There was only one place to turn when William Louther, lead dancer at the Royal Court Theatre, suffered a show-threatening injury in August 1967.
It was somewhere seriously geared up to getting performers back to fitness for big occasions – Liverpool Football Club.
Reds’ physio and future manager Bob Paisley, the maestro of the Anfield treatment room, was called in to save the day.
It was said he could diagnose a footballer’s injury just by looking at them – but dancers? Now that would be a first.
Louther was hurt when a horse fell on him – so Paisley swiftly got to work to ease the 25-year-old performer’s pain.
By all accounts, Louther’s trip to Anfield did the trick! The American dancer was soon back on stage in choreographer Donald McKayle’s popular touring show Black New World.
Paisley’s intervention was just one of many outstanding moments for the Royal Court Theatre in the 1960s.
The venue hosted a rich array of talents during the decade, ranging from the classical ballet of Margot Fonteyn to the comedy of Leslie Phillips in the musical On the Level.
Presented in conjunction with Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, On the Level enjoyed its debut at the Royal Court in February 1966. It then transferred to London’s Saville Theatre.
Its plot involved the theft of school exam papers with a contemporary score reflecting the influence of Merseybeat on the swinging 60s.
The show ran for only 118 performances in spite of huge publicity for the youthful cast and established stage and screen star Phillips.
On the Level included powerful musical numbers by Ronald Millar and Ron Grainer, writer of the timeless Doctor Who theme.
The Royal Court also staged the world premiere of John Mortimer’s play Two Stars for Comfort, starring Trevor Howard and Patricia Healey, in March 1962.
Howard played hotelier Sam Turner who befriends a student – one of the many sad and lonely people who come to his small bar.
Prior to Two Stars for Comfort, Howard’s had appeared in the movies in Brief Encounter, The Third Man and more recently in Mutiny on the Bounty in 1962.
Another production enjoying its premier at the Royal Court in January 1962 was Britain’s first all-male musical Scapa! starring disc jockey Pete Murray.
As its name suggested, Scapa! had a nautical theme. It was based on Hugh Hastings’ play Seagulls Over Sorrento, which told the story of sailors testing a top secret torpedo on a Scottish island.
Two of the biggest stage and screen stars of the 1960s – Richard Burton and Judi Dench – made their debuts at the Royal Court.
Dench was 22 when she played Ophelia in the 1957 Old Vic Production of Hamlet in Liverpool. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in December 1961.
Burton took his first steps on the professional stage at the Royal Court in November 1943 in the Emlyn Williams play The Druid’s Rest. The production later transferred to St Martin’s Theatre in London.
Although he described his role as a ‘nothing part’, Burton later reflected that he earned £10 a week which was ‘three times what the miners got’.
Actress Glynis Johns, famous for her roles in the 1964 Disney movie Mary Poppins and the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, returned to the stage at the Royal Court in May 1966 after a 16-year absence.
She appeared in the play The King’s Mare about Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. The production, which also starred Keith Michell, had a four-month run at London’s Garrick Theatre.
Margot Fonteyn, principal ballerina at the Royal Ballet, was a regular performer at the Royal Court in the 1960s. She made her final visit to the Liverpool stage in February 1970.
Our photo shows her with principal dancer Rudolf Nureyev in the press call for the Royal Ballet production of Marguerite and Armand in March 1963.
Film, stage and TV actress Moira Lister impressed Liverpool audiences with her ballet steps in the 1962 production See You Inside. Our photo shows her dancing at the Royal Court with John Daul.
The current Royal Court Theatre building on Roe Street was opened in October 1938 after fire destroyed the original structure dating from 1881.
Built in the Art Deco style, the theatre’s interior has a distinctly nautical style in keeping with Liverpool’s seafaring heritage. The basement lounge is based on the former Cunard liner Queen Mary.
The theatre escaped damage during World War II and continued to stage plays and productions through the Blitz.
*Fascinating wartime images of Merseyside feature in Clive Hardy’s latest hardback book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45.
It’s now on sale for £14.99 plus UK postage and packing. Just go to inostalgia.co.uk/shop to order or call the order hotline on 01928 503777. And remember – buy three books and get 25 per cent off!