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Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman (1976)

Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman


A Royal Shakespeare Company production of a play by John O'Keeffe, performed at the Aldwych Theatre, London (opened 14 December 1976), Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon (8-12 March 1977) and Piccadilly Theatre, London (opened 18 April 1977).

Performance length: 2 hours and 15 minutes (including interval)


Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman image #1 Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman image #2 Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman image #3

The first photo shows Jane (played by Zoë Wanamaker) and Farmer Gammon (Raymond Westwell).  The second shows Ephraim Smooth (Patrick Godfrey) and Jane.  The third shows (from left to right) characters including Trap (Joe Dunlop), John Dory (Joe Melia), Lady Amaranth (Lisa Harrow), Rover (Alan Howard), Ephraim Smooth, Harry Thunder (Jeremy Irons), Jane, and Lamp (Richard Simpson).

With thanks to Natalie for the photos and poster.


In Wild Oats, an eighteenth-century comedy, young Jack Rover leaves India for England.  There he joins a band of strolling players and adventures ensue.


Joe Melia ... John Dory, valet de chambre to Sir George

Norman Rodway ... Sir George Thunder, a retired naval officer

Patrick Godfrey ... Ephraim Smooth, a Quaker and steward to Lady Amaranth

Lisa Harrow ... Lady Amaranth

Simon Jones ... Zachariah, servant to Lady Amaranth

Doyne Bird ... Midge, servant to Harry Thunder

Jeremy Irons ... Harry Thunder, son to Sir George

Alan Howard ... Rover

Raymond Westwell ... Farmer Gammon

Tim Wylton ... Sim, son to Farmer Gammon

Zoë Wanamaker ... Jane, daughter to Farmer Gammon

John Bott ... Banks, an unbeneficed clergyman

Tim Barlow ... Twitch, a bailiff

Billie Brown and James Cormack ... Waiters

Raymond Marlowe ... Landlord of 'The Sun'

Joe Dunlop ... Trap, partner to Lamp

Richard Simpson ... Lamp, a theatrical manager

Emma Williams and Diana Rowan ... Maids to Lady Amaranth

Eve Pearce ... Amelia, sister to Banks

Bille Brown ... First Ruffian

Ben Cross ... Second Ruffian

Doyne Bird ... Third Ruffian

Jeremy Barlow (flute), Michael Lewin (guitar), Kathleen Malet (violin), Tony Mcvey/John Riley (percussion), Peter Whittaker (bassoon), Gordom Kember (music director/harpsichord) ... Musicians


Director: Clifford Williams
Designer: Ralph Koltai
Costume Designer: Judith Bland
Lighting Designer: Robert Ornbo
Music: Marc Wilkinson
Assistant to the Director: Amanda Knott
Stage Manager: Ruth Atkinson
Deputy Stage Manager: Titus Grant
Assistant Stage Manager: Jill Wellington
Sound: Sandy Bratchell and Roland Morrow
Theatre Programme: Ellen Goodman
Theatre Programme Designer: Allen/Beresford


Wild Oats is the third production in which Zoe appeared as a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.  She joined the RSC at a very interesting stage in its development, sensing an exciting new dynamic among the actors.  'Some of us now at the RSC have a different sort of energy that has not been smoothed, shined or made acceptable.  I like that', she commented at the time (see 'I Yearn To Be So Free and Comfortable on That Stage' interview).

Working alongside older cast members on Wild Oats seems to have helped Zoe to settle in at the RSC.  'The great thing about the company is that there are actors like Norman Rodway and Alan Howard who have been there a long time and done their stints', she explained, shortly before the production transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre (see Plays & Players interview).

With this revivial, Wild Oats received its first professional production of the twentieth century.  Despite being unfamiliar to contemporary theatregoers, the play proved extremely popular.  The production's move to the Piccadilly was described by The Sunday Times as 'the public-demanded West End transfer'.

After Wild Oats returned to the Aldwych, Ruby Wax (who had previously played a maid in the play) took over Zoe's role as Jane.  Performing together in Wild Oats and also The Taming of the Shrew (1978), she and Zoe became very good friends.  When the former invited several of her closest friends to afternoon tea, as part of a magazine photoshoot in 2005, Zoe was among the attendees and recalled their having met at the RSC.

In addition to Wild Oats, Zoë's RSC productions during the 1970s include The Devil's Disciple (1976), Ivanov (1976), The Taming of the Shrew (1978), Captain Swing (1978), Piaf (1978), and Once in a Lifetime (1979).  During the 1980s, she returned to the company for Twelfth Night (1983), The Comedy of Errors (1983), Mother Courage and Her Children (1984), and Othello (1989).

Press coverage

'With Wild Oats (Aldwych) the Royal Shakespeare Company have struck gold', declared Bernard Levin in The Sunday Times.  The production repeated its success in Newcastle: 'Wild Oats [...] left the audience ecstatic', enthused Catherine Hansen, writing for the Shields Gazette.


Wild Oats by John O'Keeffe

Related links

Wild Oats production information - Alan Howard website

Wild Oats (Aldwych, 1976) production information - Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (information about the production at its subsequent venues can be found by searching the RSC Performance Database on the Trust's website)

With thanks to Jan Pick of the Alan Howard website for some production details.

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