additional Lyrics by Robert Longden [“The Time Has Come“]; Production Manager: Howard Bird; Company & Stage Manager: Toby Simkin; Deputy Staged Managed by Susan James; Assistant Stage Managed by Richard ReddropAnna Barnes; Public Relations: Sue Hyman & Angela McArthur; Marketing by Danny Thorpe; Photographer: John Haynes; Graphics Designer: John Farley; Head Carpenter: Denis Groutage; Head Electrician: Mark Bloxsidge and Assistant Electrician: Kim Fox.

Props Construction by Makers; Props Construction by Tim Sykes & Colette Christmas [V.I.S.P.]; Wardrobe Supervisor: Karen Marsh; Wardrobe Assistant: Mandy Amielle & Michael Blacket; Costume Construction by Academy Costumes; Ms. Lenska’s Dresses by Celia Rhoden; Ms. Lenska’s Dancewear by Celia Dewes; Jewellry by Andrew Logan [for Ms. Lenska]; Suits by Alan Seltzer [for Mr. Longden]; Hair Stylist: Richard and Reggie of Michaeljohn [for Ms. Lenska]; Wigs by Gillie Clark; Sound Board Operator: Adrian Gummer; Film Camera & Lighting: Pete Collis, Production Assistant: Teresa Dadey; Accounting by Ray Spalding; Accounting Assistant: Marie McGowan; Scenery Construction by Complete Theatre Services and Lighting Supply by NOVA Ltd..

A Faustian play written by the Czech playwright (and President) in 1985 has given the Faust legend a provocative twist, where ‘Dr. Henry Forster’ is a scientist, and part of an institution that looks down on the occult and it’s uses. Following the course of the original story, Dr. Henry Forster makes a deal with the devil to forward his love life and career, but in the end pays the ultimate price of his soul, showing internal conflict as he struggles to reconcile his beliefs and his honor with his needs and desires. The West End theatre was bought by the Westminster Memorial Trust in April 1946 as an international moral and spiritual movement memorial to men in Moral Re-Armament (MRA) who gave their lives in World War II.

show Temptation
TEMPTATION is remembered in West End theatre history as the show that:

  • Closed the Westminster Theatre (it was considered too sexually suggestive for many of the MRA theatre owners) and sold in 1998 for £2.7 million;
  • It was written by Vaclav Havel, the past president of the Czech Republic.
  • It changed the rules with the British Musicians Union after Toby Simkin won a public battle to allow prop radio music not requiring live musicians;
  • It was at the height of the divorce of Rula Lenska and Denis Waterman with intense daily gutter press (News of the World, Hello, OK and Enquirer) intrusion and offers of bribes to Toby Simkin and others in the company.  Press were aggressive pre-Princess Diana death — one offered £1,500 for a story from me about Rula, and £5,000 for a photo of the two of them together;
  • It was the first stage appearance of Sylvester McCoy since leaving his starring role as Doctor Who;
  • The show ended each performance with a carefully executed stage illusion of bursting into flames and orchestrated public evacuation;
  • The adjoining Phoenix pub had a private door onto the stage right wing for the Westminster Theatre crew, and a theatre paging/bell system installed behind the bar which was used nightly for the crew to make their cues on time;
  • The original Westminster Theatre additionally had a secret private royal box and tunnel that could only be accessed from across Palace Road under the Royal Mews inside the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
  • A campaign by the owner to save the theatre ended when a fire destroyed 75% of the building on 27 June 2002, with demolition coming soon afterwards.
  • The St. James Theatre (now The Other Palace) has now been built on the old site and opened in September 2012.

Extract from my Gallivanting book:


While applying for permanent residency, upgrading my landed immigrant status in Canada, I needed to leave the country and wait for the approval… As a result, I chose to go to London, visit my godparents and seek out opportunities on the West End, since the process would likely take months.

I was fortunate to have dual Australian / British citizenship.

I rented an ultra-cheap hotel room in the grungy Edwardian Hotel located in Earls Court suburb of London (halfway between the West End and Heathrow) for the princely sum of £60 a week in cash, handed directly to the manager (likely never going through the books to the hotel owner) which was an incredible deal. It gave me a little room with a TV and a washbasin with a shared toilet and shower on the basement level but fortunately nobody else used the basement, and so I basically had that bathroom to myself. The only window was a sliver of a rectangle towards the ceiling above the bed.

Earls Court’s popularity in the London gay community was surging at this time. The area was nicknamed ‘Kangaroo Valley’, because of its large number of Australian residents on their UK temporary visas. Diana, Princess of Wales lived one block away at 60 Colherne Court before her engagement to HRH Prince Charles in 1981.

Bromptons Hotel Earls Court 1990I needed an income stream to support my London life and so I took a job as a bartender at one of the more popular gay bars called Brompton’s anchoring the large gay bar scene at 294 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court, a short walk from my hotel.

Famous regulars in its heyday were Freddie Mercury, Rudolph Nureyev and Kenny Everett. Here, I had a great fun for a couple of months meeting lots of people and making a lot in tips… My BEAT experience and my Australian/American accent helped a lot.

1990 was a difficult time in England… Domestic terrorism was a fact of daily life in those days. Margaret Thatcher was in power, London was plagued by the deadly Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) who were exploding bombs in central London, and even worse, the people of London were getting aggressively angrier with the government and the poll tax riots were reaching their peak.

For fear of the I.R.A. campaigns of terror, I remember automatically crossing the street to avoid going anywhere near army recruiting offices, uniformed soldiers, letter boxes or garbage bins (a favorite drop point) in downtown London. It became second nature and habit. All tube station toilets were locked up to avoid I.R.A. bombs. Metal bins in densely populated areas such as Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square or Covent Garden were especially attractive to terrorists because they could create deadly shrapnel when the bombs went off.

Living with domestic terrorism as a fact of life prepared me well for when this became an issue later in the U.S.A. following 9/11.

I longed for a job in the West End to tide me over until I returned to Canada. Who would have guessed that a week later I would be rubbing shoulders with Sir John Gielgud over lunch?

Saturday, Sunday, Monday… in real life

While working the Brompton’s gay bar I met a lot of West End thespians, one of whom was an editor of Spotlight, a magazine book for contacts in the London theatre business, who introduced me to several key movers and shakers. This led me to Brian Kirk, one of the most respected producers and general managers in the West End of the time.


On Saturday, March 31, I went for a job interview with Brian Kirk in his office on the 3rd floor of Cranborne Mansions (aka London Hippodrome) in Leicester Square.

I arrived at the appointed time following matinees around 5:30pm and went into his office to meet him. His offices had lots of windows overlooking Leicester Square. We began the interview and about 10 minutes into it came a loud explosion and the glass windows in his office shattered, as we both jumped under his desk where we huddled for about an hour waiting for an all clear from the local police.

London Poll Tax Riots OBSERVER news 1990It turns out that the 200,000 or so poll tax rioters who were coming east up the Mall from Kensington were blocked by police at Trafalgar Square. Here, rioters split with some going south to Whitehall, and others coming north up Charing Cross Road. At Leicester Square underground tube station at Cranbourne Mansions, the rioters were overturning cars on Charing Cross Road and Cranbourne Street in Leicester Square which included a delivery van that was blown up with a little kerosene rag in the petrol tank… This caused the explosion directly outside his office, and a lot of damage to his building.

As a result of being in extremely close confines cowering with Brian Kirk for an hour… I got the recommendation for the job as company and stage manager for a West End production of TEMPTATION to be directed by James Roose-Evans (Jimmy) at the Westminster Theatre, if I could obtain required union approval and if after meeting Jimmy there was mutual agreement.

London Poll Tax Riots 00 London Poll Tax Riots 01 Trafalgar Square London Poll Tax Riots 04 London Poll Tax Riots 07 London Poll Tax Riots 08 London Poll Tax Riots 05 Leicester Square London Poll Tax Riots 09 Independent


The next day, a Sunday, I met with Jimmy at The Westminster Theatre, which was at the corner of Palace Road and Palace Street opposite the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. In the lobby coffee shop, Jimmy and I hit it off like a house on fire. This was before the days of the internet, so my advance research on him was minimal, basically all I knew was what I saw on theatre posters with him directing big shows and what Brian Kirk had told me. I was comforted within moments of meeting Jimmy, he loved my love of teddy bears, my difficult gay life’s path, my middle name “James” and my theatrical story of my life’s journey to that meeting, and I loved everything about his life story.

THE BEST OF FRIENDS John Guilgud HeadshotJimmy is one of Britain’s most experienced theatre directors. He founded the Hampstead Theatre in London, He dramatized and directed 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD on Broadway and the West End. He was then finishing up a run of Hugh Whitemore’s THE BEST OF FRIENDS at the Apollo Theatre which he directed, and which gave Sir John Gielgud his last stage role. Jimmy is also the author of children’s books (such as the iconic teddy bear adventures series of “Odd and Elsewhere”)


My next meeting on the Monday was with Peter Plouviez, the General Secretary of British Actors Equity.  I repeated what I had done in Canada to utilize my Australian and Canadian Actors Equity memberships to confirm transferable to British Actors Equity union membership status. Since I was born in England and held a British passport, plus had the endorsement of Brian and Jimmy, it became a very easy thing to do.

It was all approved the same day and so that evening when I returned to my hotel on April 2, 1990, I was now officially a member of three Actors Equity Associations on three continents and ready to start work on TEMPTATION.

Australia Canada UK
union Equity AU union Equity CA union Equity UK

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

London Garrick Club 1990London Garrick Club logoA week later Jimmy took me to lunch as his guest at his member-only theatrical Garrick Club (named after actor David Garrick, and one of the oldest gentleman’s clubs in the world). Hosted by Jimmy, along with fellow members Sir John Gielgud, and writer Hugh Whitemore, plus Hugh’s agent wife (a rare exception to the men-only rule of the time).

For me, this was theatrical heaven. Not only being at the same table as these legends, participating in their conversations, but surrounded by theatrical history, with personal artifacts of famous actors, managers and creatives dating back hundreds of years in curio cabinets, along with oil paintings of legends caked with cigarette and cigar smoke covering the walls.

In the Milne Room (named after A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh bequest), Hugh Whitemore regaled us with stories of his days after winning a scholarship to R.A.D.A. (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) where he was repeatedly told by his teachers and others that he would not make it in the business and suggested he quit R.A.D.A., Hugh gave up acting and went into writing for TV. After a hugely successful writing career, later joined the council for R.A.D.A.!

John Gielgud then told the story of his time at R.A.D.A. in the ’20’s where he wanted to be writer but was encouraged by his teachers and others to utilize his unique voice and went into repertory theatre as an actor initially to “pay the bills”. The rest is history.

Jimmy then went on to tell his story of his career in theatre, teaching the likes of John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave & Judi Dench at R.A.D.A. and the Central School of Speech and Drama (C.S.S.D.), adapting and directing 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD, PRIVATE LIVES etc. before he became ordained and pivoted to balancing a life of the church preaching at Westminster Abbey as a gay priest and directing in the West End.

By the end of the lunch, I knew Jimmy and I had a special friendship.

I was now Company and Stage Manager for ex Czech President Václav Havel’s TEMPTATION, which opened at the Westminster Theatre, in London’s West End on June 6, 1990. Directed by James Roose-Evans; starring Sylvester McCoy; Frank Middlemass;  Robert Longden and Rula Lenska, aka Countess Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska of Poland.

To save money, I had secretly moved from the Edwardian Hotel into my Westminster Theatre dressing room / office which had a small cot and shower facilities, courtesy of the long-time crusty old stage door security man in exchange for £20 a week in cash to him and a £20 bar credit at the Phoenix pub (which the pub had given me, but I never used). I was all set, except I was to be locked (chained) into the theatre with no ability to come and go from about 11:00pm until about 9am when the theatre offices & cafe opened.

Queens Gate apartment in LondonWhen DJ arrived from Toronto to visit me, I rented “digs” (theatrical actors short stay apartments) for £365 a week in Kensington, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, adjacent to the Iraq embassy at 20 Queen’s Gate near Prince Consort Road. This was likely the poshest place we ever had. It was furnished in traditional British style, and had a huge claw foot bathtub, but the location was its best feature.

The Royal College of Music, the Royal Albert Hall and the Imperial College were all clustered across the street, and music rehearsals could be heard permeating the air, making it quite lovely.

For DJ, the shopping of Kensington / Knightsbridge, including Harrods was all a very short walk.

We had a wonderful time spending my meagre savings, buying teddy bears and artwork, visiting Jimmy and his partner Hywel Jones at their Hampstead home (Jimmy was a generous host and a great cook), enjoying dinners with friends and while I was finishing up TEMPTATION, sending DJ off to a string of West End shows in complimentary house seats courtesy of our publicist, the fabulously talented, kind and generous Sue Hymen.

After about 20 shows in less than 2 weeks, DJ gave up on the West End, and wanted to go back to shopping.  I think it was house seats to RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET that pushed him over the line, or maybe Willy Russell’s loudly reading the newspaper behind him during a matinee of his SHIRLEY VALENTINE to which DJ asked him to be quiet.

The timing was terrific, since my Canadian permanent residence was approved, and I was closing up TEMPTATION, so I prepared to go back to Canada.

Jimmy and Hywel (until his death in 2013), DJ and I remain friends to this day.

by Vaclav Havel

Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Photo] Rula Lenska Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Photo] Rula Lenska devilish Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Photo] Rula Lenska bed Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Program] Temptation (1990 Westminster London) [Insert]Temptation 1990 Westminster London Press Rula Lenska in ‘tempting pose. Evening Standard Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street LondonTemptation (1990 Westminster London) [Press] Rulas naked truth. Daily Mail Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street London Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street London Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street London Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street London Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street London Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street London Westminster Theatre @ 12 Palace Street LondonTemptation (1990 Westminster London) [Photo] Architects model of TheatreHugh Steadman WilliamsTemptation 1990 Westminster London Poster Toby


  • Scene 1: the play begins in a room in the Institute. Dr. Henry Forster, (the main character and representation of the Faust character played by Aden Gillett), walks in on his associates, is welcomed and asked about his private studies. Dr. Henry Forster quickly rejects working on private studies, and the other characters smile at one another. The Institute’s Deputy (played by Robert Longden) and Institute Director (the primary antagonist and representation of Satan played by Frank Middlemass) walk in, and the Director explains to the group that the Institute, an institute of science, must prevail against the growing cult/fad of black magic.
  • Scene 2: in his apartment, the Dr. Henry Forster uses black magic to call upon a crippled wizard named Albert Fistula (and representation of Mephistopheles played by Sylvester McCoy). After a number of odd exchanges, Albert Fistula agrees to help Dr. Henry Forster with his study of black magic in exchange for a testimony that Albert Fistula helped him.
  • Scene 3: at the office party later that night, the wizard demonstrates his powers by making Dr. Henry Forster’s love interest, Maggie Clarke (played by Angela Clerkin), fall in love with him and kiss him.
  • Scene 4: Dr. Henry Forster’s girlfriend, Valerie Vilma (played by Rula Lenska), sees this. In her bedroom later that night, Valerie Vilma confronts Dr. Henry Forster about his interactions with Maggie Clarke. Dr. Henry Forster counters by bringing up Valerie Vilma’s dancer friend Boris (played by Andrew Lawden), but they make up. When the Boris the dancer drops off flowers for Valerie Vilma, Dr. Henry Forster loses it and slaps her to the ground.
  • Scene 5: back in the original room, a replay of the opening scene occurs up until the Director’s announcement. He accuses Dr. Henry Forster of betraying the Institute’s noble cause of science by studying and even using black magic. Dr. Henry Forster is guaranteed an “innocent until proven guilty” trial.
  • Scene 6: returning to his study, Dr. Henry Forster again meets Albert Fistula and they argue about the “stunt” pulled at the party. Albert Fistula diagnoses Dr. Henry Forster with CDS, a syndrome of looking over one’s past mistakes. Albert Fistula tells Dr. Henry Forster that Valerie Vilma exposed him, among other things, and Dr. Henry Forster seems doubtful.
  • Scene 7: in the original room again, Dr. Henry Forster’s “trial” begins. Dr. Henry Forster is able to convince everyone that his studies of dark magic were for scientific purposes, and is subsequently celebrated for his brilliance; the group’s next party is revealed to be a costume party featuring witches, wizards, etc., planned in order to mock black magic and celebrate Dr. Henry Forster’s research.
  • Scene 8: back in Valerie Vilma’s bedroom, Dr. Henry Forster accuses Valerie Vilma of revealing his activities to the Director, to which Valerie Vilma responds with a breakup. Distraught and upset, Dr. Henry Forster attempts to strangle Valerie Vilma, but Boris the dancer arrives and dances (in vogueing style) with Valerie Vilma while Dr. Henry Forster sits helplessly and watches.
  • Scene 9: back in Dr. Henry Forster’s apartment, his landlady, Mrs Hobson (played by Sukie Smith) gives her concerns about Albert Fistula to Dr. Henry Forster, all of which Dr. Henry Forster ignores. Albert Fistula is let in and accuses Dr. Henry Forster of breaking their deal to keep their meetings secret. Dr. Henry Forster, resembling his earlier trial, convinces Albert Fistula that he only revealed their meetings to gain the Director’s trust and to further the interests of dark magic. Albert Fistula, content, says that the devil himself wouldn’t have tolerated a deal-breaking like that.
  • Scene 10: at the costume party, Dr. Henry Forster repeatedly fails to gain the Director’s attention. When he finally does, the Director reveals that he was onto Dr. Henry Forster from the start; he also reveals that Albert Fistula was his accomplice in finding out the truth. He states that you cannot serve two masters for your own interests. As the Director makes his speech, everyone from the institute surrounds Dr. Henry Forster, where he is set on fire, smoke and flames ignite the theatre, the play ends with the theatre being evacuated by the London Fire Brigade.

Memorium James Roose Evans

~ + ★ ☆ {:-)-:}   + ~

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