Beyond the Fringe

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Beyond the Fringe is a theatrical revue written and performed by Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore. It debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960, later transferring to London's West End (at the Fortune Theatre from 1961) and Broadway (John Golden Theatre from 1962). Quotations are cited from The Complete Beyond the Fringe (1993) edited by Roger Wilmut.

  • Now I can see one or two of you are thinking, now look here, what if one of our American friends makes a boo-boo, presses the wrong button, and sends up one of their missiles by mistake? It could not happen. You see, before they press that button they've got to get on the telephone to number 10 Downing Street, and say, "Now look, Mr. Macmillan, Sir, can I press this button?" And Mr. Macmillan will say "yes" — or "no" — as the mood takes him.
    • "Civil War"
  • Life, you know, is rather like opening a tin of sardines. We are all of us looking for the key. And, I wonder, how many of you here tonight have wasted years of your lives looking behind the kitchen dressers of this life for that key.
    • "Take a Pew"
  • Others think they've found the key, don't they? They roll back the lid of the sardine tin of life, they reveal the sardines, the riches of life, therein, and they get them out, they enjoy them. But, you know, there's always a little bit in the corner you can't get out. I wonder — I wonder, is there a little bit in the corner of your life? I know there is in mine.
    • "Take a Pew"
  • I'd like to make one thing quite clear at the outset. When you speak of a "train robbery", this in fact involved no loss of train.
    • "The Great Train Robbery"
  • I went first to Germany, and there I spoke with the German Foreign Minister, Herr...Herr and there, and we exchanged many frank words in our respective languages; so precious little came of that in the way of understanding. I would, however, emphasise that the little that came of it was indeed, truly, precious.
    • "T.V.P.M."
  • That is not to say that we do not have our own Nuclear Striking Force — we do, we have the Blue Steel; a very effective missile, as it has a range of one hundred and fifty miles, which means that we can just about get Paris — and, by God, we will.
    • "T.V.P.M."
  • Now, we shall receive four minutes warning of any impending nuclear attack. Some people have said, "Oh my goodness me — four minutes? — that is not a very long time!" Well, I would remind those doubters that some people in this great country of ours can run a mile in four minutes.
    • "Civil War"
  • Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judging, I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigorous judging exams.
    • "Sitting on the Bench"
  • I managed to get through the mining exams — they're not very rigorous, they only ask one question, they say, "What is your name?", and I got 50 per cent on that.
    • "Sitting on the Bench"
  • I am very interested in the Universe — I am specialising in the Universe and all that surrounds it.
    • "Sitting on the Bench"
  • The young lady who modelled for Constable was Alice Lauderdale, who was the young lady who came in and did for Constable — practically any woman would do for Constable. She, in any case, used to come in and dust around in the nude, and Constable would get her down on the canvas and immortalise her. As you see, in most of his paintings of Alice he has been forced to disguise her as arable land.
    • "Under Canvas"
  • The leg division, Mr. Spiggott. You are deficient in it — to the tune of one. Your right leg I like. I like your right leg. A lovely leg for the role. That's what I said when I saw you come in. I said, "A lovely leg for the role." I've got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is — neither have you.

Jonathan Miller

  • There's that marvellous unpunctuated motto over the lavatory saying, "Gentlemen lift the seat". What exactly does this mean? Is it a sociological description — a definition of a gentleman which I can either take or leave? Or perhaps it's a Loyal Toast? It could be a blunt military order, or an invitation to upper-class larceny.
    • "The Heat-Death of the Universe"
  • In fact, I'm not really a Jew, just Jew-ish. Not the whole hog, you know.
    • "Real Class"
  • Please, don't call me "vicar". Call me Dick. That's the sort of vicar I am.
    • "Man Bites God"


Peter Cook: I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war. Get up in a crate, Perkins, pop over to Bremen, take a shufti, don't come back. Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going too.
Jonathan Miller: Goodbye, sir — or is it — au revoir?
Peter Cook: No, Perkins.
  • "Aftermyth of War"
Alan Bennett: I think there is a danger though of seeing the colour problem simply in terms of black and white.
Peter Cook: It's a lot more complicated than that.
Dudley Moore: I gather the Negroes are sweeping the country.
Jonathan Miller: They are. It's one of the few jobs they can get.
  • "Home Thoughts From Abroad"
Peter Cook: We are using the technology known as the "Identikit." Are you familiar with it?
Alan Bennett: Isn't that where you piece together the face of the criminal?
Peter Cook: Not entirely, no. We're only able to piece together the appearance of the face of the criminal. We can't quite piece together the actual face of the criminal, unfortunately. Once you've located the face of the criminal, the rest of him isn't hard to find.
  • "The Great Train Robbery"
Peter Cook: Through this wonderful system of "Identikit", we have pieced together an extremely good likeness of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Alan Bennett: So His Grace is your number one suspect?
Peter Cook: Well, let me put it this way — His Grace is the man we are currently beating the living daylights out of down at the Yard.
  • "The Great Train Robbery"
Peter Cook: Now, Mr. Spiggott, you, a one-legged man, are applying for the role of Tarzan — a role which traditionally involves the use of a two-legged actor.
Dudley Moore: Correct.
Peter Cook: And yet you, a unidexter, are applying for the role.
Dudley Moore: Right.
Peter Cook: A role for which two legs would seem to be the minimum requirement.
  • "One Leg Too Few"
Peter Cook: Up here on the mountain we shall be safe, safe as houses.
Alan Bennett: And what will happen to the houses?
Peter Cook: Oh, well, naturally the houses will all be swept away, and consumèd by the fire what is dancing on the firmament...and serve 'em bloody well right!
  • "The End of the World"
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