Monday, October 01, 2018

Am Dram

I recently found a batch of photographs from the 1950s, all of which feature theatrical performances. There's very little information on the backs, but I'm almost certain that they show the work of an amateur dramatics group rather than a professional one. The clues are as follows:
  • The photos were processed in the dreary London suburbs of Cheam and New Malden
  • There's quite a lot of over overacting
  • The pictures look like the work of an enthusiastic amateur; many were very blurry
But I may be wrong. You decide:
 img_0006 This photo was printed by Cole Studios (which is still going) in New Malden - a rather drab place between Kingston-upon-Thames and Raynes Park. It now has a large Korean community, for no discernible reason (unless it reminds them of North Korea). The set looks quite spartan, but that isn't the case in the next picture: img_0008This is clearly a very emotional point in the play and everyone seems to be weeping. Perhaps this is in response to an earlier scene, in which things get rather heated: img_0007 This is a little bit racy for 1950s am-dram. I don't know what play it is, but it clearly isn't 'Charlie's Aunt'. I think it was very brave of Miss Perkins in Accounts to agree to strip down to her underwear, but perhaps it was even more courageous of Brenda to wear those awful pyjamas.
 img_0005 In the end, everything is resolved amicably. It turns out that Miss Perkins was simply modelling for an artist and the murder weapon was a telephone directory for New Malden and Cheam. Brenda is the murdereress and she switched to the terrible pyjamas because her dress had blood on it. It is commendable that this company were prepared to tackle gritty dramas rather than just stick to the old favourites: img_0004 Here we see a 'kitchen sink' drama, as evidenced by a kitchen sink and a packet of Fairy Snow. I presume that this is a challenging drama about race, as one of the cast appears to have 'blacked-up'. I also see that the woman is wearing hair rollers to indicate that she is working class. img_0003 This is from 'Twelfth Night'. Today we would probably say that this was part of an 'outreach programme' that sought to 'create links with the local community' or even 'communities'. In the 1950s, they just did an open air performance and hoped that it didn't rain. img_0009 This is from a production of 'Call Me Madam'. I find the rictus grin of the man in the middle slightly offputting. img_0010 I have no idea what this play is, but I don't think it's 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. However, this is: img_0011 In this production, the weeping middle-aged man at the piano has been transformed into a sprightly young buck. I wonder if a stripey blazer would do the same for me? I'm struck by how much hard work must have gone into the stage set and the costumes. I never used to notice these things until I met my wife's family, who worked in the theatrical world. Her father was the lighting designer for the London Coliseum, but although he was highly regarded by his peers, his work was rarely mentioned in reviews. Since then, I've always taken more interest in the details. img_0012 Once again, I have no idea what this is. I can only tell you that it isn't 'Look Back in Anger'. And now, the show is over and it's time to take a curtain call: img_0002


Unknown said...

Lovely to hear from you again. ..........You were missed.


JRSM said...

It's almost as though someone scissored out the photographic insert pages from 'The Art of Coarse Acting'... Wonderful.

Spacezilla said...

It is wonderful to see you posting again! I always enjoy your work. Hoping your world has been getting better.

Anonymous said...

What a peasure to read your words again; and what a hoot those pictures are!

Graham said...

Hang on, have I just experienced a time slip? Is this not a post from years go?

Nice to see you back, though.

By the way, apart from being drab, New Malden’s Korean restaurants are very disappointing, despite the promise of exotic cuisine. The food is awful.

Welcome back.

Anonymous said...

So glad I didn't unsubscribe.

Roger C said...

Steerforth, you are a beacon in these darkening times. Welcome back!
You should spend the £75 on a brace of manly cravats. Think of striding the streets of Lewes with a bold paisley or a playful check nestling at your throat!

Donna said...

Thank you so much for coming back. I love, love, love your work - it lifts the spirits so :)

Steerforth said...

Thank you all so much for your very kind comments. I'm very touched that anyone should still be interested in the blog.

Anonymous said...

Was informed by a Koreaphile friend that Malden used to be where both Samsung's local HQ and the South Korean Embassy were based, which is why the majority of the UK's Koreans (still) live there!

Good to see you back, btw!

Sue said...

What spiffing good fun these photos are! definitely am dram, I note the reliance on wallpaper to denote period- quite easy to change the wallpaper on flat scenery. Costumes are quite good as you say, maybe hired.

The scene with moustachioed villain in top hat and praying maiden in that shawl could be from 'Murder in the Red Barn.'