Playwright famous for There’s a Girl in My Soup and Kisses on a Postcard, who turned to producing in the 1980s
When Terence Frisby’s There’s a Girl in My Soup opened at London’s Globe Theatre in 1966, it seemed to instantly catch the zeitgeist of the Swinging Sixties even as it was beginning to form. It went on to enjoy a run of six and a half years (ending at the Comedy Theatre in 1973) to become the West End’s most successful comedy to date. It spent a year on Broadway and became a film with Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn.
Although he never repeated its success, Frisby remained a writer of considerable if never fully recognised ability.
He regarded his next play, 1969’s The Bandwagon, with a cast led by Peggy Mount at the Mermaid Theatre, as his funniest. The same venue hosted his critique of the permissive era’s toll on married life, It’s All Right If I Do It, in 1977 but by then Frisby’s light-fingered exploration of the clash between romantic love and base carnality was out of fashion and favour.
His 1994 return to the West End, the courtroom drama Rough Justice at the Apollo Theatre, fared less well, with The Stage noting: “This kind of problem play… does not quite cut the mustard in the West End any more.”
His radio play, Just Remember Two Things: It’s Not Fair and Don’t Be Late, a moving recollection of his wartime evacuation to Cornwall, received an unprecedented response from listeners and won the Giles Cooper Award for best play of 1988. It later prompted a musical (seen at the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple in 2006 and repeated in 2011) and a novel, both titled Kisses on a Postcard. Frisby regarded the stage version as his greatest work, although it never made it to the West End.
Born in New Cross, south-east London, after leaving school Frisby spent six years as a tailor’s apprentice before winning a scholarship to the Central School of Speech and Drama. On graduating, he spent several years in regional reps using the stage name Terence Holland before writing his first play, The Subtopians, for Guildford Rep in 1962.
He made his television debut with Guilty in 1963 and in 1976 wrote the sitcom Lucky Feller, starring David Jason, and later four series of That’s Love! from 1988, which reworked his earlier stage play It’s All Right If I Do It.
While writing, Frisby continued to act, his television appearances including Colin Welland’s Leeds – United!, Emergency – Ward 10, The Brothers and, in 1964, as one of the first presenters of Play School.
On stage, he toured regularly with Ken Campbell in the 1970s, was seen in John Osborne’s Sense of Detachment at London’s Royal Court in 1972, spent several seasons at London’s Young Vic and was a dashing, caddish-edged Clive alongside Dora Bryan in Ben Travers’ Rookery Nook at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End in 1979.
Adding another string to his bow, Frisby turned to producing in the 1980s, touring Mary O’Malley’s Once a Catholic, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound in a double-bill with Seaside Postcard, and bringing Woza Albert! from Johannesburg’s Market Theatre to London’s Criterion in 1983.
He published a memoir, Outrageous Fortune, detailing in part his long and legally fractious divorce from the model Christine Vecchione, in 1998. The dispute led to his co-founding the pressure group Families Need Fathers, although he later distanced himself from it.
Terence Peter Michael Frisby was born on November 28, 1932 and died on April 22, aged 87. He is survived by his son, the writer and comedian Dominic Frisby.