He turned Art and The Play What I Wrote into smashes. Now he’s handing out flyers for Charlie and Stan. But will pandemic-shy audiences come and see it?
Reports of the death of the stereotypical West End producer have been exaggerated. I’m in Bath, sat in the sun with impresario David Pugh, who is smoking fags, swilling vodka and coke, and whispering indiscreet showbiz gossip into my shell-like. What a lunchtime! With his pledges of allegiance to mid-20th-century entertainment values (“I want to be Ken Dodd”), 62-year-old Pugh could seem like a throwback. But he’s also a progressive, a rare example of the commercial producer with a commitment to new work from unexpected sources.
“I like exciting theatre,” he says, “and a lot of producers don’t do exciting theatre. They do safe. But there’s only so many times you can do Relatively Speaking with Penelope Keith.” This is promptly followed by an “ooh, aren’t I awful” apology for taking Ms Keith’s name in vain. If I didn’t know Pugh to be an old-school comedy fan, I could tell by his vaudevillian, faintly camp speech patterns. Only faintly camp, mind you. When I remind Pugh that he was once played onstage by Toby Jones, in his smash-hit Morecambe and Wise tribute show The Play What I Wrote (“I’m David Pugh!,” Jones would announce, entering the stage as if with a flourish of a cape), the producer wrinkles his nose. “A bit too camp, I thought. My mum wasn’t happy.”