An opportunity exists to relive the days of Dirty Dick’s bawdy Elizabethan restaurants, established in Perth by Frank Baden-Powell and Coralie Condon in Cambridge Street, Wembley, back in May 1970.
Dirty Dick’s Theatre Restaurant
It was bawdy, raucous, medieval mayhem and it took Perth by storm.
An old english feast and a live stage show rolled up in one.
Created more than 40 years ago by Perth stage and television pioneers Coralie Condon and Frank Baden Powell, Dirty Dick’s was a theatre restaurant that served up as much bawdy humour as it did roast beef and ale.
It opened in Cambridge Street Wembley and became an instant hit with its kings, queens, court jesters, buxom wenches and rollicking good fun. Ian Thornton and David Grew were young fellas back then, working as Dirty Dick’s minstrels.
Dirty Dick’s closed its doors in Perth and moved to Sydney almost 20 years ago. But now, event promoter Tom Tapping is bringing it back home to WA, convinced local fans still want more. Dirty Dick’s returns as a touring show. But if there’s a hearty apetite, Dirty Dick’s could come home for good.
The origin of this popular chain of restaurants came about through Frank and Coralie visiting Britain.
Whilst in London, Frank experienced The Gore Hotel’s Elizabethan Room, where he found people in modern dress sitting at a long dining table attended by Elizabethan serving wenches and a man in costume playing a lute.
Traditional cuisine of the era was prepared using genuine utensils of the day
A minstrel in period costume played authentic tunes on the lute
Meanwhile, Coralie and Audrey Long visited other venues on a separate trip, which included a look at Dirty Dick’s pub in Bishopsgate Street, London. only a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street Station and Petticoat Lane
The site dates back to 1745, though the pub was rebuilt from ground level in 1870, with the wine vaults remaining as part of the original building.
The pub was once known as The Old Jerusalem, of which there were a number by that name spread around the country, to later become the Old Port Wine Shop, before acquiring its more colourful name.
By the end of the 19th century, its owner, a public house company called William Barker’s (D.D) Ltd, was producing commemorative booklets and promotional material to advertise the pub.
The Australian connotation of Dirty Dick is different from the historical character, who ended up living in squalor.
The original Dirty Dick was Nathaniel (Dick) Bentley, an 18th-century merchant who owned a hardware shop and warehouse on Leadenhall Street in London, which was bequeathed to him. His father had amassed a considerable fortune as a Wine and Spirit merchant and on his death, left the whole of his property to his son Nathaniel, who was also known as Richard or Dick.
Nathaniel had been quite a dandy in his youth, appearing in public in the most fashionable attire with his hair arranged by a court perruquier. For by the end of the 18th century, Periwigs (the particular long, curly wigs) had became popular, first in the French courts and then throughout Europe. This created great demand for French master wigmakers, and white powdered wigs with long ringlets, became the order of the day. But tragedy struck on the eve of Nathanie’s wedding, when his bride-to-be died.
So distraught was Nathaniel that he locked up the room in which he had prepared the wedding feast, never to enter it again. A broken man, he neither washed or changed his clothes. When his cats died, he just left them. It is thought that Charles Dickens used this tale as the inspiration for the character Miss Haversham, in his novel, Great Expectations (1861), who was humiliated and heartbroken, when she was left at the altar. Havisham had all the clocks stopped at the exact point in which she had learned of her betrayal. From that day on, she remained by herself in her decaying mansion, never removing her wedding dress and leaving the wedding cake uneaten on the table.
Nathaniel Bentley was to live the rest of his life surrounded by dirt and decay. His house and warehouse shop became so filthy that he became a celebrity for the wrong reasons. Any letter addressed to “The Dirty Warehouse, London” would be delivered to him. Nathaniel stopped trading in 1804 and died in 1809. The warehouse was later demolished.
The landlord of the Old Port Wine Shop in Bishopsgate Street, London, bought the contents lock, stock and dead cats. He put them on display at his pub and renamed it ‘Dirty Dick’s’.
In the mid 1980s it was decided that a clean up was in order and the dirty artefacts were cleared away.
This is the Dirty Dick’s pub, that Coralie and Audrey visited. It left an indelible impression on Coralie, not so much for its history, but due to its quirky name.
Back in Perth, Frank was taken by the notion of conducting Elizabethan dinners and discussed the concept with Coralie. He suggested Cheshire Cheese as a name for the proposed restaurant, whilst Coralie submitted Dirty Dick’s, which was then quickly agreed to with the theme being bawdy banquets.
Coralie has a long history with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and mounted cheeky revues during her Repertory days.
Between 1951 and 1955 she produced six revue shows called ‘On The Beam’ at the Repertory Club.
The scripts were written and the music composed by Coralie, as she had done for her full scale stage musical “The Good Oil”. Her flair for musical comedy was also put to good profit in preparing scripts, music and lyrics for the Old Time Music Hall, another joint venture with Frank Baden-Powell.
Dirty Dick’s is a similar form of theatre restaurant entertainment, but this time with an Elizabethan theme.
1976 – Cast and Cuisine
1989 – The Jester Show – Serving Wenches: Cassie Davidson, Matty MacNab, Brigette Conway, Gaylor Murray, Leigh Wood, Julie Hudson and Sue Clay
1991 – The King Show: John Donnelly, Zoe Warwick (Hart), Jeremey Murray, Leonard Martin and Alex Cull
1995 – Dirty Dicks 25th Birthday
Terri, Coralie Condon, Jeremey Murray, Peta Symes, Deirdre Nelson
Wendy, Winston Brearley, ?, Alex Cull, Rhian Skirving, Rebecca Davis and John Donnelly
The popularity of the venue was such that it spread nation‐wide, with premises in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Auckland in New Zealand, whilst also touring regional centres, before extending the operation to Los Angeles in the United States.
In 1988, the Gilbert and Sullivan performers Jeremey and Gaylor Murray joined the company, with Jeremey also filling the role of General Manager until the Perth venue closed, though the show continued touring through 1997.
On retiring from her Dirty Dick’s activities, Coralie gave all her resources to her Sydney accountant Simon Mumby, who was with the Sydney Dirty Dick’s operation, and continues the operation to this day with Sydney actor and director Mal Carmont and a team of enthusiastic performers, with Coralie’s music and scripts still part of the repartee. As was always the case, the show will continue to evolve as new material is included.
Not only does the Sydney operation continue to this day, they also present shows regularly in Newcastle, the Central Coast and Canberra.
Touring Shows travel to regional Australia on a seasonal basis, and they are presently touring WA.