Norman Robbins, one of Amateur Theatre's most popular authors, wrote his first stage show almost 60 years ago whilst working for the Yorkshire Evening Post. An avid theatregoer from the age of three (his grandparents ran the pub near the local theatre so free tickets were always available), he was equally fascinated by operettas, musical comedies, oratorios, plays and pantomimes. A keen amateur actor and frustrated musician (his pianistic skills never equalled his musical knowledge) he began directing plays age 18. In his mid 20's he went to drama school and within his first term made his professional debut (not counting a childhood appearance with Tod Slauter) appearing in pantomime with Ken Dodd. Further pantomimes followed, interspersed with summer season rep and plays, along with appearances in a number of television shows.
It was during this period that he began writing again and soon had several plays and pantomimes in the Samuel French catalogue. In 1979, he was invited, as a visiting professor, to teach at Iowa State University, where he directed one of his own pantomimes and as a result of which his version of Cinderella became the first pantomime to be staged in New York for almost 100 years. On his return to Britain he gave a number of lectures on pantomime history and for the next twenty years continued his acting, directing, lecturing and writing career, until after his final pantomime performance as one of the "Uglys" in 1999, a series of strokes forced his retirement from the stage. During his recuperation he undertook a long-held ambition to research and write a book on the evolution of pantomime, which was published in 2002 with the title Slapstick and Sausages.
Though writing full time, Norman still spent much of his time inside theatres, amateur and professional, where he claimed to be happiest. A confirmed technophobe, he refused to own a mobile phone, use the Internet, or pop in an iPod. He didn't drive, drank in moderation (five pints beer a year on average), preferred the company of his wife, family and close friends, loved dogs, cakes, suet puddings, boiled sweets and toffees, candied fruits, nuts, fish and chips, and hated salads, celebrity chefs and "reality" television. He was seldom to be found without a book or script in his hand, and was in constant demand as an after dinner speaker covering a range of topics from Franz Lehar and The Merry Widow to pantomime.
He was still writing up to a few days before his death in April 2016, so there is a drawer full of finished scripts waiting to be published.
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