Monday, 6 April 2009

28 July 1942

Went to the doctor who comes Tuesdays and Fridays.  Suspect chill in bladder.  Excessive urinating during the morning and forenoon.  Must send sample of mine tomorrow morning.  Out 5.40 to 6.30.  Usual routine.

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To revert to the show itself, the final item was a sketch in which Stratton, Monty and myself took part in the characters respectively of the winsome heroine, the heavy villain and the soldier lover.  The piece started with a discussion, before the audience, between Gus and Monty as to how the audience could be further amused and on their deciding to present a play, the plot was arranged and the parts assigned.  I myself being called, as a half witted stagehand, to have my part explained to me.  This explanation took at least 10 minutes, during which time Monty harangued me as to what was expected of me with the help of good old ‘slap stick’ while all I had to do was to stand and look foolish.  I must have possessed a natural aptitude for looking silly and half witted because on a number of occasions the audience shrieked so much with laughter at the sight of my face that Monty had to turn my back to the public in order to be able to continue his injunctions.  In self defense I must, of course, mention that my face was to such an extent made up that even my mother would not have recognised me.  The ‘slap stick’ which was applied to my face about every ten seconds, was, I should explain just a piece of paper folded a few times, to a breadth of about four inches and a slap with it across the face is quite painless, although the report of the blow sounds like a revolver shot and is very effective.   However, the play having now been fully discussed and arranged, the action now commenced.  The audience were invited to imagine that the platform was a lake on which the villain represented a rock on which the soldier lover was on sentry duty.  The boat was an ordinary table turned upside down with the legs in the air while the oars consisted of a couple of sweeping brushes.  Gus was wonderfully arrayed in a dress which had probably once served as window curtains and a picture hat sporting a woebegone imitation ostrich feather.  Owing to the fact that the item preceding the sketch was of the nigger minstrel variety and in which Gus was the entertainer, there was no time to clean off the chocolate coloured grease paint so that with a wig of dark brown tresses hanging over his shoulders, Gus portrayed a very dusky damsel indeed.  Monty wore a top hat and the typical villain’s sweeping black moustache.  I had on an old Army tunic and a paper cocked hat and was armed with a rusty old air gun.  I caused quite a mess and got a good telling off one night, when, having had one of those brainwaves which all actors suffer from in an effort to improve their roles, I endeavoured to render a firing of the air gun more realistic and effective by filling the barrel beforehand with face powder.  Although the effect was undeniable, the results did not justify repetition.  Not only Monty and Gus, but the first few rows of spectators looked as if they had just passed through a flour mill!  After a lot of nonsensical but extremely humorous dialogue, the villain succeeds in enticing the coy maiden into the boat, and the oars being wielded vigorously one is supposed to imagine that in due course the middle of the lake has been reached.  Then and only then does the bold bad villain reveal his intentions.  He must have the necklace, the valuable family heirloom which the fair one wears round her dusky neck.  ‘No, never – by Heaven’ she cries.  ‘Curse you, give it to me’ hisses the villain, ‘or else I will throw you overboard and leave you in the watery grave!’  ‘Spare me, spare me,’ sobs the damsel.  ‘The necklace then, the necklace’.  ‘No, no, rather death than that!’  And with a prayer, ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke.John, hold the donkey till I get on,’ the brave girl casts herself into the water and lies floundering on the boards while the villain endeavours to manoeuvre his craft so that he may still snatch the coveted necklace before the fair one sinks for the fourth and last time.  Piercing shrieks from the drowning damsel pierce the air – will the villain succeed in his fell design?  Ah but see, the soldier lover on yonder heights awakes from his forty winks and taking in the whole situation at a glance levels his rifle and fires and the villain falls back in the boat; shot through the heart.  And now for the rescue of his loved one.  But first, he must divert himself of his tunic, from under which are cast off, one by one, no less that 14 waistcoats.  During the striptease act, the yells of the heroine continue, but at last the soldier lover stands revealed in his shirt (and trousers, of course) and leaps into the water to be immediately caught up and carried off the stage by the heroine.  The lowest of low comedy, I suppose, but it never failed to evoke shrieks of merriment from the audience and it was just real good clean fun.

Well, after this rather lengthy preliminary, I come back to the nearest I have ever been to prison in my life before.  It so happened that after a few months, it was decided to revisit a number of places but with, naturally, a complete change of programme.  A new sketch was, therefore, called for and Gus had an idea for one which had a policeman as one of the characters.  For a policeman, we had to have a helmet and where were we to procure a helmet?  Somehow or other, the task of procuring a helmet was assigned to me and I set about the task in the only way which occurred to me.  One reads of valiant and daring souls for whom no Boat Race night would be complete if they did not succeed in securing a policeman’s helmet to mark the end of a perfect day, but as Boat Races are unknown in Aberdeen, I had neither the excuse of opportunity.

1 comment:

byrheea said...

It would be interesting to see some pics posted on the play! haha. I can already imagine how you guys look. I'm sure you guys had fun :)

Rheea