‘My Inspiration’ – Sir Cameron Mackintosh
As the Victoria & Albert Museum opened its new Theatre and Performance galleries in March Nancy Durrant of the Times asked leading figures in show business to choose a favourite exhibit and what it meant to them. Among them Sir Cameron Mackintosh chose Minnie, the original ‘magic‘ piano from ‘Salad Days’ and said:
‘The first time I saw ‘Salad Days’ I wasn’t quite eight and I was dragged by my aunt to see what was my first musical. I didn’t want to go. I thought it might be a bit cissy but, of course, I fell in love with it immediately and promptly demanded that three weeks later, on my birthday, we go and see it again. Dressed in my wee kilt, I marched down the aisle afterwards to meet Julian Slade who, I had discovered by then, was playing the piano in the pit. He was very nice and took me back-stage and showed me around, showed me how the flying saucer worked, how the scenery came in and out, how, indeed, Minnie the magic piano was a dummy piano – a very lovely one- but he played Minnie in the pit . It had a special sound to it. He could press a pedal and it made that ‘ting ting ting’ that went into ‘Look at Me I’m Dancing’ and made everyone dance. So I saw exactly where everything was …and it completely inspired me.
‘I remember looking at all this rather solemnly, as you do when you’re a young person trying to make up your mind, and thinking, this is what I want to do when I grow up. Within a few months I’d worked out that the job I wanted to do was producer. I thought, yes, I can do this.
I kept in very close touch with Julian. I used to get permission from school, or lie that some relative was dying, so that I could go off and see first nights in Bristol. I always remember my housemaster saying ‘I hear your grandmother is terminally ill ….again. What’s opening?’’