School Play

An Actor's remembrance:  ‘THE PLAY’S THE THING…Geoff Hodgkins (1955)

                                            Railway club as stage hands   Neil Sinclair (1958/9)

                                            House Plays

"I enjoyed doing school plays.  I brought girls in when we did 'Zigger Zacker' (1970), 'The Murder of Maria Martin' (1971) and 'The Alchemist' (1973)"  Geoffrey Dean, English Master.

This page is being revamped, select underlined play to see photos/programme etc.  New pages highlighted in blue

Date

Title

Author

Producer

1932 Spring

Three Plays: Dust,; X=0,; The Man in the Bowler Hat

Forms IIIA and IIIB ; A. A. Milne ; John Drinkwater

The boys

1941 Summer

Two one act plays; :Crimson Cocoanut and;  Scuttleboom’s Treasure

; Ian Hay; Ronald Gow

Dr A. Jackson,; Mr E. L. Hole

1942 Summer

Two one act plays: ; At the Mermaid’s Tale, ; Queer Street Form Plays

Oscar Turner ; J. D. Kelly

Mr E. L. Hole; ,Dr A. Jackson ;

1943 Autumn

Form Plays

 

Mrs Colsell, Mr Findley, Dr Jackson, Mr Wintersgill, Mr R. Ward,  Mr Bratt

1944 Summer

Form Plays

 

Mr Findley, Dr Jackson, Mr Wintersgill

1944

A Christmas Carol

Dickens ed Jackson

Dr A. Jackson

1945

Oliver Twist

Dickens ed Jackson

Dr A. Jackson

1946

Vice Versa  

F. Anstey  

Dr A. Jackson  

1947

Badger’s Green

R. C. Sherriff

Dr A. Jackson

1948

The Private Secretary

Charles Hawtrey

Mr J. W. Davies

1949

Treasure Island

Stevenson ed Jackson

Dr A. Jackson

1950

Ten Little Niggers  

Agatha Christie

Dr A. Jackson

1951

Arsenic and Old Lace

Joseph Kesselring

Dr A. Jackson

1952

Libel

Agatha Christie

Dr A. Jackson

1953

Morning Departure

K. Woollard

Mr J. W. Davies

1954

Busman’s Honeymoon

Dorothy L. Sayers

Dr A. Jackson

1955

Macbeth

Shakespeare

Mr G. Cooksey

1956

Alibi          

Agatha Christie

Dr A. Jackson

1957

The Party Spirit

Peter Jones, John Jowett

Dr A. Jackson

1958

Twelfth Night

Shakespeare

Mr J. Greenwood

1959

Lifeline

Norman Armstrong

Dr A. Jackson

1960

Bird in Hand

John Drinkwater

Mr E. P. Butcher

1961

The Caine Mutiny

Herman Wouk

Mr S. Brown

1962

The Tempest    

Shakespeare

Mr R. J. Shaw

1963

Arsenic and Old Lace

Joseph Kesselring

Mr C. W. Andrea

1965 March

The Clue of the Stone ;
  Sweeping Reductions 

H. A. Wrenn

Mr D. F. Sturman ; 
Mr D. S. Wilson

1965

Julius Caesar

Shakespeare

Mr D. F. Sturman

1966

Not in the Book

Arthur Watkin

Mr D. S. Wilson

1967

Rope

Patrick Hamilton

Mr D. F. Sturman

1968

Sweeney Todd the Barber

Brian J. Burton

Mr M. K. Wright

1969 Summer

The Long and the Short and The Tall

Willis Hall

Mr D. S. Wilson [Cast of 8 staff]

1969

One Way Pendulum

N. F. Simpson

Mr D. S. Wilson

1970

Zigger Zagger

Peter Terson

Mr M. K. Wright & Mr G. B. Dean

1971

The Murder of Maria Marten

Brian Burton

Mr M. K. Wright & Mr G. B. Dean

1972

The Royal Hunt of the Sun

Peter Shaffer

Mr M. K. Wright & Mr G. B. Dean

1973

The Alchemist

Ben Johnson

Mr M. K. Wright & Mr G. B. Dean

 

 Libel   Alibi   Twelfth Night   The Caine Mutiny    The Tempest     Arsenic and Old Lace    Sweeping Reductions

Autumn 1943-1944   Form Plays

(Note, the date of the photo was not supplied.  But, the cast list and dress  for the Autumn Term 1943 fits.  Cast lists are given below for the form plays listed in the Autumn 1943 and Summer 1944 magazines, both of which  include Marshall Martin.

DRAMATIC SOCIETY.       See casts below     Marshall Martin: back row, extreme right   Photo supplied by his son.

Keith Tompkins: is the third from the right in the second row down. He is wearing a bow tie & period dress, with a curled lock on his right forehead. He is below someone in modern dress who appears to be a master.   M.J.C.Martin

Mike Martin: The figure with a big head plus big ears and apparently in school uniform in the middle of the front row just could be me, but I don't know why it is not dressed as one of Robin Hood's men.

 

DRAMATIC SOCIETY.    Autumn Term Magazine 1943-44

The following plays were presented on December 8th  and December 9th  ; more details will be given in our next issue.

Form IIal.   THE ORGAN GRINDER by Ursula Moray Williams

 

Form IIIa. ROBIN HOOD by Freda Collins (J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd.)

Organ Grinder

Mitchell

 

A Knight

Hunter

Monkev

Kilsby

 

Robin Hood

Hyde (IIIa ii)

Smart Lady

Hefford

 

Little John

T. L. Wright (IIIa ii)

Soldier

Gratton

 

Much

Harris

Sailor

E. Sweatman

 

Friar Tuck

B. Stevens

Old Lady ...

D. W. Luck

 

Peter

M.A.Goodband

Gypsy Girl.

D. E. Richardson

 

Will Scarlett

Lockyer

Chimney Sweep

Knowles

 

Red Archer

C.Brooks

King

B. Cross

 

Jack

Hearn

Queen

J. H. Neville

 

A Woman

Stone

Herald

J. E. Skerritt

 

Robin Hood’s Men

M.J.C.Martin, J.H.Goodband

Two Pages

P. Wilson and D. J. Collins

 

Scene : Sherwood Forest. Producer : Mr. J. T. W. Findley.

Hikers

Ross

 

 

 

Two Elves

Fidler and Boxall

 

 

 

Scene : in a street. Producer : Mrs. E. P. Colsell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Form IIIa 1   THE HAT TRICK by A. E. M. Bayliss (Messrs. Collins & Co.)

 

Form IVa 1. Shivering Shocks By Clemence Dane (Samuel French).

Col. Jukes

J. Hill

 

Capt Dallas V.C., D.S.O

Matthews

Dn. Wells

Eden

 

Kysh (His servant)

Hodgkins

Phyllis

Faulkner

 

Granville Hughes

C. J. Bayliss

Aunt Priscilla

Toms

 

“The Shepherd”

Bean

Revd Dr.Cann

Skella

 

Dawson

B. T. Peck

The Stranger

Leslie

 

Inspector James Pollock (Alias Rowley)

Finding

Mr. Lawton

Markstein

 

Producer Mr.H.H.Wintersgill

Mr. Symes

V. J. Segall

 

 

 

Mr.Wilson

A. Wheatley

 

Form Remove APOLOGY ACCEPTED by A. E. M. Bayliss (Harrap & Co.)

Mr.Todhunter

Lord

 

Mr. Jenner (4th Form Master at Ludford Academy)

Whitney

Hudson

A. Baker

 

Bunce

Groom (IIIa 1)

Bov

Haynes

 

Adams

Holmes

1st  Man

Draper

 

Cox

Sellers

2nd Man

Richards

 

Evans

J.H.Addis

Scene: Cricket Pavillion of St. Swithins School   Dr.Jackson

 

Jones

Reeves

 

 

 

Parker

J.S.Pickerill

 

 

 

Wheeler

K.Mallows

Form Va.  L'IMPOSTEUR (Comedy in One Act) by Simonne S. Manson, B.A.'

 

Beamish

D.G.Wills

Pepa

E. Cross

 

Davies

 

Maman

W. P. Patenall

 

Other Boys

 

Bernard

A. J. Carter

 

Scene : Lower 4th Form Room Ludford Academy, first day of Term.  Producer Mr.R.V.S.Ward

Gustav

J. C. Desborough

 

 

 

Lourise

K. G. Tompkins

 

Form VI.  MRS. ADIS by Sheila Kaye-Smith and John Hampden.

Oncle Charles

M. H. Martin

 

Mrs. Adis

R. Wallis (Vb)

Julie

M. Hight

 

Peter Crouch

D. I. Segall

L'Imposteur

J. S. Rodhouse

 

Vidler

V. M. Bayliss

Le Commissaire

M. W. Richardson

 

Tom Adis

D. A. G. Turner (Va)

Deux Agents de Police

K. W. Collins and G Brown

 

Kemp

Layfield

Scene: Dining-room in the Gilbert's house in France.  Producer Mr. Bratt

 

Hobden

D. W. Robinson

 

 

 

Scene : Mrs. Adis’s Kitchen. Producer : Dr. A. Jackson.

 

 

 

 

 

           

Stage Manager and Electricians :    Mr. S. B. Harris, B. O. Elmore, R. A. Hales.

Make up :                                           Mr. F. G. Thompson.

Wardrobe Mistress :                         Miss N. Bavin.

 

 

 2al and 2a2.    (John Lane Ltd.)

On Board the Golden Horn by L. Parker 

  

3al   (Nelson's)

Wireless and Sich Like  by F. A. Hyde and W. G. Firth.  

Sir Francis Drake  

Newnham

  

Geoffrey Mosscrop  

Faulkner

Doughty  

F. Martin

  

Henry Mosscrop  

J. Hill

Capt. Wynter  

Jefferies

  

Williamson  

Lord

Mr. Caube . . ,  

Knowles

  

Brigby  

Price

Rev. T. Fletcher  

 J. H. Neville

  

Wilkins  

Eden

Capt. Chester  

 P. Wilson

 

Montrey  

Draper

Mr. Vicary ...  

 D. J. Collins

 

Mr. Wentworth  

Linnell

Capt. Thomas  

Gratton

 

Mrs. Wentworth  

Groom

Mr. Charles  

Mitchell

 

Mrs. Hayden  

V. J. Segall

Tom Moone  

Wells

 

Mrs. Shawcroft  

Haynes

Bright  

P. Sweatman

 

Jeremiah Thomas  

Toms

Brewer  

Munnings

 

Mr. Jonathan Broadacres  

Leslie

Cooke  

J. E. Skerritt

 

Scene : A dwelling-house. Producer : Dr. Jackson- 

Gregory  

Levy

 

 

 

Diego  

I. Petcher (2b)

 

VI.      The Thread of Scarlet by J. J. Bell    (Nelson's).

Scene : Drake's Cabin. Producer : Mr. Findlev.  

 

Smith  

M. H. Martin

 

 

 

Migsworth  

V. M. Bayliss

5a and 5b.(    French).

Landlord  

D. W. Robinson

The Police Court by R. Arkell (From 1066 And All That).  

 

Traveller  

D. I. Segall

Christopher Columbus  

K. G. Tompkins

 

Butters  

W. P. Patenall

Judge  

E. Cross

 

Breen  

Layfield

Guy Fawkes  

Desborough

Scene: The Lounge of an Inn. Producer: Dr. Jackson.

First Policeman  

R. Wallis

 

 

 

Second Policeman  

D. A. G. Turner

 

Stage Managers and Electricians

Mr.S.B.Harris, B.O.Elmore, R.A.Hales

Scene : In Court.      Producer Mr. Wintersgill.  

 

Wardrobe Mistress

Miss N. Bavin

 

 

 

Make up  

Mr. F. G. Thompson

 

 

 

Effects  

Mr. T. G. Cook

 

 

 

Recorder Music

Mr. I. J. Nicholas

 

 

‘THE PLAY’S THE THING…’

Geoff Hodgkins (1955)

In answer to Graham’s increasingly desperate pleas for memories of WGS, I suppose the thing that stands out for me was taking part in the annual school plays. These were always done in December, normally during the last week of term but one. The Monday afternoon was a dress rehearsal for the school, and then the play was performed on four evenings, Tuesday to Friday. Tradition has it that the Tuesday had its fair share of mistakes, the Wednesday was the best, as by Thursday we were getting a mite complacent and by Friday we were all knackered. That was certainly true for those of us who didn’t live in Wellingborough and so had to stay at school, and then face a long bus journey home afterwards. (It was actually a good laugh to be in the school for a couple of hours when there was hardly anyone around. I seem to recall that we never did anything too outrageous: legend has it that Bob Leslie once peed into Jakey’s rain gauge, but it was never proved).

The first play I was in was in 1957, my third-form year, a farce called The Party Spirit. I was chosen for one of the women’s parts, for although my voice had recently broken, I could still get away with it. The other “women” – Richard Oberman, Roy York and Martin Spriggs – and myself had to go to Nora to be fitted up with wigs and padded bras. The play was set in the House of Commons at a time when the government had a tiny majority, and a small party, the Free Whigs, had just won a by-election, increasing their strength to two MPs. This gave them clout and they were courted by both the main parties as an important vote was coming up. The new member was a bit of a wide boy, on the make, and elected with more than a hint of rigged ballot papers, etc - a total contrast to the other older man. This ‘new boy’ was played by David Tall (Graham’s brother) and I was his girl, Chloe (nature of relationship unspecified). I can see now that my lines were full of double meanings and other references, but in those far-off innocent days, most of them were lost on me: for instance, I was supposed to be a singer in a nightclub called ‘The Bag O’ Nuts’! I suppose the air of innocence helped in my portrayal of Chloe as an airhead (the school magazine described me as “a vapid blonde”, and I had to look the word up in the dictionary to see what it meant!).

David Tall was superb in the part: he was a total extrovert and completely confident. But acting with him certainly kept you on your toes. One night (one of the earlier ones as I remember) he skipped about a page of dialogue. For someone like me with a photographic memory, that was nightmarish: I had to ‘turn pages’ in my head till I caught up with him. Another night he made an extravagant gesture, and knocked a glass over which was on the bar. It smashed on the stage, and David adlibbed, telling the barmaid to come and clear up the mess. What he had forgotten (if he ever knew) was that Roy York had persuaded Spike to allow him to wear his trousers and plimsoles (you remember plimsoles, the ancestor of trainers?). This was because Act 1 was set in the bar of the Commons and Roy played Mabel the barmaid who stayed behind the bar all the time, which meant that she (he) could only be seen by the audience from the waist up. So the ad-lib went something like this:

David: Oh, how clumsy of me! Mabel, come and clear that up for me, would you?

Roy: Not likely.

David: What you mean, Mabel? It’s a terrible mess.

Roy: Oh, that’ll be OK. Leave it. I’ll clear it up later.

So that was quite a baptism, but really enjoyable. (For those interested, there is a cast photograph at www.nutt.me.uk/wgs1952/misc_pics.htm)

Unfortunately I did not appear in the 1958 play as I missed most of the latter part of the autumn term having a cartilage removed. Sid Brown directed Twelfth Night, and several of the 1955 intake made their debuts then – Bob Scott, Richard Bradshaw, Ian Prior, Brian Westcott, and others. Spike was back again for the 1959 play. This was called Lifeline, a “drama” about a merchant ship during the Battle of the Atlantic. I played Casey, the Irish cook. Brian Westcott (being small) was the cabin boy, and I was supposed to bully him something rotten. I remember that one of my lines referred to him as “a snotty-nosed little bastard”, but Shpike decided it was a little too much for the audience so it was changed (I think the illegitimacy was changed to “devil” as I recall). Much of the drama centred around the animosity between the captain (Bob Scott) and the chief engineer – Scottish, of course: all engineers in plays and films seem to Scottish, don’t they? – played by John ‘Moose’ Bayes.

The play opened with me laying the table for the officers and singing along to an Irish song. The late lamented Albert Fenner (whose family came from Northern Ireland) lent us a 78 (remember those?) of The All-Lammas Fair in Ballycastle. I had to sing along with this, and what with all the rehearsals became heartily sick of it before the end.

The stage crew were of course the ubiquitous Railway Club, led by the redoubtable Ivor Cheale, by now supported by ‘Cloddy’ Barker, who was chiefly responsible for the props. The first act took place in port, and Cloddy tried to add some authenticity by standing behind the scenery dropping chains and such like, and saying naval type things like “Lower away there: easy aft” in his impeccable Oxbridge accent. Sometimes I think our best acting was keeping a straight face at such times. The other two acts took place at sea, when we came under fire, and managed to sink a submarine (could a merchantman do that??). However, Cloddy by this time was carried away and while we were in the middle of the Atlantic during a dramatic argument between the officers and captain, came the familiar bleat of “Lower away there – easy aft”, which as you can imagine was most disconcerting and hugely funny (to us, anyway). More of Cheale and Barker later.

Another memory of Lifeline is of poor Phil Bratby. He played a seaman (unnamed) and had one line to say. He had to come on and report to the captain during the scene when the ship was on fire. The line was – we heard it so many times it is branded for ever on my memory – “Sir, the forward hatch covers have just caught and all the men are aft”, and then he would exit. Phil would walk up and down saying this wretched sentence to himself. The last run-through before the dress rehearsal Phil got so nervous he came on, said it at triple speed and ran off. Spike went ballistic. “No, no, no, Bratby. We never heard a thing. Much too fassht. Come back and sshay it again”.

More authenticity came in the shape of Malcolm Billing’s smoke machine (his family did beekeeping, apparently). This was to accompany the end of the second act, when the ship was on fire. Dear old Billing took to his task with such enthusiasm that the smoke drifted out into the audience, causing Harold to storm backstage at the interval: “What the hell’s going on? We’re all coughing in the first four rows!” You couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?

In 1960 we did a 1920s comedy by John Drinkwater called Bird in Hand. It was set in a country pub, and focused on the change and tension going on in attitudes to social class at the time. The landlord’s daughter (Chris ‘Babyface’ Norman) was loved by the hunky son of the local squire (the dashing Richard Bradshaw), but her father objected as he was out of her class. The guests at the ‘Bird in Hand’ decide to support the young lovers by pleading their case with her father. Why does he disapprove? Is she not “good enough” for him? My daughter is good enough for any man alive, he answers. So what’s the problem? they say. Ultimately he faces his own prejudices and they all live happily ever after. At one point when things come to a head, and the landlord (‘Moose’ again) realises she has gone to her boyfriend, he loses his temper and calls out in a loud voice, “Time, gentlemen, if you please!” This is followed by a long pause; but one night out of the tense silence came two voices we knew and loved:

Eh? Er, that clock must be wrong, George!

Yeth, it theemth fatht to me, Welph”.

The thing was, we never knew this was going to happen: we had not rehearsed it, and again it was an absolute miracle that we managed to keep straight faces. It also totally ruined the dramatic silence. I wonder if the director knew!

Bird in the Hand was directed by Ted Butcher. I liked him: he was a good sort, and I got my love of Shakespeare from him, when we read through The Merchant of Venice in class (the third form, I think it was). The intellectuals among you will recall that the story revolves around Shylock and “the pound of flesh”, but the key sub-plot concerns the choosing of the correct one of three caskets for the hand of the beautiful Portia. One of the suitors was the Prince of Arragon, and Ted asked me to read the part. He said the character was rather affected - I don’t think he would have used the word “effeminate”, but we all knew that a limp wrist or two would not be out of place. He suggested that every “r” should be pronounced as a “w” (a bit like Cloddy, in fact). This worked well until the line “And rank me with the barbarous multitudes”, which caused the extreme embarrassment of the reader, and the total collapse of the rest of the class. (I think Ted hid a smile as well).

Ted Butcher left WGS at that Christmas, after the play, to take up a Head of Department at a school in Nuneaton. On the final night Brian Westcott, who played a miserable old man who saw the down side of everything, changed one of his lines, which went something like: “My brother-in-law is one of the unluckiest blokes you could ever meet. He got knocked down by a car and broke his leg. He got over that, but then he had to go and live in Wolverhampton”. On the Friday Brian changed the name of the town to “Nuneaton”, to huge laughter and acclaim.

I made a bit of WGS history in this play. There was a scene where quite a lot of dialogue centred around the subject of cigarettes, and my character (a young “man-about-town” called Cyril Beverly) had to light up. I talked this over with Ted and he agreed that it would be difficult to play the scene without lighting up. He got permission from Tin Bum (this was the time when Harold had a breakdown of some kind and T.B was acting head) and actually bought me a packet of fags! So I became the first (and last?) to smoke in a WGS school play! It was said at the time that Harold would never have given permission.

In our final year, 1961, Sshpike’s protégé and former pupil, Sid Brown, directed us in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. It was a dramatisation of Herman Wouk’s well-known novel of the Second World War, which was made into a successful film in the 1950s starring Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray, and Jose Ferrer. Military plays were popular in boys’ schools as they did not call for female roles.

The Railway Club broke new ground during this play. The two long acts in the courtroom are followed by a short denouement in a bar somewhere as the acquitted sailors celebrate the verdict. In order to change the scene as quickly as possible, Ivor got the poor little beggars to sit in Room 6 with the lights out wearing dark glasses for about half an hour so they could rush on at the end of Act 2 and change the scenery in the dark!!! I kid you not!

It was a difficult play in many ways, all but the last ten minutes set in a court room, with a minimum of stage movement, except by the two briefs, and the various characters taking the witness stand. Many characters were on stage virtually the whole time (some saying absolutely nothing, like the members of the court martial panel). I played Maryk, the mutineer first mate, who had taken over command of the Caine from Captain Queeg (the inimitable ‘Moose’) during a storm, when the captain panicked. What made it difficult was that, even when you weren’t speaking (which may have been a long time), you still had to act by responding to all that was going on – especially in my case, as my future was on the line. Bob Scott was outstanding as Greenwald, the defence counsel, who has to destroy Queeg on the stand – much against his better judgment – in order to get his client off. Likewise Moose’s disintegration on the stand was brilliant. A great last play of my WGS career.

I never acted in plays again, although the first two schools I taught in in London in the late ‘60s both had amateur operatic societies and we did Gilbert & Sullivan, so that I could combine acting with my other great love, singing (I played the Major-General in The Pirates of Penzance and the Duke in Patience). I moved on from there via suburban choral societies to sing for ten years in the London Philharmonic Choir, under such great conductors as Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Georg Solti and Bernard Haitink. We did proms, recordings, and loads of concerts, mostly at the Festival Hall or the Albert Hall. I suppose these things are special to me because of a sense of achievement; preparing a work and performing it before a large and (hopefully!) appreciative audience; plus the camaraderie and working together in a common purpose.

 

The Caine Mutiny  1961