House plays

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Kit Bartlett
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House plays

Post by Kit Bartlett » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:24 am

Oh what memories the above subject evolves.
My first venture onto the amateur stage was in a one Act play called "Under the Skull and Crossbones" performed in 1944 in the Coleridge B Day Room. I played an assistant pirate king I recall. I still have the programme. Coleridge always had block productions alternating the venue each year. The stage was constructed by utilising all the Day Room tables and scenery was made specially.
Curtains were provided and entrances made to the stage area from the windows of the two studies. There were Senior and Junior plays, the former were usually three act ones and were often by well known playwrights such as Shaw, Noel Coward and Shakespeare. The junior ones were invariably consisted of one act with enticing titles such as "Maripoza Bung" and Shivering Shocks" . How many budding actors made their debut here I wonder? Roger Allam , John Dyke and John Gale , all Coleridge B incidentally must have fuelled their stage interest at this level.
When did the House plays finish? I presume the opening of the Theatre in the sixties/ seventies must have been about the time.

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Re: House plays

Post by eucsgmrc » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:04 am

Yes indeed. What memories! I recall being directed by Kit Aitken in The Crimson Coconut. Rehearsal in the junior dorm. Coconut is concealed under a hat, and it falls to me to reveal it. I whip up the hat. Coconut should appear on the table, but instead it catches in the hat, soars into the air, and falls back onto somebody's head (Paul Wade, I shouldn't be surprised). Kit profoundly annoyed. Choleric would understate the case. Still, even he could see that I didn't do it on purpose, so I escaped unscathed. Physically unscathed, that is. Wanting to write about it here might suggest unresolved PTSD.

Anyway, that much I remember, but the plot of the play is a complete blank. I don't even know what part I was playing.

And shouldn't this be in "General Chat - CH stuff"?
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Re: House plays

Post by J.R. » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:40 pm

eucsgmrc wrote:Yes indeed. What memories! I recall being directed by Kit Aitken in The Crimson Coconut. Rehearsal in the junior dorm. Coconut is concealed under a hat, and it falls to me to reveal it. I whip up the hat. Coconut should appear on the table, but instead it catches in the hat, soars into the air, and falls back onto somebody's head (Paul Wade, I shouldn't be surprised). Kit profoundly annoyed. Choleric would understate the case. Still, even he could see that I didn't do it on purpose, so I escaped unscathed. Physically unscathed, that is. Wanting to write about it here might suggest unresolved PTSD.

Anyway, that much I remember, but the plot of the play is a complete blank. I don't even know what part I was playing.

And shouldn't this be in "General Chat - CH stuff"?

It now is !

I remember being in one house play when in Coleridge B.

Can't remember the title but I seem to remember it was all about a band of villains. We were even supplied withy 'false' cigarettes as cigarettes appeared in the plot.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: House plays

Post by postwarblue » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:50 pm

The high spot of my entire acting experience was as one of the old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace as the Coleridge senior house play. Another I remember (but wasn't in) was 'Trial by Jury' with Colin Alves as the judge and Gad Malins on piano as the orchestra. There was a call for volunteers to learn stage makeup so I signed up for that and had lessons, with others from other houses, from Tommy Archbold in his Bilge lab. It turned out to be a useful skill as one didn't have to go to rehearsals but still got tea and stickies (or, later, something stronger) after the performance. My grateful thanks, even now, to Tigger Henes for coming along to the lesosns as my stooge for practising on.
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Re: House plays

Post by michael scuffil » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:35 am

postwarblue wrote:The high spot of my entire acting experience was as one of the old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace as the Coleridge senior house play. Another I remember (but wasn't in) was 'Trial by Jury' with Colin Alves as the judge and Gad Malins on piano as the orchestra. There was a call for volunteers to learn stage makeup so I signed up for that and had lessons, with others from other houses, from Tommy Archbold in his Bilge lab. It turned out to be a useful skill as one didn't have to go to rehearsals but still got tea and stickies (or, later, something stronger) after the performance. My grateful thanks, even now, to Tigger Henes for coming along to the lesosns as my stooge for practising on.
Yes indeed. I ran the make-up department of the Dram. Soc. (taught by David Herbert) on this basis and even got a foreign tour out of it (to Holland, in 1962).

As for house plays: until about 1960, every senior housemaster had to produce a senior play, and every junior housemaster had to produce a junior play. And all house plays were on the same night at the end of the Lent Term. Then the system was liberalized, and as a grecian I even produced a junior play myself.

I got the feeling that house plays 'did the rounds'. There were published series of 'Plays for Boys', and a play done in one house would turn up in another a couple of years later, using the same (pretty tatty) books. Does anyone remember 'The Liar', or 'The Vixen', or 'Maripoza Bung' or the very politically incorrect 'Dark Brown'?
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Re: House plays

Post by Spoonbill » Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:45 am

I seem to remember that The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew was staged twice by junior houses during my sojourn at the Oh-Christ Hospital.

Once was quite enough for me, though I do recall that it had its moments. The production I saw was staged in the Prep Hall. Does anything at all ever happen in the Prep Hall any more? Or has it been converted into retirement flats?

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Re: House plays

Post by Kit Bartlett » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:14 pm

Some time ago I wrote an article for The Blue on House Plays. I had trawled through my back numbers of the magazine and wrote down all the House plays mentioned and reviewed in The Blue from 1928 onwards. The Editor at the time was not for reasons of space able to print it in full but did a summary of the various types of play performed.
For information and general interest the following is is a brief selection from more modern times.
1947
Coleridge, "Maripoza Bung", "Shivering Shocks", "Erbert's Orrible Error", "The :Last of Corporal Micklass", "The Perfect Alibi",
"Lord Augustus does his bit"
Barnes A "Have you anything to declare", "Worzel Flummery".
Maine A "Crimson Cocoanut", The Ugly Duckling"
1949
Peele, "The Dover Road",
Thornton A "The Smugglers' Caves", "French Leave".
Lamb A "The Playgoers", "King till twelve o'clock", "Badgers' Green"/
1950
Peele, "The Winslow Boy"
Thornton B "Have you anything to declare", "The Crooked BIllet".
Middleton "The Importance of being earnest"
Barnes B "The Chiltern Hundreds"
1951
Lamb B "The man in the Bowler Hat"
Maine
B "The Merchant of Venice".
1952
Coleridge "Arsenic and Old Lace"
Barnes B "The Ghost Train"
Maine B. "Trial By Jury", "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
1953
Peele A "30 minutes in a Street"

1954
Thornton A "5 Birds in a Cage".
Maine "Shall we join the Ladies".
1956
Lamb "The Gods of the Mountain"
Barnes "The Loves of Four Colonels"
1959
Peele B "The haunted Barn"
Lamb B "The Shopkeeper turned gentleman".
Barnes A "1066 and all that".
Maine A "The Liar",
1960
Coleridge B "The Monkey's Paw", A great favourite of Kit Aitken incidentally,
Barnes "Alice in Wonderland" .

1961
Coleridge "Pirates of Penzance".
Maine A "The age of specialisation"
1963
Thornton "Murder in the Cathedral"
Lamb B "Captain Scuttleboom's Treasure"

1964
Peele A "Antigone"
Middleton B "Waiting for Godot"

1965
Peele B " Billy Budd".

1966
Coleridge A "The Government Inspector"
Maine A "

Emil and the Detectives"
1970
Leigh Hunt "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat"

1971
Thornton "She stoops to conquer".

Some of these plays were a trifle ambitious to have been performed on such a small stage.

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Re: House plays

Post by michael scuffil » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:45 pm

Kit Bartlett's list brings out the new quality that came about when the house-play regime was liberalized after about 1959. In this list, two stand out for me. One is Coleridge's Pirates of Penzance, performed in the Prep Hall to do justice to the expected size of the audience (expectations were met), and Thornton's Murder in the Cathedral, performed in the Chapel (produced by Peter Austin Jones). Some of the ones after I left (i.e. after 1963) also look interesting.
Th.B. 27 1955-63

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Re: House plays

Post by kerrensimmonds » Tue Sep 11, 2012 8:01 pm

I knew Colin Alves both professionally and later through Singing Old Blues. I hope that he is still well - I must try and send him an e mail.
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Re: House plays

Post by eucsgmrc » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:13 pm

michael scuffil wrote:In this list, two stand out for me. One is Coleridge's Pirates of Penzance, ....
In case anybody hasn't found the link in the "photographs" section of this forum, there are pictures from the Pirates of Penzance, including my renowned Major-General Stanley, on Flickr in the set http://www.flickr.com/photos/jandsw/set ... 099253537/.
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Re: House plays

Post by Mid A 15 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:05 am

Kit Bartlett wrote:Some time ago I wrote an article for The Blue on House Plays. I had trawled through my back numbers of the magazine and wrote down all the House plays mentioned and reviewed in The Blue from 1928 onwards. The Editor at the time was not for reasons of space able to print it in full but did a summary of the various types of play performed.
For information and general interest the following is is a brief selection from more modern times.
1947
Coleridge, "Maripoza Bung", "Shivering Shocks", "Erbert's Orrible Error", "The :Last of Corporal Micklass", "The Perfect Alibi",
"Lord Augustus does his bit"
Barnes A "Have you anything to declare", "Worzel Flummery".
Maine A "Crimson Cocoanut", The Ugly Duckling"
1949
Peele, "The Dover Road",
Thornton A "The Smugglers' Caves", "French Leave".
Lamb A "The Playgoers", "King till twelve o'clock", "Badgers' Green"/
1950
Peele, "The Winslow Boy"
Thornton B "Have you anything to declare", "The Crooked BIllet".
Middleton "The Importance of being earnest"
Barnes B "The Chiltern Hundreds"
1951
Lamb B "The man in the Bowler Hat"
Maine
B "The Merchant of Venice".
1952
Coleridge "Arsenic and Old Lace"
Barnes B "The Ghost Train"
Maine B. "Trial By Jury", "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
1953
Peele A "30 minutes in a Street"

1954
Thornton A "5 Birds in a Cage".
Maine "Shall we join the Ladies".
1956
Lamb "The Gods of the Mountain"
Barnes "The Loves of Four Colonels"
1959
Peele B "The haunted Barn"
Lamb B "The Shopkeeper turned gentleman".
Barnes A "1066 and all that".
Maine A "The Liar",
1960
Coleridge B "The Monkey's Paw", A great favourite of Kit Aitken incidentally,
Barnes "Alice in Wonderland" .

1961
Coleridge "Pirates of Penzance".
Maine A "The age of specialisation"
1963
Thornton "Murder in the Cathedral"
Lamb B "Captain Scuttleboom's Treasure"

1964
Peele A "Antigone"
Middleton B "Waiting for Godot"

1965
Peele B " Billy Budd".

1966
Coleridge A "The Government Inspector"
Maine A "

Emil and the Detectives"

1970
Leigh Hunt "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat"

1971
Thornton "She stoops to conquer".

Some of these plays were a trifle ambitious to have been performed on such a small stage.

I was in Maine A at the time and was involved in rehearsals for this play (under Geoff Fordham and John Lloyd if memory serves me right) but I do not think it ever got as far as being performed.

(I suppose it could be that I was removed from the process because of my theatrical inability and it was subsequently performed without my knowledge!)
Ma A, Mid A 65 -72

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Re: House plays

Post by michael scuffil » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:19 am

eucsgmrc wrote:
michael scuffil wrote:In this list, two stand out for me. One is Coleridge's Pirates of Penzance, ....
In case anybody hasn't found the link in the "photographs" section of this forum, there are pictures from the Pirates of Penzance, including my renowned Major-General Stanley, on Flickr in the set http://www.flickr.com/photos/jandsw/set ... 099253537/.
Justly renowned, I may say.
Th.B. 27 1955-63

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Re: House plays

Post by sejintenej » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:30 pm

eucsgmrc wrote:Yes indeed. What memories! I recall being directed by Kit Aitken in The Crimson Coconut. Rehearsal in the junior dorm. Coconut is concealed under a hat, and it falls to me to reveal it. I whip up the hat. Coconut should appear on the table, but instead it catches in the hat, soars into the air, and falls back onto somebody's head (Paul Wade, I shouldn't be surprised). Kit profoundly annoyed. Choleric would understate the case. Still, even he could see that I didn't do it on purpose, so I escaped unscathed. Physically unscathed, that is. Wanting to write about it here might suggest unresolved PTSD.
Anyway, that much I remember, but the plot of the play is a complete blank. I don't even know what part I was playing.
No way was I going on stage and Kit knew it. Ergo I was dressed up as a chef (from memory) and responsible for noises off - breakage of crockery etc. I think - and Kit was there to force me on the stage for the final curtain. EMBARASSING!

Unread postby michael scuffil » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:45 pm
Kit Bartlett's list brings out the new quality that came about when the house-play regime was liberalized after about 1959. In this list, two stand out for me. One is Coleridge's Pirates of Penzance, performed in the Prep Hall to do justice to the expected size of the audience (expectations were met), and Thornton's Murder in the Cathedral, performed in the Chapel (produced by Peter Austin Jones). Some of the ones after I left (i.e. after 1963) also look interesting.
I remember the Pirates of Penzance very well. I was standing in a lake of liquid - sweat from the heat from the high amperage electrical control and resistance unit controlling the lighting awaiting electrocution. (Even playing rugby in Accra and Lagos I never sweated so much) The chorus was weak and I thought the stage crew supplied more volume than those on stage.
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Re: House plays

Post by michael scuffil » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:40 pm

Kit Bartlett wrote: Some of these plays were a trifle ambitious to have been performed on such a small stage.
Many of the more ambitious ones weren't (e,g. Pirates (Prep Hall), Murder in the Cathedral (Chapel)). Thornton also did Andronicus and the Lion in Big School in 1961 or 62. (That was another difference from earlier.)
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Re: House plays

Post by postwarblue » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:52 pm

The Prep had their own play - we put on the Crimson Coconut while I was in Py B 46/7. My nursemaid PF Moule in the lead I seem to remember. It was accompanied by a strange percussion band whose 'brass' consisted of papier mache instruments that people hummed into. As I couldn't hum in tune I was on cymbals - there were two of us, one small and one medium pair of cymbals of which we had one each, the assymetry accepted in the interests of quelling dissension over who had the larger pair.
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