Planet of the Apes Wiki

In 1975, shortly after the Planet of the Apes TV series had been shown in the UK, Television Character Promotions (TVC) - a small and relatively inexperienced family-run PR and promotions company - secured rights from Twentieth Century Fox to arrange a string of personal appearances and public performances by Apes characters which occurred across the UK between 1975-1978. This live work was a lucrative proposition and the company excelled themselves. A deal was also reached to run a fan club endorsed by Marvel Comics, the publishers of the UK Planet of the Apes comic. Marvel's British Department (the comic was assembled in New York with only the letters page dealt with in London; it was only later that Marvel UK was set up as a separate entity) could barely process the sacks-full of Apes-related mail pouring into their offices each and every week from British kids, and the obvious solution was to make an arrangement with an officially-recognised fan club so that Marvel could offload all its fan mail to another company, and each could then promote the work of the other. The official Planet of the Apes Fan Club was launched in November 1975. Run from a tiny office in Piccadilly, London, Television Character Promotions concentrated solely on Planet of the Apes characters and comprised a staff of five: 'Big' Mike Caulfield ("6 feet 3 1/2 inches of pure ape-like muscle"), the man who started it all, thought up all the ideas and dealt with the financial side; his wife June Caulfield, who probably had the hardest job of all - keeping all the costumes clean and in good repair, and was also responsible for the make-up and authentic appearance of the Ape stars; Peter Caulfield - 'Big' Mike's smaller brother - who edited the Fan Club newsletter and answered queries; Fan Club Secretary Sally Skinner, who looked after the members' record-cards, etc.; and Mike McCarthy, who was recruited in 1976 as Technical Advisor and Fight Director for the Apes arena show appearances.

Fan Club membership card (reprinted from 'Simian Scrolls' fanzine, Issue 4)
Television Character Promotions business card (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

Backed by full-page ads in the Marvel Apes comic, the Fan Club was claiming membership of 1200 by May 1976, from as far away as Brazil and Canada. Fans sending in their £1 annual subscription received an Apes Starter Pack – a selection of pens, car stickers, badges and prints – and the promise of a bi-monthly newsletter. Club member Martin Gainsford remembered: "I was a full-on Sci-Fi/Monster and comic book nut so when the POTA TV show was announced I was very excited. I bought the comic every week from Marvel and of course the gum cards. I begged for the Mego dolls for Christmas and Birthdays for a few years as well as the annuals at Christmas. I joined the fan club too and it was then that things took a new turn for me. The membership package included three badges along with a couple of almost A3-size heavy card pictures. One was the same as the 'Virdon and Burke' badge and one had the standard publicity shot of Galen. I think there may have been a pen but certainly a card and also a vinyl sticker. My dad went mental once as I ran up a huge phone bill during a school holiday talking to the guys at the club office."

Fan Club application form, March '76
Badge issued by the UK Apes Fan Club (picture courtesy of Neil Foster)
Badges issued by the UK Apes Fan Club (picture courtesy of Martin Gainsford)

The highlight of the newsletters was always the reports of Ape appearances ‘in the flesh’. Television Character Promotions provided live Ape events of two types: (1) personal appearances by a couple of costumed characters, who would pose for photographs with fans and offer ape autographs, generally at supermarkets and shopping centres; and (2) a set-piece live show performed by a full cast. From advertisements in Marvel's UK comic, it appears the live shows were already being staged as early as July 1975. These shows from 1975 and early 1976 were usually part of a larger entertainment package at circuses, festivals and rodeos. After Mike McCarthy was hired, the outdoor arena shows he directed had an action sequence involving two astronauts, Galen, Urko, Dr. Zaius and gorilla guards Virgil, Plato and Nero, usually with horses and a lot of stunts but no actual script.[1] A 'live synopsis' distributed to audiences at the live shows, introduced newcomers to the world of the Apes, and pledged: "Today you are seeing the first live show presentation of the Planet of the Apes. You are seeing authentic characters who will enact a specially prepared show with live action and an original soundtrack." A pre-recorded tape narrated the show with a voice-over and music. The astronauts were chased by the gorillas into the audience, captured, and tied up to face a firing squad. Galen then freed them before he too was chased into the crowd and caught. Then the astronauts fought the gorillas and set Galen free, but were again captured and put before a firing squad. Finally, Galen placed a bomb by the ape guards and all escaped, leaving Urko and his apes to be booed off.[2] Mike Caulfield, with his imposing physique, often took on the role of Urko, but there was quite a bit of character rotation amongst the actors on the arena shows. Caulfield also acquired the costumes - consisting of green army denims, a black leather jerkin and jack-boots - which were then modified to a very authentic standard by his wife June. The pull-over rubber masks (possibly from a Fox-licensed Hollywood company such as Don Post Studios) were very tight-fitting and covered the entire head and neck, and black stage make-up was applied under the eye socket to blend the flesh with the mask. The guns were Lee Enfield .303 rifles converted to fire blanks.[3][1] Right from the start these live shows attracted considerable interest.

  • Note: If anyone knows any of those involved with the UK Live Shows, or can add any memories of the shows themselves, please leave a message via the 'Talk' tab at the top of the page.

Live Dates

A partial list of the Apes live appearances:


Advertisement for the live shows, printed in the Marvel UK 'Planet of the Apes' comic
Poster for one of the UK live shows
Poster for one of the UK live shows (reprinted from 'Simian Scrolls' fanzine, Issue 4)

Photo-op from a store appearance - possibly in "Selfridges on Oxford Street, certainly somewhere in London", autographed by Orak(?), Galen & Zako. (Photo courtesy of Mark Redding)

The Shah family "with Galen, Zako and Urko" at Selfridges in London, Winter 1975. (Photo courtesy of Nainesh Shah)

Handbill for one of the UK live shows (courtesy of Neil Foster)
Poster for one of the UK live shows (courtesy of Matt Thompson)

The Thompson family with Urko at Debenhams in Southampton. (courtesy of Matt Thompson)

Matt Thompson with Urko at Debenhams in Southampton. (courtesy of Matt Thompson)

  • July 26, 27: The South of England Show Ground, Ardingly, Sussex (part of a touring rodeo stunt show advertised in the UK Planet of the Apes comic, presumably involving the same performers as the later shows)

  • August 2, 3: The Royal Show Ground, Stoneleigh, Kenilworth, Warwickshire (part of a touring rodeo stunt show advertised in the UK Planet of the Apes comic, presumably involving the same performers as the later shows)

  • August 23, 24, 25: The Kent County Show Ground, Detling, Maidstone, Kent (part of a touring rodeo stunt show advertised in the UK Planet of the Apes comic, presumably involving the same performers as the later shows)

  • August 30, 31: The Staffordshire County Show Ground, Stafford (part of a touring rodeo stunt show advertised in the UK Planet of the Apes comic, presumably involving the same performers as the later shows)

  • September 13, 14: The Lincolnshire Show Ground, Lincoln (part of a touring rodeo stunt show advertised in the UK Planet of the Apes comic, presumably involving the same performers as the later shows)

  • November 24, 25, 26: Wollaston Recreation Ground, Stourbridge ('live show' as part of the Circus Hoffman, "featuring Galen, Dr Zaius, Urko and his Gorillas"; Andrew Shakespeare - club member 478 and 'ace reporter of the month' - wrote a review of this show which was printed in the May 1976 newsletter: "Inside the tent there was a Planet of the Apes stall where I bought a colour picture of Dr. Zaius and one of Urko, a black and white one of Galen and a Dr. Zaius badge. There was an interval during the performance and in it one could have their photograph taken with Galen. After the interval the Apes came into the ring, then the astronauts, then Dr. Zaius and Urko. When the audience saw the gorillas and their leader they started booing, then gave a cheer as the renegade ape, Galen , hopped into the ring. The gorillas caught the astronauts and put them in a cage then started chasing Galen, firing their guns at him. Galen climbed on one of the poles and then, when he came down again, was chased through the audience. A gorilla rushed up to where I was sitting and fired his rifle. It gave out a terrific 'BANG'. Galen escaped the gorillas and jumped back into the ring, where he knocked down Dr Zaius. Quickly he released the astronauts as Urko rode up. An astronaut pulled him off his horse and they started fighting. Soon Urko was lying flat on the ground and Galen rode off with the astronauts leaving Dr Zaius, Urko and the gorillas either tired or knocked out. At the end of the performance the Apes gave their autographs. I have got Galen's five times, Urko's four times, Zaius' once and another gorilla's (Virgil) three times. I had a lovely time and it was very enjoyable.")

  • November 27, 28, 29, 30: The Racecourse, Wolverhampton ('live show' as part of the Circus Hoffman, "featuring Galen, Dr Zaius, Urko and his Gorillas")

  • (Around 1975 or 1976): Peckham Rye or Clapham Common, South London ('live show' as part of the Circus Hoffman, remembered by fan Martin Gainsford: "In the comic and from the fanzine/photocopy type club publication I saw adverts for a live show. It all seemed to be ‘Up North’ to a young kid in South London but I did see a local news ad in the South London Press paper advertising it as being part of Hoffman’s Circus. I pleaded with my dad to take me and we went to see it on as I recall Peckham Rye or Clapham Common (can’t be sure). I mostly remember my dad moaning about being stuck in traffic to get us there. The Circus was a bit boring to me if I am honest but when the Apes appeared I was almost jumping out of my seat. It was a sort of basic escape and capture and chase sort of scenario with very athletic and agile guys doing horse stunts and a bit of acrobatics too. I imagine they must have been circus performers or stunt men. The suits and masks looked pretty authentic too and I remember knowing it was all ‘official’, and that even then meant a lot to me. I was buzzing when I left and thought that life could get no better.")

  • November or December: Selfridges, London ('personal appearance', possibly featuring Galen and Urko, attended by Apes fan 'Vanessa' who wrote a series of love-letters addressed to Galen and sent to the newsletter offices. Also in attendance was Apes nut Martin Gainsford, who remembers: "I went to the London store Selfridges to see their Christmas grotto which included sets, props and models from the Gerry Anderson show Space: 1999 which I was, and still am a big fan of. The line was pretty long but as I neared the entrance to the exhibit my eyes almost fell out of their sockets as just ahead of me was a huge orange background and in front of it were two guys dressed as gorillas and a guy as, I guess, Galen. I was looking forward to the Space: 1999 thing but actually rushed through it to see the Apes as we left. When it came to it my Mum offered to let me have a photograph done but although looking back I wished I had, I actually declined because up close they were a bit too frightening. I felt a bit of a sissy too considering how much I loved the whole concept but still felt happier at a little bit of a distance." A publicity photo dated 'January 12 1975' shows hairdresser Paul Kelly attending to a fully-costumed Galen who sits in a barber's chair, "one of the attractions in the children’s department of an Oxford Street store in the lead up to Christmas."[4])

  • December 22 - January 17 1976: Christmas Circus, City Hall, Newcastle ('live show' as part of the Circus Hoffman, "featuring Galen, Dr Zaius, Urko and his Gorillas"; Ian Grey worked at the Newcastle City Hall at the time as a casual showman and saw the show several times: "We had a resident Circus, starring Planet of the Apes, at the City Hall. I had no particular involvement other than turning the house-lights on and off for a few of the shows. I landed an unexpected job at the Theatre Royal in late December 1975 so I wasn't in the City Hall all that much. There were perhaps half a dozen [Apes] and they basically ran round the auditorium miming to a show tape that we put on and played through the house PA (reel to reel 1/4 inch tape, no less). From memory they were on late in the second half for about ten minutes before the Circus Finale. I don't recall a synopsis, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one. I remember the masks and costumes were very authentic. For one show, the Apes went on strike and refused to appear. The first I knew of it was the Ringmaster announcing that due to circumstances beyond their control, Planet of the Apes were unable to appear. Curious, I went backstage and found them sitting in the under-stage band room, in costume, looking miserable. They said that they hadn't been paid, they had been promised and let down too many times and they were fed up. It must have got sorted out pretty quickly as they did the next show, or possibly it was a Saturday and they did the evening one. One key thing that happened though, was that the manager's son (who was the City Hall lighting man) eloped with the high wire act - resulting in my promotion to House Electrician!" In fact, the circus didn't have a very successful season at Newcastle, and the cash-flow problems that caused the strike also led to the circus closing earlier than planned.[3])

  • December 23 - January 4 1976: Christmas Circus, Bingley Hall, Birmingham ('live show' as part of the Circus Hoffman, "featuring Galen, Dr Zaius, Urko and his Gorillas"; This show, as advertised by poster, was concurrent with the circus at Newcastle, suggesting that there may have been a second troupe, or that one venue was cancelled.)


Autographed photo of 'Urko' as he appeared in the UK live shows, posed by Mike McCarthy and autographed by Urko, Plato & Galen. These photos were given out at the arena show. (Photo courtesy of fan club member 1127, Mark Talbot Butler)

  • (Before May 1976): The Ape characters featured on ITV’s kids’ quiz show Runaround (by that point there had been three short series of Runaround broadcast - September to October 1975, January to February 1976, and March to May 1976)

  • (Before May 1976): Oxford (probably a 'personal appearance')

  • (Before May 1976): Debenhams, Southampton (where they "were very well received" in the store - presumably a 'personal appearance')

  • April: Battersea Easter Parade ("ten gorilla soldiers were there, along with Galen, Urko and Zaius, and three human slaves. They even got on the ITN news.")

  • (Around Easter 1976?) Stratford ('personal appearance', Mike Caulfield turned up on a white horse dressed as Urko for a community event on land outside the Theatre Royal[1])

'Autographed' card issued by the UK Apes Fan Club (picture courtesy of Neil Foster)

  • (Before September 1976) Rochdale ('personal appearance', where "they were mobbed by 3,500 fans when they appeared at a supermarket")

  • (Summer 1976?): Rochdale (Spotlands) Football Club Ground ('live show', as recalled by Apes fan Neil Foster: "We got a full show with actors, stunt people and horses. One of the great thrills for this young (at the time) Apes-mad kid... They did a whole rodeo-type thing with gorillas on horses chasing the humans, catching the humans who then escaped, and were chased again, etc." Fan Mark Haydon adds "I remember a full colour poster with Urko on the cover... A show where the humans were being chased around the football ground, sometimes on horseback, there were also a few scrap cars and stunt cars at one stage. The acting wasn't brilliant because they had mics on, and the script was a little basic, but they did interact with the crowd. I think it was a stunts show more than an acting performance".)

  • May 23: West Midlands Safari Park

Metro '76 advert from the Lancashire Evening Post

  • May 30, 31: Moor Park, Preston (billed as 'tour', "80,000 people watched the arena show" in Preston as part of Metro '76 - “one of the largest gatherings of attractions ever held in the UK” over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, culminating with a re-enactment of the English Civil War-era Battle of Preston. The Lancashire Evening Post predicted, "The original cast from Planet of the Apes will stage a full show on the park with soundtrack – but only the gorillas will be allowed to ride the horses!"[5] Entrance fees for the event were 80p for adults and 40p for juveniles, starting at 11am and running until dusk. One attendee adds, "I can't really remember much of the detail as I was very young. I do remember a lot of running about and the apes on horses. I remember being very impressed with it at the time".)

  • May 31: Bishops Stortford, Essex (billed as 'tour')

  • June 5: Codicote Village Fayre

  • June 12: Engayne School, Upminster, Essex (billed as 'tour', "Engayne School raised about £650 at their summer fair, with a little help from Galen and Urko.")

  • June 12: Chesham Fayre (billed as 'tour')

Gorilla soldier in Preston (Photo courtesy of Stephen Geraghty)

  • June 12, 13: Roundhay Park, Leeds (billed as 'tour', "55,000 people" watched the Ape performers, who included Mike McCarthy.[1])

  • June 17: Camden Passage Festival, London ('6pm - midnight')

  • June 20: West Midlands Safari Park (possibly - they were hoping to return on this date)

  • June 26: Hereford United Football Club (billed as 'tour')

  • June 26: Banbury Town Carnival (billed as 'tour')

  • July 3: Carlisle

  • (Before September 1976): Southend ('personal appearance', "Gorilla warrior Orak went on the annual taxi drivers outing for handicapped and deprived children.")

The Fan Club quiz in Marvel's UK Planet of the Apes comic, an example of the co-operation between the two publications
  • (Before September 1976): Doncaster Racetrack ('arena show', featuring Mike McCarthy[1]. Fan Club member 418, John Sellars, sent the newsletter a report and cutting about this show. The Evening Post estimated that 23,000 people attended the 'Metro 76' show staged by a Leeds group over the weekend at Doncaster Racecourse. The same programme of events was repeated on both days, featuring a James Bond 'autogyro' flying machine, boxer Henry Cooper and "Zoltan - the man with 'Bionic Eyes'", alongside the Planet of the Apes characters on horseback chasing humans, making occasional frightening lunges into the crowd and signing autographs.[6])

  • (Before September 1976): High Wycombe ('arena show', the May 1976 newsletter publicised a Mastermind Questionaire, to be published in Marvel Comic's Planet of the Apes Magazine towards the end of May. The first prize was a day out with the Apes at one of their summer venues. This was won by Nigel Botham, who collected his "day out with the Apes and sundries" at High Wycombe and was to write a report on it for a future newsletter.)

  • (Before September 1976): Glasgow ('arena show', "the best reception came from Scotland, where they have never seen the Apes before")

  • (Before September 1976): Edinburgh Showground ('arena show', "Our Fight Director, Mike McCarthy was playing the part of gorilla Zako at Edinburgh, and before the end of the first show landed a broken nose. One of the Astros forgot to pull his punch and hit Mike right on the conk". In the November 1976 'Birthday Issue' newsletter McCarthy wrote "the incident was one that can easily happen, but shouldn't, in a carefully arranged stage fight...It was a combination of factors; firstly, the hectic timetable of the 'Apes Tour' was such that the opportunities for rehearsing the fights were few. Secondly, we had been travelling through the night from London to Edinburgh and tiredness had begun to set in, resulting in a lack of concentration. Thirdly, the most important reason, complacency. We had all done the fights so many times that we became 'robot-like', going through the sequences without thinking about what we were doing. All these factors culminated in a misjudgement of about two inches, which was all that was necessary to do the damage. It should never have happened and I'll make sure it doesn't again, if only for my nose's sake.")

Photo of a Gorilla Warrior from the UK live shows, posed by Mike McCarthy and autographed by Orak, Plato & Galen. These photos were given out at the arena show. (Photo courtesy of fan club member 1127, Mark Talbot Butler)

  • (Before September 1976): Cleethorpes ('arena show')

  • (Before September 1976): Wrexham ('arena show', indoors at a sports centre, featuring Mike McCarthy[1])

  • (Before September 1976): Brockenhurst, New Forest ('arena show', "Now that was some show.... At the point when Galen uses a bomb to blow up the gorillas, there was nearly chaos. The bomb usually leaves a scorch mark about 12" diameter. However the grass was so dry that with an almighty 'Whoooosh!' the scorch mark became a 15-foot circle of flame. As Galen reached the astronauts to untie them, he looked round and saw Urko and his gorillas trying to stamp out the fire. At least it gave him the chance to escape...")

The September 1976 newsletter stated "the Ape's season will be over until Christmas, so there is little chance of seeing them again this year, but you never know"; it also said "the Apes are bound to be active around the Christmas period either on stage or with a photographic concession in a large department store. I suggest that you watch this space for details. Bookings are already coming in for the August Bank holiday 1977, with four apes attending a fair at the Newbury Park Synagogue near Ilford, Essex, on August 29th. Don't worry, we will keep you informed as best we can as to the movements of these hairy heroes." The November issue further said "the British Apes [are] currently taking a well earned rest", and it seems the arena shows were not staged on this scale again beyond the late summer of 1976, although Apes 'live shows' and 'public appearances' continued well into 1978.[2])

Stage Show

See Also: Planet of the Apes UK Stage Show

While the arena shows were at their height, Television Character Promotions ambitiously decided to add another string to their bow, as the May 1976 newsletter proudly announced the forthcoming Planet of the Apes stage play: "At last, the highly successful "Planet of the Apes" comes to the stage. Action, Drama and Excitement. Fun for all the family. 19th July for five weeks. Book now." This original Planet of the Apes theatre script was penned by Fight Director Mike McCarthy, mixing elements of Pierre Boulle's novel, the films, the TV series and an earlier script idea by producer Mike Caulfield. In 2010, Mike McCarthy supplied copies of both the theatre script and a synopsis of the arena show to the Hasslein Books website, where the originals are reproduced along with text transcripts.

Title page from the Planet of the Apes theatrical script (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

The story centered around two astronauts (named in the script as 'Taylor' and 'Brent', they were modelled more closely on Virdon and Burke; in fact each production gave the characters new names) as they take off, move through a time barrier while taking atmospheric readings, and crash-land on 21st March 3085. Taylor and an injured Brent attempt to repair their ship and escape but then they are befriended by a semi-mute human 'slave girl' (so-named in the script; initial newspaper and newsletter reviews named her 'Pila', script notes called her 'Pellah'; McCarthy himself refers to her as 'Pela'). She runs off as gorilla guards Zako and Orak (or 'Orack') approach to take the intruders to their "great warrior leader Urko" in the city. Urko and Dr Zaius - an elder statesman who is leader of the Council - agree to study the astronauts before executing them, holding them in a cage. In Zaius' office, his assistant Galen finds a book with a picture of the two astronauts setting out from Earth in 1985. Zaius catches him and takes the book. Later, Galen goes to the astronauts and informs them that they are on the planet Earth - London, England to be exact - and that the girl they saw was one of a few surviving humans from a small tribe in the Forbidden Zone where they landed. Galen helps them escape but fires a gun, wounding a gorilla in the arm, and is caught by Urko. Galen is put on trial charged with being a traitor to the planet of the apes, under threat of the firing squad. In the Forbidden Zone, the astronauts again meet the slave girl, just as they decide to return to the city to help Galen. Two gorilla scouts appear, and the astronauts with the help of the girl fight and overpower them. (At this point in one script revision, the girl suddenly speaks fluently, revealing she had to be sure she could trust them first.) Back in the city, the astronauts and the girl knock out another gorilla in order to free Galen. Urko enters, leading to a fight between Urko, the astronauts and two gorilla guards. Galen and the girl set off a bomb. Urko challenges Galen to a fight, which Galen wins. They all run back to the Forbidden Zone, and to the ship, pursued by the apes. They persuade Galen to go with them, but the girl refuses to leave and bids a sad farewell to Taylor. They take off, leaving Urko shaking his fist to the sky.

Poster from the Stratford production (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

Because the masks made their voices sound muffled, the voices of the ape characters, along with dramatic soundtrack music, were all pre-recorded by Robin Maddison at Molinar Sound Studios in London ("the old Studio B, at the Broadwick St, London W1", as Robin himself recalls). The actors playing the apes then mimed, while those playing the humans had to speak 'live' between the excerpts, requiring a tightly-rehearsed routine amongst the eight actors. The play also included elements of pantomime; when Urko fought Galen, children were invited to cheer and yell their support for Galen. The characters would then venture into the auditorium, the fugitives running through the audience followed by the apes. An optional ending would have the audience boo the gorillas off stage.

Two theatre shows - at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, East London and the Windmill Theatre in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk - were produced at the same time in the Summer of 1976. The July/September ’76 newsletter printed a glowing review of the two parallel productions of the show: "So at last it happened. The long-awaited stage production of the Planet Of The Apes. The World Premier was on July 19th at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, London E15. It played there until 20th August and was a sell-out. I saw this production six times and each time it was funnier than the last. The show was a mixture of drama and pantomime with lots of audience participation. The whole TV cast was there, Galen, heroic as usual doing his best to rescue the astronauts, Brad (John Haden) and Jeff (Geoff Freshwater) and getting caught himself. Urko was as mean, sly and double dealing as ever, bullying Dr. Zaius and beating his own warriors. The two gorilla guards (Steve Oxley and John Munday) were absolutely hilarious. Living examples of the expression, "Big dumb apes". The glamour is provided by the beautiful slave girl Pila, (Petrina Derrington) who captures Astro Brad's heart which leads to a tear-jerking farewell at the end of the show... This is a very good show and the fights were very realistic."

Cast-members of the Stratford production take part in a publicity shoot (courtesy of Neil Foster)

Picture with a stage show gorilla. (Photo courtesy of Lance Alexander, "the small one, unimpressed at the time.")

Cast-members Nigel Jones (as Urko?), John Mundy and Geoff Freshwater were seen in costume on the London Underground in a publicity shoot for the Stratford show. Matinees were at 2pm and tickets were 50p and £1.00. Fan Martin Gainsford was one of the children lucky enough to witness the Apes live show: "My older cousin appeared one Saturday and flashed a grin 'Ready Martin?' 'For what?', I asked. 'The Planet Of The Apes stage play' he replied. My head was spinning as a week or so earlier I had seen a photograph in the paper of some gorillas on a tube train with a small article about a play that was being staged. It was in a part of London I had never even heard of. After what seemed an eternity of buses and tube trains we ended up in East London and at a theatre packed with kids like me. The whole thing was a little bit hokey even for me as a kid and quite like a pantomime with audience interaction and loads of shouting from the kids and stuff but it was still an amazing experience and one I will cherish forever." Similarly, the show made a lasting impression on Lance Alexander: "I went to see the show in about 1976, I was living in Thurrock, Essex at the time. Really not sure which theatre I went to but I do remember the Ape soldier jumping off the stage and running up the gangway waving his rifle around. He then decided to pick on me, as I was on the end row, and started asking if I was hiding the humans? He tried to look under my seat and was going back to get his net.....for me! Needless to say at the age of 5 I was slightly concerned! ...After the show the guard that 'attacked me' felt so bad for making my bottom lip wobble he had his photo taken with us." "I also remember the bit when the space craft crashed at the start of the play - smoke, flashing lights and the astronauts in upright cylinders... I have always enjoyed thinking back to those days and it was one of the reasons that part of my work now is designing Ape and Chimp themed art pieces."

Newspaper review of the Great Yarmouth production (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

Picture with a stage show gorilla. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Pamieta, "This is me taken at the live summer show in Great Yarmouth which ran for 8 weeks in 1976.")

The second company, playing the Windmill Theatre in Great Yarmouth, opened a week later than the Stratford production and ran until August 29th. There would be twice-daily performances - except Saturdays - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Tickets, according to Andrea Pamieta's photo, cost 65p for children and 95p for adults. Theatre producer Bill Kenwright co-produced the Great Yarmouth show - "for David Gordon Productions in association with Mike A. Caulfield for T.V. Character Promotions", according to a program given out at the Great Yarmouth show which cleverly doubled as a cardboard Ape mask. Tom McCabe was listed as director, but during rehearsals Mike McCarthy replaced him, requiring McCarthy to travel between London and Great Yarmouth to direct and oversee the two productions. Bill Kenwright suggested Angela Daniels, from the ITV show Sale of the Century, for the role the 'slave girl', while Mike Caulfield asked Rory Lister to play 'Astro Danny' (Lister had already appeared in several Apes live arena shows beginning with the Christmas show in Newcastle). The rest of the cast were Mike Dalton ('Astro Mike'); Fortunato Evangelista (Galen); David Downs (gorilla guard 'Orack'); Melvyn Bedford (gorilla guard 'Zako'); Mike Ayris (Urko); and Andrew Lord (Dr. Zaius). Peter Caulfield's July/September newsletter review continued: "Great Yarmouth also had the show but with a different cast. Here the Astros were played by Rory Lister and Mike Dalton. The part of Pila was taken by Angela Daniels (of 'Sale of the Century' fame). The fights were, I felt, not up to the standard of the Stratford show, with the exception of the duel between Galen and Urko. In that, the stunting was fantastic. Hopefully the stage production will go on tour, so keep your eyes open for more news." The same newsletter offered a competition prize of "a colour picture of Urko autographed by the Apes currently touring the UK. They are: Galen, Urko, Dr. Zaius, Zako, Orack, Plato, Nero, and Virgil. Also we will get the Astros to sign it"..."the astronauts are fully rehearsed 'stand-ins' for Virdon and Burke" (the two competition prize-winners were Nigel Lancashire of Rochdale and Robin Tucker of London).

Combination Program & Ape Mask from the Great Yarmouth production (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

In the November 1976 ‘Birthday Issue’ newsletter, ‘Big’ Mike Caulfield wrote "that's another of [Mike McCarthy’s] talents; play-write. He wrote the 1 1/2, hr stage play that was so successful this summer; Well done Mike. The show might go to the Kilburn Empire, London, at Christmas, and maybe to Ireland. Irish fans watch out". ‘Big’ Mike’s brother Peter, in the same issue, summed-up a very successful 1976: "Do you realize that the club is now one year old? What a year it has been as well. The Apes have appeared at a total of 38 venues, of which twenty three were straight-forward personal appearances. At the other fifteen venues they performed their arena show no less than 31 times. Also there were the two summer seasons, one at Stratford for five weeks and one at Great Yarmouth for eight weeks. At each theatre they did two shows a day for six days a week. That makes a staggering one hundred and fifty six performances all together. Now the Apes are on holiday - but just where does an ape go to get away from it all??"

Despite their optimism at the end of 1976, it was clear that operations were winding down: Mike McCarthy had moved on to other projects, while Peter and Jan Caulfield were celebrating the birth of their daughter Emma Susan over the Christmas break. The company moved from their Piccadilly office to more modest accommodation in Ilford. The January 1977 newsletter carried only news of a few 'personal appearances' that had been made at supermarkets - "To date they have appeared at eight Tesco Superstores as part of the Tesco 'International Fortnight'" - including:

UK Fan Club newsletters (courtesy of Matt Thompson)
  • (Before January 1977): Tesco's Rochdale

  • (Before January 1977): Tesco's Smethwick

  • (Before January 1977): Tesco's Bolton

  • (Before January 1977): Tesco's Kingston

  • (Before January 1977): Tesco's Horwich

They also offered another handful of appearances, all part of the deal with the Tesco chain, promising "Galen and Urko will be at these appearances":

Fan Club message in Marvel's UK Planet of the Apes comic


  • February 11: Tesco's Maidstone

  • February 18: Tesco's Reading, Berks.

  • February 24: Tesco's Stevenage, Herts.

  • February 25: Tesco's Brighton

Report of the Trial of the Apes (courtesy of Jeff Brownhut)
  • (Before March 1977 ): Tesco's Irlam, near Manchester ("Urko and Galen went")

  • (Before March 1977): Tesco's Yate, near Bristol ("Urko and Galen went"; a print of a scene from Battle for the Planet of the Apes was signed by Galen when he visited the Tesco Superstore at Yate, and offered as a competition prize in the March newsletter.)

  • (May 7): Glasgow (Leeds promotion men Jeff Brownhut and Michael Burrow (a.k.a. wrestler 'Mick de Main') were arrested at Blazes Restaurant in Glasgow, dressed in Planet of the Apes costumes and brandishing rifles. They were in Scotland promoting the charity festival 'Clyde 77', but passengers in a taxi outside believed a hold-up was taking place, and the taxi-driver radioed the police. A frightened Mrs June Mathieson testified: "My husband dragged me to the floor and I got my good dress all dirty", while the taxi driver added that she was so hysterical "she started smoking her husband's cigar." Police arrived at the restaurant to find the two apes dancing and chatting with guests at a 21st birthday party. At Glasgow Sheriff Court the following year, they were found not guilty of all charges - wearing masks and ammunition belts, carrying rifles without a certificate, 'alarming the lieges' and breach of the peace - with the presiding Sheriff calling it "a misconceived prosecution."[7])

  • (August 29): Newbury Park Synagogue, Ilford (the engagement previously mentioned in the July/September 1976 newsletter)

TVC promotional letter (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

An undated letter was circulated by Television Character Promotions from their Ilford headquarters highlighting their two successful 1976 theatrical runs of six weeks each, with "two acts of four scenes" featuring "excellent sound effects, background music, fight and chase sequences, explosions and gunshots, comedy and audience participation" lasting 90 minutes with provision for extension, and advertising the company's availability for Easter and Summer dates. By March 1977 the newsletter didn't promise any further dates but said of the Tesco’s appearances: "As always they were well received and proved to be the best attraction the stores had had, the stores did their own intensive local advertising, so if you lived in the areas concerned you probably knew about it. Rumour has it that Swansea and Inverness maybe coming shortly. That’s all for now." The Fan Club then moved again, to a private address just outside Braintree, whilst the promotional operation moved north, as Peter Caulfield explained: "'Big' Mike is moving the 'Planet Of The Apes' offices up to Leeds, where he has just bought a new house. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to move there as well, so I shall continue to operate the club from my own office. No more correspondence whatsoever should be sent to the office in Ilford. OK?" Marvel had already stopped publicising the Fan Club by the time the Apes were dropped from its Mighty World of Marvel comic in June 1977.


  • (About 1977 or 1978?): Plymouth Hoe ('live show', filmed by Plymouth local Derek Tait who recalls: "I remember seeing the ad for the show in our local paper, the 'Evening Herald'. The Apes had been due to appear at Wadebridge in Cornwall but this show was cancelled for some reason, maybe the weather. The show on Plymouth Hoe featured jousting in the first half and then the Apes came on for the second part of the show. There was a long break between the jousters finishing in the show and the Apes coming on. At the time, I thought that the jousters were probably the same people playing the Apes! They used the old Hoe Theatre, now gone, to put on their costumes and masks. I only remember three Apes at the show, Galen, Urko and another gorilla, but looking at the film again there appears to be 4-5 Apes at the event. I think that maybe there had been horses involved in the show and the Apes got off them before I started filming. There were certainly horses in the jousting event that took place before. I filmed as much as I could and then, as the Apes were going back to the Hoe Theatre to change, I caught up with them and they posed for some photos. They were great pictures, Urko held his rifle in the air, but unfortunately, they were lost or thrown away many years ago. Wish I still had them". Although Derek is unsure of when the show took place, he believes that there was also a celebrity from the TV show, 'Crossroads' there - Carolyn Jones, who played Sharon Metcalfe in the show from December 1977.)

  • (June 10, 11): Victoria Park, Warrington (as part of 'Metro '78', sponsored by Piccadilly Radio and Jeff Brownhut Promotions, which featured "top entertainers, star personalities, air displays, arena attractions, bands, hot air balloons, stunt teams, sports activities, and a fair ground", as well as "large scale exhibitions and displays". The Planet of the Apes characters were among the stars: "Galen, Urko, the astronauts and the gorillas will be appearing live at the show, and will also act out one of the shows with live action and an original sound track."[8])

  • (Sometime in 1978): Lincolnshire (according to a newspaper photo[9])

  • (About August 1978): Portsmouth (according to a Portsmouth News photo dated Saturday August 5 1978[9])

Poster from the Cleethorpes production (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)

Although it seems that the plans for a Christmas run at the Kilburn Empire or a tour of Ireland never came to fruition, Mike McCarthy was invited back to direct the revived stage show for a two week run during the summer season at the Pier Pavilion Theatre in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire in 1978. The show ran from 24th July to 5th August with performances Monday-Saturday 11am and 2.30pm, and tickets were 80p, 70p per adult and 70p, 60p per child. Although the cast is unknown at present, a newspaper article and photo survives, listing astronauts Bob and Geoff (Jeff?), Pela, Galen, Urko, Doctor Zaius and gorilla guards Zako and Orak. The article maintained that this was "the first time that the Planet of the Apes show has been enacted on stage", with Mike McCarthy adding "The Planet of the Apes events went down really well in Cleethorpes in the last two years, so it was a natural progression that we should come here to stage our first ever show. We are hoping to tour the country with it." In a reminder of earlier events, some fighting had to be cut from the final scene of the performance witnessed by the news reporter when a gorilla was rushed to hospital with a suspected broken nose. Actor Robert Angell was apparently among the performers at Cleethorpes.[10] Television Character Promotions seems to have disappeared off the radar after August 1978, taking the UK’s only official Planet of the Apes Fan Club with it.

Newspaper review of the Cleethorpes production (provided to Hasslein Books by Mike McCarthy)


  • A badge from the time mentions the troupe appearing as part of the 'Western Rodeos Wild West Show'. A 'Western Rodeos' appearance at Vicarage Farm, Sittingbourne, Kent, in the 1970s featured cowboys, stage coach chases and Urko with his gorillas. A programme from this show included a photo signed by both 'Dr. Zaius' and 'Galen'.
  • News-reel footage (presumably from the ITN report, or perhaps Runaround), and more 'Super 8' footage of the arena show is said to exist but has yet to emerge publicly.
  • There were also performers appearing as characters from Planet of the Apes in the United States during the same period; the Mego Corporation used Apes actors to promote their Planet of the Apes products in toy stores from August 1974, and were also responsible for an Apes float that featured in that year's Macy's Parade.[11]
'Apemania' inadvertently recreate the newspaper clipping above while publicising the Planet of the Apes Blu-Ray release, November 2008 (photo by Tim Anderson)
  • Twentieth Century Fox apparently lent costumes and licences to several American circuses in 1976. A Shrine Circus in New Orleans featured a live appearance by Planet of the Apes characters that year; an eyewitness recalls: "The costumes appeared to be real, but they were obviously being worn by the circus's regular clown performers. The 'show' was short, incongruous, and very disappointing." The Apes also featured as part of the Hanneford Circus in Kentucky in June '76.[2]

'Official International Planet of the Apes Fan Club' poster

  • There may have also been an Apes 'Mall Show' in Australia at around the same time, where actors did their bit on a stage inside shopping malls, but this hasn't been confirmed.
  • Today, the Apemania troupe in the United States continue the tradition of live Planet of the Apes appearances.
  • An 'International Planet of the Apes Fanclub' was established in 1991 in Canada. It is unofficial in nature and functions as the organisation behind the Ape Chronicles fanzine. There was an attempt to create an 'Official International Planet of the Apes Fan Club' around 2004 for the purposes of getting an official license to publish comics including Beware The Beast and Going Home, but this was unsuccessful.

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Apes Live with Mike McCarthy, by Rich Handley, John Roche, Neil Moxham & Dave Ballard - 'Simian Scrolls' #18 (2015)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Flashback: The U.K. Stage and Arena Shows From the 1970s
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Time Traveller's Life, by Rory Lister - 'Simian Scrolls' #17 (2012)
  4. Flashback 1975!: Galen Has A Haircut - 'Simian Scrolls' #19 (2017)
  5. "That amazing day in Moor Park when 80,000 people saw the apes running wild" - Lancashire Evening Post (21 March 2012)
  6. "Something for all at Metro 76" - Evening Post newspaper, courtesy of Jeff Brownhut
  7. Secret of the Great Ape Jape, by Jeff Brownhut - 'Simian Scrolls' #17 (2012) / Daily Record newspaper, courtesy of Jeff Brownhut
  8. "It's a Showbiz Extravaganza" - newspaper article, courtesy of Jeff Brownhut
  9. 9.0 9.1 courtesy of Jeff Brownhut
  10. A working life: The actor, by Mark King - 'The Guardian' (5 February 2011)
  11. Superheroes and Celebrities making 70's Mall Appearances