This event took place with Sean Mayes and Sarah Whitfield on 14th October – it largely focused the research in the so-called Black Country (for its industrial heritage) in the West Midlands, and showcases some of the findings from the forthcoming book with Bloomsbury Methuen drama.
Category: Research Writings
Women in 1930s Musicals: Anne Croft
This is another entry for an ongoing dictionary of women who worked in musical theatre in the 1930s in the UK. It is an evolving document – for more please get in touch via Twitter.
Anne Croft (b. Hull 1896 – d. 1944)
Croft was an actor, producer and director: her career raises intriguing questions about the relationship between twice nightly variety and musical theatre, that at the very least, is far more complicated than you might think.Continue reading “Women in 1930s Musicals: Anne Croft”
Women in 1930s Musicals: Irene Kensington, Choreographer
This is another entry in a continuing dictionary of women who worked in musical theatre in the 1930s in the UK. It is an evolving document – for more please get in touch via Twitter.
Irene Kensington (fl. 1925 – 1934)
Kensington was a choreographer and costume designer; she was also a pianist and arranger. Frustratingly little can be found of her life – she appears and vanishes.
Kenginston had a long association with June Radbourne’s dance ensemble the June Dancers, who performed across variety and concert venues, as both choreographer and costume designer. Initial reports of their performances note that she ‘is also responsible for modernistic arrangements of Chopin and Liszt, as well as impressions of true moderns like Glinka, Ravel and Grainger. Strauss, Coleridge-Taylor and Schubert also figure in the versatile repertoire of these eight talented dancers.’ (Portsmouth Evening News, 16/08/32, 2)
The ensemble performed at a range of venues including variety theatres like the London Coliseum in 1928, and the Hackney Empire 1929; and concert party settings like the Floral Hall in Eastbourne, August 1929 and Portsmouth in 1931. They also played in cabaret settings, including Frascati’s Frascaberat in London 1931. Kensington also designed the costumes for the dancers, Very little survives of the company apart from a few postcard images of Radbourne herself and one or two of the dancers.
Newspaper reports reveal Kensington attended the Margaret Morris school of ‘Dancing and Other Arts’ in 1920. In 1927, she designed and choreographed for a troupe from the the Margaret Morris Theatre, presumably from the school; the troupe were the basis for the Radbourne company.
Elsewhere, Kensington designed the costume for the Seymour Hicks play What’s His Name; as well as choreographing and costume designing the 1932 musical She Shall Have Music. The last reference to her is choreographing Babes in the Wood in Exeter in 1934, but at present, no further information can be found.
Women in 1930s Musicals: A Producer
Rita John (fl. 1930s)
John was an actor turned theatrical producer of muscial theatre active in London in the 1930s, establishing the company Rita John Productions to carry out her business. Little surviving information can be found – it seems likely she was working with a stage name; which makes finding further information very difficult.
As an actor, she had performed in a range of regional tours like The Breadwinner (1931) and The Judgement of Dr. Johnson (1932), and George Bernard Shaw’s The Applecart (1930). She obviously switched into producing with The Pride of the Regiment (1932), and produced the Cambridge Festival Season in 1932. Far more survives to document her second musical, Jolly Roger. Her production at the Savoy Theatre resulted in an extensive legal dispute between music hall comedian George Robey and Equity. He had refused to join Equity, so the union threatened a mass walkout. Many of the cast didn’t want to do that, one chorus member praised John, reporting ‘she paid the chorus even more than she actually need do’ (Stage, 02/03/1933, 13). Coverage of the production noted the unusual status of a woman producer in this early period. The Stage noted the musical ‘had a big cast, and a solitary unaided woman was running the show’ (02/03/1933, 13). The musical was written by Scobie Mackenzie and V. C. Clinton Baddeley, music by Walter Leigh, lyrics by V. C. Clinton-Baddeley, with choregraphy by Hedley Briggs. The production toured after its West End run closed, going to suburban venues like The Grand, Croydon and Wimbledon and King’s Hammersmith. Astonishingly the musical was recorded. She went on to produce an apparently shockingly vulgar revue Yours Sincerely at Daly’s Theatre (1934), which also toured regionally before opening in the West End.
|1932||The Pride of the Regiment|
|1933||Jolly Roger||Manchester: Stage 16/02/1933, 2; London 09/03/33, 12|
|1934||Yours Sincerely||Stage 22/02/1934, 10|
The only images that are in any way connected to Johns are those of George Robey, who for the sake of her show – she was forced to share production credits with.Embed from Getty Images
Women in 1930s musical theatre: Working towards a dictionary
This is the beginning of a series I want to put together with as much information as is recoverable about women working in British musical theatre in the 1930s. But I realised I also didn’t want to hoard this information – so I thought I’d start to share them as I write them, then collate it later.
Barbour, Kathleen (fl. 1920s-1930s)
Barbour was a producer, actor and lyricist in variety and musical theatre. She ran the English Repertory Company in 1932 with Gerard Neville (performances included Frederick Lonsdale’s Spring Cleaning (1932), and Hubert Henry Davies’s Outcast (1932)). The company had an apparent engagement for several seasons at the Little Theatre, Bath, a residency jointly run by Neville and Barbour. Her work with Neville seems to have overlapped with her performances with Ernie Lotinga, her husband from 1918 onwards. Lotinga was also a performer/producer, together they co-ran their touring company throughout the 1920s-1930s period. She performer in numerous variety revues including: August, 1914 (1927), My Wife’s Family (1937). She co-wrote the lyrics for Mrs Bluebird (1932) with Gavin Lee, the musical was described as a ‘crazy musical theatre burlesque’. The musical briefly went into the West End for a summer season at the Gaiety, before returning to variety theatre.
At the moment, no photos or further information about her work can be found – her wedding to Lotinga does appear on genealogy websites so this was likely her real name.
Academic papers: graphic novel style?
Many moons ago – so long ago I can’t actually remember what the software was that I did it on – I got so stuck trying to write an academic paper that I tried a new way of writing the thing. Eventually (twins, and some years later) it became this: ‘Next you’re Franklin Shepard Inc.?’: Composing the Broadway musical, a study of Kurt Weill’s working practices published in Studies in Musical Theatre in 2017. I am still quite taken with it – because it forced me to distill my ideas into a very clear format.