My father was in several amateur dramatic groups in New Delhi as a set constructor and stage manager. So, with my house play experience under my belt (school posts), I was keen to be involved. I still have a folder of memorabilia from the productions which I was associated with. In chronological order –
“Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Becket. Theatre Workshop production, September 1958. Produced by Walter Gardner-Stanbridge (doyen of the Delhi AD scene), who also took a part. I was the prompter, which was a nightmare as the play has no structure or flow; it is just a stream of incoherent talk and once people got lost it was almost impossible to get them back. Fortunately, there is a lot of repetition anyhow. The play was not universally understood or enjoyed. One playgoer wrote to the local paper to say that waiting for a bus after the show had not been as boring as waiting for Godot.
In my diary for3rd September, I recorded the dress rehearsal as “rather a fiasco. No one could remember their lines and they kept stopping”. The audiences were mediocre too. Fortunately, for the Godot wrap party on 11th, carrots and turnips were replaced by a sensible buffet supper.
“Separate Tables”by Terrence Rattigan, UK High Commission ADC, at the Fine Arts Theatre, November 1958. I was Doreen the maid. Dad was again stage manager and oversaw the set construction. The photo shows me waiting at table and apparently speaking a line.
“Witness for the Prosecution”, was adapted as a play by Agatha Christie, from one of her short stories It opened in London in 1953, and was a popular court room show. I was in the jury box with my back to the audience and only had to take the oath and murmur “rhubarb”. Furniture was borrowed from the Indian Supreme Court for this production, which showed the networks of the High Commission.
“Harlequinade”, by Terrence Rattigan, was the entertainment at the UK High Commission ADC New Year Party in 1959. I took part of Muriel Palmer, the daughter of the ageing Romeo. She crashes a rehearsal of the Shakespeare play, appearing on the balcony with a pram and husband (Don Rowland). The photo also shows the ageing Juliet. Dad was stage manager, Mum did costumes (along with Gladys Hill).
“The Queen and the Rebels” by Ugo Betti. By Theatre Workshop, at the Fine Arts Theatre. I had the part of Elina, the concierge (made into a female part). Argia (the queen) was played by Preminda Prem Chand, who drew a line in eyeliner up her leg to represent stocking seams. Produced by Walter Gardner-Stanbridge, who also took a part.
Before I left to return to the UK and university the theatre crowd gave me a farewell party. In the photo Gardner-Stanbridge is in a striped bush shirt with his Indian protégé and the boy’s mother. I am on the right with sister Gillian.
One wonders how many of the parts came to me to keep Dad sweet. There was talk of staging “Anne Frank” with me in the name part but it never came off.