What’s the School Play this year? (2)

Last time we had a brief look at The Dramatic Society’s production of Aristophanes’ “The Frogs” in 1924. Just look at those beards. And is one boy in the centre of the back row wearing a white burqa?:

Seven years later, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 23rd, 24th and 25th 1931, the School Play had been “She stoops to conquer”. Here is the cast who contain, perhaps, a few more convincing women than is usually the case. This is because, I suspect, the Dramatic Society were being forced to use many more young boys, not least because the School’s Sixth Form was much, much smaller  during the 1930s than it was to become, say, in the 1960s:

Any proceeds from the play, after the deduction of expenses, were used to help finance the Dame Agnes Lads’ Club in Norton Street in Radford.

Another popular School Play around this time was “The Rope”. Looking at the photograph below, it seems to have starred Borat and his balding brother. On a more serious note, the young “lady” on the left, within five or six years, will be killed trying to slow down the German advance towards Dunkirk:

This young man, Alfred Warren, was, in  actual fact, a most accomplished female impersonator. His first ever role was as Anna Waleska in “Andrew Applejohn’s Adventure”. Witness his review in the School Magazine:

“The School stage has rarely been graced by a more charmingly seductive figure than Anna Waleska. His performance was astonishingly good, especially when one remembers that it was his first appearance. He contrived to give to his impersonation just the right shade of exotic fascination, and if his accent was neither Russian nor Portuguese, it had at least a foreign quality and was sufficiently intriguing. This young man betrayed a knowledge of feminine wiles amazing in one so young, the manipulation of his eyebrows alone being worthy of a Dietrich. One can hardly blame Ambrose for becoming as wax in the hands of such a siren.”

Two years later, in GB Shaw’s “Captain Brassbound’s Conversion”, the School Magazine said:

“The presentation this term was an act more daring than any of its predecessors. There was only one person fitted for the: “prodigious task of portraying so gracious a personage as Lady Cicely. His voice, now at breaking point, just suited her position as mistress of Brassbound’s crew: his seductive manner fitted the beguiler of a dozen men. His part did not allow him this year the opportunity to display those feminine wiles of which, as Anna Waleska, he had shown himself so complete a master, but his expression, now wheedling, now indifferent, was no less successful in enticing the unfortunate victim into her trap. He perhaps tended to overdo that half crouching feline posture which he so often employed against Brassbound. Nevertheless, clad in exquisite garments, which must have cost the society a small fortune, he contrived to overcome the artificialities and discrepancies of Lady Ciceley’s rôle, and for that achievement alone he deserves high praise.”

The young man would not carry forward his talents into the worlds of either stage or screen. He will be killed “somewhere along a canal” near the village of Oostduinkerke, trying to slow down the German advance towards Dunkirk. Not every soldier with the British Expeditionary Force had a free trip back to Blighty:




Filed under Film & TV, History, Humour, Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

11 responses to “What’s the School Play this year? (2)

  1. How sad John. He had a very promising career as an actor, although once his voice broke it would be somewhat difficult to continue the female impersonations for which his was so highly regarded. Like so many he was cut down in his prime.

    • Absolutely. Who will ever know what the dead of WW2 might have gone on to accomplish? Certainly, as regards Western Europe, the two world wars must have wiped out almost all the intelligentsia and all the best people in the UK, France and Germany. How many Einsteins did it devour?

  2. Just one more example of the terrible cost to England – and I dare say to Germany as well – of the wars of the first half of the century.

    • On a trip round the WW1 battlefields we were told how the university students in Germany had flocked to join the army as soon as the war broke out. When they fought the experienced soldiers of the admittedly tiny British army, they were wiped out. After ruling the British Empire for a hundred years, the British knew all about volley fire to keep back a charging enemy.
      The result of this was that, apparently, between 20,000-30,000 young Germans were killed in a relatively short period, and of course, you can add thousands of British, Canadian and Anzac Second Lieutenants to that list over the next four years !

  3. What a sad loss of apparently real talent

    • Yes, it certainly was. I have always thought that he might have done well in the field of acting, because Alfred Chenhalls, a fellow Old Nottinghamian, was a big man in the world of film at the time and he was also Leslie Howard’s agent and accountant. Alas, all three were to die, Alfred Warren near Dunkirk, and the other two, sitting next to each other in a plane shot down by the Luftwaffe.

  4. I read stories like this one, John, and tears sting my eyes. Such a loss!! But one that deserves to be remembered.

    • It certainly is, Amy. I am currently watching Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” and an old member of the North Vietnamese army says at one point “In war there is no victor, there is just destruction”. No truer words, especially nowadays if you see that virtually every country of the Middle East is just a pile of shattered concrete. One day Mankind will learn the lesson !

      • You think? I have my doubts, John. Humans do not seem to learn from history. I know I learn from history. I live with Vietnam through my husband, John. I KNOW what war does to the mind and soul. I know.

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