Thurs 5th - Sat 7th March & Thurs 12th - Sat 14th March 1981
Directed by Jacquie Penrose & Janet Simpson
A musical revue based on the English and American writers and performers of the 1920s and 1930s - the heyday of the Cunard transatlantic ocean liners. Songs and sketches woven to give a blend of humour and documentary about the world between the wars.
The initial idea behind this revue was that we should present an evening of material from the 1920s, with food and drink, in a similar style to the Victorian evenings we put on 2 years ago. The problem of finding a format for the whole thing has to be solved. Victorian Music Hall offers it's own context for what we wanted to do in that show, but the 20s had no such obvious parallel for us. It was a great age of Revue, certainly, but that particular theatre style thrived on the lavish staging of glamorous production numbers. That was completely beyond our means. Moreover it seemed inadequate merely to raid the decade for its songs without some more historical framework being included. A documentary element would fill out the period. As the material we want to perform is both British and American and reflects largely the culture of a rich and sophisticated set, the world of the Transatlantic liners suggested itself.
With the emphasis being thrown on to the ships of the Cunard line, it soon became clear that 'The Twenties' as such was a purely arbitrary division of time. A more logical span in which a self-contained part of the Cunard story could unfold was the whole inter-war period. That opened up the Thirties as well for treatment; an opportunity which we took up with relish.
This revue was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Directors||Jacquie Penrose and Janet Simpson|
|Stage Manager||Robbie Cattermole|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Francis Hall|
|Musical Arrangements||Catherine Riley |
|Catering||Sheila Spackman |
Cunard's 'Big Three' were the 'Mauretania', launched in 1906; the 'Lusitania', which saw only eight years of service before being sunk by a German submarine in 1915; and the 'Aquitania', the largest of the three launched in 1914. After a post-war wrangle, the British took over the German ship 'Imperator', and Cunard re-named her 'Bergenaria'. The pattern of the three-ship service was thus resumed.
Every Saturday one of the three sailed for New York, at the beginning of a fifteen day round-trip; five days to New York, five days turnaround, and five days back to port. There were then six days preparation for the next sailing. This pattern continued until the lean years of the Depression.
The 'Queen Mary' was the beginning the new era. The largest of the Cunard ships to date, her weight caused the slipways to burst into flames when she was launched in 1934. After over a thousand crossings she sailed from New York for the last time in 1967. She ended her life as an American tourist attraction, permanently immobilised at Long Beach, California.
Her younger sister, the 'Queen Elizabeth' was launched in 1938, but it was not until after the war that the two ships sailed in tandem as had been intended. She lasted sightly longer that the 'Queen Mary', but met an even more disastrous end. At first an incongruous hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she was later bought again and rechristened 'Seawise University'. She was taken limpingly along to Hong King, where on January 9, 1972 a fire broke out in her kitchens. It burned all night and in the morning she finally gave up and sank.
It is ironic that both these great ships came to undignified ends in the Pacific, far from the Atlantic where their fame had been established.
In a stunning departure from the usual fare, Havant Bench Theatre sailed off on a musical tribute to the great transatlantic liners of the Twenties and Thirties in 'The Only Way To Cross' which opened last night at Havant Arts Centre. From the decades which were so fond of the musical revue, the Bench Players provided a selection which was stylish and impressive. At the interval, a buffet supper and wine was served and those audience members who arrives in Twenties dress were invited to sit at 'Captain' Terry Cattermole's table.
The material, written and compiled by the production's narrator, David Penrose came from the best known writers of the era including F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Thurber, P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Parker, among others. The music ranged from Porter, Gershwin and Coward, to a brilliant selection which traced the development of American jazz from Basin Street Blues to Fats Waller. It showed a side of the Bench Players which is seldom seen. There were fine performances from the entire cast with top marks going to David Penrose who effortlessly rambled through a long and difficult narration which held together the continuity of the revue. Ray Osborne's skill at the keyboard during a musical dissertation on American jazz and blues had more than a few toes tapping as he left his percussionist behind and improvised his own version of 'Ain't Misbehaving'.
A fine performance came from Tony Elliott in a send up of the literary set from Bloomsbury. Ruth Prior's solo number was another high point of the production. The players provided an enjoyable evening which should not be missed. The musical arrangements, set designs and a remarkable array of costumes compiled by Robbie Cattermole and Jane Hart contributed to a brilliant productions. A musical revue such as 'The Only Way To Cross' allowed the Bench Players a slightly different vehicle which took advantage of the many talents in the company. with an excellent buffet dinner included in the price of £3, the evening provided a delightful change at extremely good value. 'The Only Way to Cross' will be presented tonight and tomorrow night on March 12, 13 and 14, starting at 7.30 p.m. at the Arts Centre, East Street , Havant.
The News, 6th March 1981