It played in London's West End and then in America, both on tour and on New York's Broadway in the early 1960s.Hugely successful, it is widely regarded as seminal to the “satire boom”, the rise of satirical comedy in 1960s Britain.
One British visitor to the Broadway performance was said to have stood up and shouted 'rotters!
' at a sketch he found distasteful, before apparently sitting down again and enjoying the remainder of the show, while another, at the first performance in Edinburgh allegedly stood up and declared that the 'young bounders don't know the first thing about it! In response to these negative audience reactions, the Beyond the Fringe team insisted that they were not ridiculing the efforts of those involved in the war, but were challenging the subsequent media portrayal of them.
The show was conceived in 1960 by an Oxford graduate, Robert Ponsonby, artistic director for the Edinburgh International Festival, with the idea of bringing together the best of revues by the Cambridge Footlights and The Oxford Revue, which had both transferred to Edinburgh for short runs in previous years.
John Bassett, a graduate of Wadham College, Oxford, who was Ponsonby's assistant, recommended Dudley Moore, his jazz bandmate and a rising cabaret talent.
Moore in turn recommended Alan Bennett, who had had a hit at Edinburgh a few years before.