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Martins Bank Society of the Arts (Music Section) in The Arcadians

Book by Mark Ambient, A. M. Thompson & Robert Courtneidge

Lyrics by Arthur Wimperis - Music by Lionel Monckton & Howard Talbot

Staged: 6th to 10th February 1951 at the Crane Theatre Liverpool

When the Society of the Arts Music Section stages “The Arcadians”, Martins Bank Magazine comments that this is perhaps their most ambitious production.  In a departure from the more familiar D’Oyly Carte Operas, “The Arcadians” makes greater demands on the cast and crew.  Professional Criticism from the Liverpool Daily Post Newspaper is particularly good, and must be seen as encouraging by all those taking part. By now, some names are beginning to be regularly mentioned as excellent performers, amongst the men are Evan Jones and Bill Brookes, and amongst the women, the singing of Margaret Groome and the dancing of Beryl Evans receive particular praise.  The production runs for five nights in february 1951 at the Crane Theatre Liverpool, the venue of choice for our performers.  As we will see in the article below, another Liverpool theatre is called in to help with certain “wardrobe malfunctions”…


1946 02.jpgIN some respects the choice by the Music Section of Martins Bank Society of the Arts of “The Arcadians” was the most ambitious yet embarked upon. The revival of this elaborately-dressed Edwardian “Musical” was a break-away from the “safer” Gilbert and Sullivan and Edward German, and, taken as a whole, the production was very good, and in parts excellent. The show attracted some attention from the professional critics and we ourselves felt that the comments of A. K. Holland of the Liverpool Daily Post should be regarded as helpful and encouraging in the extreme. He was scrupulously fair, generous where praise was due and unerring in finding the weak spots. So far as the singing was concerned, Margaret Groome's performance raised the whole production on to a plane not often reached by amateurs. Her lovely voice and her sweet nature captivated the audience each time she appeared. Brenda Stephens sang beautifully and acted superbly. Her Irish brogue, the grace of her movements, her coy acting, in fact everything about her, won all hearts.

Simplicitas is reluctantly compelled to start his mission

As for Maureen Dempster, well, as the week went by they clapped her as she came on the stage as well as when she made her exits. She gave the most finished performance of her career to date as the cockney lady. Very well done indeed. Basil Williams took the leading male role with that confidence and competence we have come to expect from him. His diction is excellent and his portrayal has just the right amount of extravagance to be convincing. A good effort. Bill Brookes as the “cheerful” jockey kept his audience rocking with merriment. He looked the part; he acted the part and his facial expressions were even funnier than his lines.  His best performance yet. Norman Hubbard has an excellent stage presence and his portrayal of Sir George Paddock was faultless.

Brenda Stephens and Alfred Pope

Basil Williams, Bill Brookes and Maureen Dempster

It was tantalising that Evan Jones, the best tenor in the com­pany, had so little scope for his singing, but he did very well with the acting which his part demanded. Alfred Pope gave a good account of himself with both his singing and his acting, and his dancing was especially good. Evan Jones's son Albert, took the dual roles of Time and Percy Marsh. He made a very good show of both, particularly the former. Among the Arcadians Betty Spencer Hayes was very sweet as Chrysea, and Muriel Jones, Beryl Evans and Audrey Jennings per­formed their dances with skill and sang their choruses with great sweetness. The male Arcadians were Peter Swinton, Jack Smith and R. Fairclough. Mention should also be made of Ursula Clarke, Hilary Parr and Jean Boothman, who looked charming in their Edwardian dresses and played their small parts well, also of J.B. Atherton and P. L. Tiplady, whom we shall look to see again, in bigger parts, perhaps.

Father Time visits Arcadia

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While we have admired the chorus work in past years we must mention it specially this year. We were glad to see so many new youthful additions to the chorus of ladies. The scenes in which they appeared and sang were not only as pretty as a picture, they were a picture. We would like to see some more young men in the male chorus; they are needed badly. At the same time a word of praise needs to be uttered to those who always come forward for the good of the show to help us over this difficulty. At this point it is appropriate to mention the Liverpool Playhouse, who willingly and enthusiastically came to our rescue on the opening night to make good certain wardrobe deficiencies. We much appreciated their help. Mr. H. Spencer Hayes conducted and Mr. J. Balfour Thompson was the Producer. The ballet mistress was Miss Hylda Delamere Wright and Mr. H. F. Boothman was Hon. Accom­panist. Nor must we forget those vital people, Sybil Welsh, the Wardrobe Mistress; C. E. Bresnan, the Property Master and Miss Koop, Business Manager.  In fact, well done, everybody, it was a grand show!