Words by Basil Hood and Music by Edward German
Watts Hall,
October 1924
Cast List
The Earl of Essex
Sir Walter Raleigh
Walter Wilkins
Silas Simkins
Big Ben
The Queen's Fool
A Butcher
A Baker
A Tinker
A Tailor
A Soldier
First Royal Page
Second Royal Page
Queen Elizabeth
Miss Bessie Throckmorton
The May Queen
Lady in Waiting

Notes on this performance

1b. Merrie England 

Do it again…

The early members of the Society must have enjoyed performing Merrie England, it did not take long before they reprised it – a mere seven months! There were a few changes in the cast, most notably Tom Davies who was promoted from the chorus to replace Horace Harris as Sir Walter Raleigh - 90 years on Horace’s son, Ray (who starred in many SAOS shows himself), thinks that his mother must have ‘put her foot down’! The October programme also makes no mention of either the Above Bar Girls’ Guild of Service or Freemantle Girls’ Guild so presumably members of the cast now attempted the dancing themselves.

Another notable difference was the price of admission which was less than for the debut performances; the numbered and reserved seats now cost 2/6 and 1/6 as opposed to 3/6 and 2/4 whilst admission on the night was down to 1/- rather than 1/3 - a shilling (1/-) equates to 5p but that sum of money went a lot further in 1924!

Local newspaper reviews from ninety years ago were very different to their modern counterparts; back then the format seemed to be to mention everyone involved from the principals to the treasurer and to give every single chorus member a mention – the only criticism came in the guise of ‘faint praise’, a possible example of this being, ‘Mr. Arthur Lawrence, as the Queen’s Fool, had little to do, but did it well.’ 

Of the actual performance, the report tells us, ‘In spite of the election and the weather, there was a very good attendance and the performers were heartily applauded for a really admirable performance’ and ‘From start to finish – and the opera lasted three hours – there was not a single hitch and every scene gave evidence of the lengthy and careful preparation which had gone to make every actor word-perfect.’

The reporter was especially effusive over the main principals, ‘ Miss Gladys Ferguson, as Bessie Throckmorton, showed herself the possessor of a really beautiful voice and her solos were enthusiastically encored. Altogether regal in her pearl-strewn robes was Miss Eva Thorne, as Queen Elizabeth, and she acted with quiet dignity, she also sang delightfully. The not-so-easy part of Jill-all-Alone was taken by Miss May McLachlan, who acted with pathos and considerable expression. She has a pretty duet with Raleigh, very well played by Mr. Tom Davies, who sings pleasingly. Mr. A.S.M. Broomfield, an author of absurd plays and a most cowardly person, was the life and soul of the piece and showed a real comic humour. A fresh and charming voice made Miss Galdys Plummer’s acting as the May Queen memorable.  Mr. Percy Beadle was Silas Simkin.’ Poor Percy! How did he feel?  

Amazingly the Echo also covered the After Show Party at St Denys Conservative Club where, ‘Miss Ashdown was presented with a handsome handbag’ and reported that ‘the three performances amounted to roughly £120 and it was anticipated that there would be a margin of about £30.’  The proceeds were donated to the Congregational Foreward Movement (which does not seem to have lasted 90 years). 

Terry O'Farrell

 Photo of Mrs Caesar

Photo of SM