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Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be

Original London Cast Recording Cover

Book by Frank Norman, Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart

Produced under the direction of Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal, Stratford, London 1959 and subsequently at the Garrick Theatre, London


Fred Cochran, the hero, is a down-at-heel gangster, trying to make a comeback. Lil Smith is his loyal moll, a tart with a heart of gold, who longs for respectability and keeps a marriage licence ready for her lucky day. Fred's shpieler (gambling den) provides a refuge for the failures of the underworld: Paddy the gambler, Tosher the ponce with his girls Betty and Rosey, and Redhot, a sad little burglar who never manages to get warm. They all look to Fred for a living and when he wins on the horses it seems the gang may be back in business. Fred redecorates his place, all "contempery" and at the opening the Horrible Percey Fortesque comes to gamble and a rival leader, Meatface, is beaten in a razor fight. The play ends with a wedding - Lil and Fred are giving up crime to go straight; handing over the shpieler to the constable on the beat who has long wanted to go crooked!

The author admits that the final published version of Fings owes much to the improvisation that took place during rehearsals by the Theatre Workshop Company who originally staged it. It was conceived as a straight play with music rather than a musical play; but it does provide opportunities for extras and for some lively ensembles. The music is all in unison and the play is therefore specially suited to the dramatic society looking for a musical show.

Singing Principals

Sergeant Collins

Smaller roles

A priest
a "Mystery"
the Brass Upstairs
Police Constable
Teddy Girls and Boys.

The Scenes

There is one setting which represents the interior of Fred Cochran's gambling den in a back street in Soho. The front of the stage represents the street outside

Band parts are not available