Hey Ho hey ho, to a school production we will go. This collection of young faces belongs to the Ashburton High School, part of a cast that presented ‘an entertainment’ at the Theatre Royal in August 1917.
While there were many acts, the group here were responsible for an operetta entitled Little Snow White. Leads were: Miss Crooks, Miss Stewart (who was Snow White), Miss Boddington (Queen of Poppyland aka the evil stepmother) and Miss Marshall who was The Prince. The reviewer praised the special effects, especially the use of limelight when the princess woke up. It sounds, as he said, delightful.
However, the first half wasn’t that bad either. There was group singing, as such events often have, but other not-so-usual items. Although few details were given, the junior pupils performed “amusing tests of skill, revealing the attention to which is paid to the pupils physical well being”, dumbbells were used for at least some of the activity.
Something you also don’t see at many school productions was rifle exercises, performed by the school cadets. Gavottes with shepherds, shepherdess and cupid, singing and trumpet solos and the now ubiquitous haka also featured, as did a mad hatter’s tea party. So no one forgot that there was a war going on a chorus performed the German Baby Killers – an ironical representation of the supposed heroism of the German Navy aroused much enthusiasm.
The star piece appeared to be a patter song (maybe the forerunner to today’s rap) called Local Untruths performed by two senior boys named Galbraith and Beaumont. The song used a number of fabricated headlines from the Ashburton Guardian to ‘hit off’ local personalities and even at least one local body.
As my young folk live in Dunedin, I have been ‘saved’ the ordeal of sitting through a number of school productions, although I have inflicted my fair share on relations. The ones I have experienced are often entertaining, but usually for the wrong reasons – forgotten lines, props misbehaving and backstage dramas. However, it does sound that this production was the result of much planning and some genuine talent.
Even the calibre of costumes is a far cry from some of the efforts that we see today. No wonder there wasn’t an empty seat in the theatre, it truly wasn’t an event to be missed.
By Kathleen Stringer
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