Our Dr Evadne runs a B&B

“Doctor Hinge, I presume?” Could have been. He awaited me at the top of an open “colonial” staircase. Silver hair glinted in the sunshine. A gentlemanly smile with a hint of enigma completed the effect.

“Doctor Hinge, I presume?” Could have been. He awaited me at the top of an open “colonial” staircase. Silver hair glinted in the sunshine. A gentlemanly smile with a hint of enigma completed the effect.

I was exploring the lush countryside of the Haute Vienne department. More precisely, I was seeking the man who for more than 30 years was half of the brilliant comedy pair whom millions knew as... Hinge and Bracket.

Dame Hilda Bracket/Patrick Fyffe died in May 2002. Dr Evadne Hinge/George Logan did pantomime for a couple of years afterwards. It was, for him, time for a change. He and his partner jointly decided on a move to France, and settled into the department next door to me. Both are good cooks. Both decided they should open a B&B establishment. Which is where I found them.

But first, there is a 30-year story to tell. At the beginning, it was the Dame's love of Gilbert & Sullivan which really set the wheel's turning. One day in 1972, at the Escort Club in Pimlico, the Dame's accompanist wasn't available. George took over - and the Hinge and Bracket act was born.

Story has it that the real breakthrough came at the Edinburgh Festival in 1974. Certainly it was a triumphant night. But two acts were slotted in at a variety show at the Theatre Royal in Norwich. Then came a successful 17 week run at the Mayfair in London.

George Logan has a hoard of stories to tell of this period. But he is insistent on beating the drum for his partner. “Patrick was brilliant, both on stage and off. There were many times when you just couldn't stop him.

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“Then, if it happened on stage, be periodically steered towards me demanded to know where we'd got to. 'I have no idea', I'd say - and look composed.”

Simple, but the audience loved it.

I get the strong impression that large numbers of Hinge and Bracket fans (me among them) were largely unaware over the years of the immense range of shows in which The Dear Ladies took part.

Take, for example, the duo's contribution to a production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Dame Hilda (but of course) played Lady Bracknell, with Dr. Hinge as Miss Prism. How did I possibly miss it?

It started as a West End run at the Whitehall Theatre, followed up by a nation-wide tour. After a breather, the play toured Australia, appearing very successfully in all the major cities. “We played The Importance of Being Earnest for three years. After that, I could never watch that play again,” says George. . .earnestly.

“But Patrick was one of the finest people I ever knew, a great natural comedian. He was a totally original wit, great at off-the-cuff humour and anecdotes. He was a joy to accompany, and working with him was a pleasure.”

Another gem I somehow missed was George/aka Miss Marple in Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage. Patrick/aka Katisha, meanwhile played “a terrifyingly venomous Katisha” in The Mikado. Variety was the proverbial spice of life around this time, with the duo performing before Royalty on more than 15 ages. No surprise there, for the late and lamented Queen Mum was said to be one of their keenest fans.

Dame Hilda was also receiving admiring attentions. George Logan tells the tale:

“It was backstage on tour when a local stagehand asked one of our own team how they got on with the old ladies.

“Oh, very well. They're nice guys, easy to get on with”.

“No, I mean the old girls.”

“Sorry, you've got it wrong. The old girls are guys.”

“Pity, I really fancied her.”

Hinge and Bracket stayed at the top for an astonishingly long period, attracting affection as well as honours. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, for example, offered them an unprecedented compliment (the first and only such a compliment in their 100 years of survival): Would they appear in a D'Oyly Carte production?

They did, with enthusiasm, and made their entry via the auditorium, chatting blithely, to the mystification of the audience, before appearing on stage.

Then there was the occasion of the old vinyl disc, placed on a Master's Voice gramophone. As the curtain came down at the end of the show, serene music issued forth, to sooth the two ladies into a late snooze. The Dame lifted the head of the gramophone, it slipped in her hand - and shattered the disc.

Professional to the last, the Dame reached for another disc and calmly put it in place. As the curtain fell slowly, His Master's Voice trembled . . . to the strains of The Dambusters March!