The stage act Hinge and Brackett consisted of two men, Patrick Fyffe and George Logan, who, in that great British theatre tradition of Dame, played women far more senior to themselves. They rarely gave interviews as their true selves keeping in character all the time. Fyffe's inability to see himself capable of advancing from some good school performances to emulate his idol Ivor Novello led to him one night at a party putting on a dress and in drag performing Novello to a great deal of laughter from his peers, and so the embryonic drag act came into being.
He started to take the act to clubs initially as a young glamorous woman, but he always envisioned himself more as a spinster. He tried it out to great success and laughter and the mould for Dame Hilda was set. Fyffe's father, an ex-soldier, was surprisingly calm that he son should take up cross-dressing as a career choice. He actually insisted that if his son was going to do it he was going to set about it correctly, so he gave him tips on how a 1930s woman would really dress and behave and not fit into the stereotype of other drag artistes. With the death of his father, he set up a hairdressing business with his mother while continuing to take his act around the clubs.
Hinge and Brackett
One fateful day in 1972 at the Escort Club in Pimlico, London his original pianist was unable to make the gig and George Logan had taken his place. It wasn't long before Logan stepped out for the act dressed in one of Fyffe's dresses and the act was born. In 1973 they appeared for the British Musical Society in the Horseshoe Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, London. The next year they went down a storm at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe then transferred to the Mayfair Theatre in London for a successful 17 week run.
Their repertoire and back history were that of two Grand Dames of music. Dame Hilda Nemone Brackett was apparently the daughter of an old established Suffolk family. Her father Sir Osbert Brackett had left her the family home in Stackton Tressel which she now shared with her friend and accompanist Dr Evadne Hinge, who came from a somewhat eccentric Scottish family. Dame Hilda had received her honour for services to opera and bringing music to the masses. Dr Evadne's back history included at some time being part of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. It is not surprising therefore that Gilbert and Sullivan featured heavily in their work. They did however appear in a number of pantomimes and other shows in their sartorial best, as well as often touring the provincial theatres with their two woman show.
TV and Radio and the Move Towards the Mainstream
After a number of guest appearances on other shows they started to appear in their own programmes. These were set in the Brackett house at Stackton Tressel and Dear Ladies BBC TV (1983-84), The Enchanting World of Hinge and Brackett, The Random Jottings of Hinge and Brackett BBC Radio 2 (1982-89) and At Home with Hinge and Brackett Radio 2 (1990) also helped to transform the fringe act into the mainstream theatre. They also appeared on the Radio 4 classic Desert Island Discs in 1977, but Dame Hilda was somewhat distracted as apparently she had received a gas bill for several million pounds that morning. Occasionally Dame Hilda would actually take roles by herself in actual performances of the songs and operettas that formed her repertoire. She had appeared at Katisha in The Mikado and as Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance. The two also took on the roles of Lady Bracknell (Dame Hilda) and Miss Prism (Dr Hinge) in Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest which showed they also had comedic acting ability.
They were a great favourite of the Royal Family appearing in two Royal variety performances and also appeared before Royalty on more than 15 other occasions.
Patrick Fyffe had been fighting cancer since Christmas 2001 when Dame Hilda had to cancel a performance in the Pantomime Sleeping Beauty at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstable. His death on the 11 May, 2002, left Dr Evadne Hinge with no one to accompany. He was never married, but is survived by his sister the actress Jane Fyffe.