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Martins Bank Society of the Arts – Drama Section in:

The Cradle Song by Gregorio and Maria Martinez Sierra

Staged: 20 and 21 May 1947 at the Y.M.C.A. theatre, Birkenhead

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The image below shows SEVENTEEN actors on stage, and this must surely indicate a complex production by the Society of the Arts Drama Section. The Cradle Song tackles an age old issue, the abandonment of a baby and its care in a convent. This all seems like heavy stuff for a night out at the theatre in Birkenhead, but Martins Bank Magazine seems to like the choice of play and its presentation to a paying audience.

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Betty Jackson is singled out for giving a moving and “wistful” performance, and there is some debate about whether some actors might have conveyed an emotion better with a facial expression than with words, but on the whole the review is upbeat and positive. As if learning such a complex script with so many characters wasn’t difficult enough, one of the actors has to age by EIGHTEEN years during the play!  Admirable indeed, as forty-five hours’ hard graft each week for the Bank was probably enough to age anyone. It seems that some people led VERY interesting lives in Liverpool in 1949…


This play, by Gregorio and Maria Martinez Sierra, performed at the Y.M.C.A. theatre, Birkenhead, on May 20th and 21st, has an international reputation and has been translated into several languages. It is unorthodox in that the plot is slight and the action slow. It is a thing of light and shade, of moods and character studies revolving around the impact on the life of a convent of a baby abandoned to the care of the nuns. Betty Jackson, as Sister Joanna of the Cross, who mothers the baby, gave a beautiful and moving performance, reaching heights of wistfulness as she listened to Teresa (now grown up) vivaciously confiding her intense love for the man she is leaving the convent to marry.

Marjorie Balshaw Betty Jackson Joan Thomas Barbara Phillips Marjorie Brown Auriol Balshaw Kenneth Learoyd Joan Half Bernice McGuirk

Sydney N Rimmer Thea Bower Maureen Dempster Sheila Boote Dilys Hughes Margaret Halewood Kathleen Horsburgh Afessa Paisley

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Marjorie Balshaw played the part of Teresa supremely well and Kenneth Learoyd’s rendering of her lover, Antonio, was, in its deference to the sisters, just right. Thea Bower rendered the part of the Prioress with great dignity, and her diction was faultless. Maureen Dempster portrayed the Vicaress. The harshness of the interpretation seemed a little out of keeping with the prevailing odour of sanctity and would have been more convincing if confined to the facial expression only, but she certainly succeeded in being forbidding, an attitude which threw into startling relief the gay irresponsibility of Sister Marcella, played by Barbara Phillips. Sister Maria Jesus, played by Joan Hall, scored her greatest success in the second act, when the frosts of eighteen winters had matured her since her appearance in the first scene. Nessa Paisley, as the Mistress of the Novices, was very pleasing in her interpretation of the part, and Sisters Segrario (Auriel Balshaw), Tornera (Bernice McGuirk) and Inez (Joan Thomas) each rendered distinct and polished little character studies. Sydney Rimmer as the old doctor was, as usual, excellent. Mention must also be made of the silent nuns, Sheila Boote, Marjorie Brown, Margaret Halewood, Kathleen Horsburgh and Dilys Hughes, whose presence was so essential, and whose work in making their costumes was as great as that of the speaking characters. To act without speaking is an art in itself, and they played their parts most commendably. The producer was Mr. Sydney N. Rimmer.



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