It’s the last Sunday in Advent, and here are the final three Noels of Christmas.
The 10th Noel – NOËL GREIG (1944-2009)
Way back in November 2012 I wrote about a ground-breaking play called “As Time Goes By” which was the inspiration for “Bent”, the story of gay love in a Nazi concentration camp. “As Time Goes By” is regarded as the first play to deal with the historical persecution and suppression of gay men, and it was co-written by Noël Greig.
It was Noël’s interest in history that marks out his plays as more than just a modern-day concern for gay rights. His knowledge of previous issues was vital in informing audiences of the development of contemporary concerns. This went even further, into a future vision as depicted in his 1983 play “Poppies”, which dealt with a future world on the brink of nuclear destruction and the possible consequences of equal rights.
From his working-class background he went to study history at King’s College, London. An academic career was not for him, however, and when he graduated he found work in theatre. He also founded an arts commune called the Brighton Combination which displayed his vision of theatre and radical politics working together.
Unlike other radical, left-wing campaigners in theatre Noel didn’t seem to be a theatrical snob. He was involved in other radical theatre groups as well as the established theatre. He received commissions from, and worked with, several leading UK theatres, including the Crucible in Sheffield and the Aldgate in London. He also worked as assistant director on a West End production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Noël’s driving passion was for the inclusion of all sections of society in theatre.
All though his career Noel worked with many community groups on theatre projects, ranging from homeless people’s groups in the UK to Islamic groups in Iran, from school groups in Derbyshire to elderly writers’ groups in Newark not far from me.
But it is work with the UK’s Gay Sweatshop for which he will be best remembered, most particularly for “As Time Goes By” which he wrote specially for them and was premiered in 1977 in the hotel I can see from my window right now. He worked with the Sweatshop for ten years, writing, producing, directing, and later administrating. Noel’s importance in the public realisation of the horrors of the Nazi persecution of gay men should not be ignored.
The 11th Noel – NOEL CAVERNELIS (b.1973)
Noel Cavernelis appears to be a multi-talented man – a teacher, an artist, an athlete, and a singer. As a teacher he has worked at the International School at Vantaa in Finland for several years. He is an art teacher, and examples of his own artwork are displayed on his Facebook page, among other places.
Even though he now lives in Finland Noel is South African by birth and moved to Finland before 2002. He competed "for" Finland at the World Outgames in Copenhagen in 2009. He later competed at the Gay Games in 2010 in Cologne. He medalled in four events both times, ad won the same medals in the same events: gold in the long jump, and silver in the high jump, 100 metres and 200 metres. Noel also won a long jump gold medal at the 2012 EuroGames in Budapest, along with two silver medals in the high jump and triple jump.
As a singer Noel competes in karaoke competitions. Karaoke doesn’t have a very high reputation as a serious activity here in the UK, but there are people in Finland and other countries who enter international karaoke competitions, and Noel has managed to reach semi-finals.
The 12th Noel – NOEL DAVIS (1927-2002)The final Noel brings us full circle. When he began his acting career Edgar Davis decided to choose a more distinguished theatrical name, and so he named himself after the person who was my 1st Noel of Christmas – Sir Noël Coward.
Liverpool-born Edgar was encouraged to take an interest in the theatre by his parents, and through his time serving in the Merchant Navy he determined on a career on the stage. And so Edgar became Noel (without the “ë”), and he earned a reputation as a good character actor, often playing rather camp characters.
Noel also found himself appearing in many popular UK television programmes, ranging from Shakespeare to science fiction. These included some of favourite childhood series – “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)”, “The Dick Emery Show”, “UFO” and “The Avengers”.
In 1974 he worked at the Oxford Theatre Festival where he began casting parts for plays. It was a profession he spent the rest of his life pursuing. From theatre he moved to film, due to his life-long friendship with gay director John Schlesinger. The first film which credited Noel as casting director was Schlesinger’s “Yanks” (1979). Perhaps the most famous film he was casting director for is “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991).
And that completes my 12 Noels of Christmas.
I’m having a well-earned break for a few days and won’t be back until New Year’s Eve. To everyone I wish a Very Merry Christmas, and many thanks for your interest in my blog.