Meall, Billy (1 of 8) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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Interviewee's home, Liverpool
Meall, Billy 1937- (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 1:Billy Meall [BM], born Mill Road Hospital, Liverpool, 1947. Parents Mary and William Meall. Reasons for William as a family name. Mother’s Maiden name Kellow. Maternal Grandfather from the Isle of Man, Grandmother, May Kellow from Dublin. Description of grandparents’ meeting on holiday in Liverpool. Grandmother’s occupation as nurse, grandfather’s death from Tuberculosis. Memories grandmother; her speaking Gaelic. Explanation for not knowing father’s side of the family. Memories of meeting Paternal Grandmother in the street. Maternal Grandmother’s occupation working in pub on Scotland Road, Liverpool. Mother’s similar work after the Second world War. Father’s role in the war and difficulty finding work afterwards. Comments about family. [0:3:41] Description of summer holidays in Temple Oak [TO], Ireland. Comment about Grandmother’s Father, Chenowath. Story about collecting scraps for pigs with local Dublin boys. Mention of Uncle Jubilee [JC], who played various musical instruments and worked as a solicitor’s clerk. JC lived with 2 unmarried sisters in TO; sister who was a costume maker at Switzer’s in Dublin. Uncle named Jubilee because he was born on the Royal Jubilee. Memories of the family house in Ireland, sleeping arrangements, lighting, toilet. [0:08:42]. Story of JC’s love for a woman who became a nun. Memories of the Carmelite nuns and Fairhouse convent. Auntie Bridie [BC] the costume maker and Auntie Maggie [MC] who kept the house. [0:11:30] Story about MC’s strictness when BM taken to the pub aged 6 and given Babycham. Holidays in Ireland; food, journeys by sea. [0:14:25] Description of how BM came to work at the Abbey Theatre [AT] in Dublin; job as a scene painter at the Liverpool Playhouse [LP] prior to this. Invitation by Dick Tucky of LP to assist Director Thomas McCanna [TMc] on Borstal Boy [BB] by Brendan Behan. Research visit to Walton Prison with TMc. Offer of employment by TMc on a production of BB in Kansas City; role on BB; description of production; being offered a job by TMc; work as Scenic Artist at AT. Comments about bomb near to AT; commuting from Liverpool; religion; Catholicism. [0:18:32] Story about Auntie Bridie’s will; land formerly owned by the family; benefit to raise money for a local church; story about borrowing props for the performance assisted by the priest. BM’s fortunate life; synchronicity. [0:23:10] Decision to be scenic artist not designer at AT; comments about AT designer Alistair Livingstone [AL], a former assistant of Nicholas Georgiadis; AL’s costume designs; AL’s family link to David Livingstone; AL’s lifestyle. [0:25:53] Mention of sister Kathleen; four years younger than BM; hairdressing business; good neighbour award. Mention of leaving home at 16; working at LP as a student designer for one pound per week; mention of Philip Headley, an ASM at the time; brief reference to Patrick Stewart early work at LP. Story about taking drawings to see Charlie O’Neill [CO] at the Royal Court Theatre Liverpool [RCL]; CO’s help securing student designer role for BM at LP with Richard Marx [RM]; comments about routes into theatre design; mention of Wimbledon School of Art; RM’s background; working at RCL; role in The Mikaido; jobs of student designer. Story about offer of scenic painter’s job English Stage Company [ESC] in Sloane Square; famous people who lived nearby. BM’s role as assistant to scene painter Ken Calder [KC]; his design work for Joan Littlewood; teaching from KC; trips to V&A; KC’s diabetes; story about hearing of KC’s death; the people that he taught; importance of teaching others; making knowledge survive not giving it away. Reference to BM’s 1930s house. Comments about ESC; working John Osborne play ‘Inadmissible Evidence’; mention of ‘Waiting for Godot’; Samuel Becket; Timothy O’Brien [TOB]; Jocelyn Herbert [JH]. Story about naming of BM’s daughter after JH; mention of having breakfast with JH. Mention of John Gunter
Life story interview with Billy Meall (????-), theatre designer.