One of Britain's greatest scriptwriting teams Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran who created most of our best-loved sitcoms including Birds of a Feather are taking to the stage in Eynsham.

Their play Von Ribbentrop’s Watch is being staged by The Bartholomew Players this week and the authors will take part in a Q and A after Friday’s performance.

Laurence, who has moved from Asthall Leigh to Sherborne, and Maurice, from Cheltenham, created the era-defining character Alan B'Stard MP, star of The New Statesman, as well as writing Goodnight Sweetheart starring Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Oxford Mail:

The play is about a moral dilemma Laurence faced when he was unhappily working as a house writer at Paramount Studios in Hollywood in 1985.

He sought solace in shopping and was initially thrilled to discover that a 200 dollar vintage Longines watch he bought was actually worth £50,000.

But Laurence is Jewish and a secret swastika inside proved it once belonged to Hitler’s right-hand man.

Laurence, who has known Maurice since they were 10 and growing up in North London, said: "Its central conundrum should be: 'What does a Jew do when he suddenly discovers that he is wearing a Nazi watch, particularly if he desperately needs the money?'"

He explained how the collaboration came about.

“The Eynsham Players got in touch with us, amazed that we lived so close, and said would you give us permission to put this play on because we are coming back after Covid and we want this to be the first play because it is by a living playwright and more so because the living playwright can come along and see the play.

"We met [director] Gareth Hammond in Huffkins in Burford – it’s a slightly more upmarket Huffkins as they’ve kept table service. We said we don’t want to interfere but we want to see a read-through and a dress rehearsal and you know where we are if you want anything.

"I went one summer’s evening to a garden near Witney where they read it through and I said you’ve done it very well. They had heard it with a magnificent cast when it was done on Radio 4 – Harriet Walter and Miriam Margolyes - so I said the only thing I would say is give it your own personality so I’m looking forward to seeing it. I think it will be well attended."

Laurence and Maurice gave up day jobs in journalism and the civil service and started working together professionally in March 1980.

"Six years prior to that we had been going to a drama group, a writer’s workshop, every Monday night. I went by accident just because it was 5p to get a cup of tea and a biscuit and it was warmer and cheaper than being in our council flat.

"I sat in the audience for months and months. Then the secretary was organizing a competition and I went in and won. I thought, this is easier than journalism because you don’t have to do anything other than sit and imagine.

"Over the next 18 months Maurice and I won every competition separately. Then the secretary said you can both make people laugh why don’t you two try writing together?

"Five years later we got our first TV comedy - so it was a five-year overnight success story. Since then we’ve worked in Pinewood, Hollywood, Bollywood… "

Every Monday Maurice and Laurence wander round Witney in search of somewhere to have lunch and figure out plotlines.

"It’s like Paris for us," said Laurence. "We used to go to the Fleece then we went to the Blue Boar. We went to Huffkins, then we found the Royal Oak and we like that – and Café Rouge near Marks and Spencer. Then we walk through the ever-dying mall into the high street where people are looking depressed and there’s a busker now…

"Witney is our spiritual home and our inspiration. We travel all over the world but nothing comes close to Witney, Witney does it for us."

Birds of a Feather was the duo's first BBC show and a hit.

"And that kind of ruined our lives because everything was about Birds of a Feather," he said. "Writing a series is a long drawn out business and if it’s a hit you keep having to do more -it’s a self-eating shark.

"I love the New Statesman – how many politicians have copied Alan B’Stard, not just in England – I mean, Trump is pure B’Stard.

"I only wish we had done the New Statesman now because you couldn’t make it up. Rik [Mayall], Maurice and I used to think, what’s the worst thing you can imagine happening that B’Stard could gain from. You wouldn’t have to look very far.

Oxford Mail:

"It was so ahead of its time. In 1997 Tony Blair turned to us to write his speeches because he wanted to be B’Stard too. And we were getting a lot of anonymous tip-offs from people inside the House of Commons about things that had happened.

"It was ahead of its time – as was Birds of a Feather as there wasn’t such a thing as Essex girls before then.

Oxford Mail:

"And we created a nymphomaniac – we needed to do a helluva lot of research for that one."

Von Ribbentrop's Watch will be performed at Eynsham Village Hall on Wednesday 24th to Saturday 27th November.

Tickets are available from, in advance from Denise Santilli, 07721 744020,, from Evenlode DIY in Eynsham or on the door