The Royal High School of today places much emphasis on Performing Arts, in many forms including Dance, Stage shows, Choirs, Orchestras and cultural exchanges. Stage is also well represented by Dance shows and Fringe performances in the recent past, but the School’s relationship with Music and Drama was not always so intertwined.
The School curriculum consisted entirely of Latin until the mid-19th century, and Music as a subject was not introduced until 1856, and then as an after-School activity at an additional cost.
There was a Second World War post-war flurry of stage performances, mainly due to outstanding pupil producers and English teachers. 1949 School Dux Karl Miller and Head of English Hector MacIver (Principal English Master 1947-1966) were leaders in this respect. Signed programs, photos and reviews from the 1950 production of “Just The Job” can be viewed on Drama at the Royal High 1948 to 1950 .
The overseas exchange trips, initiated in 1980, and the KT Singers in 1978 launched many pupils on their lifetime musical experience. Amnesty International became an annual event, followed by three major musicals 2007 – 2010 which were once again the product of a small team of dedicated teachers, this time led principally by Tom Bacciarelli and Gary Snedden.
Becket and Othello
Mouse click or tap the images below to see them fullsize.
Former President of the RHS Dramatic Society, Chris Halliburton, has sent these images showing the activities of the Dramatic Society around 1964-67. RHS Club in London Members will recognise many of the names. Former treasurer Simon Card was president of the London Club for several years. David Robb, John Melville and John MacNicol continued their careers in acting and the arts, While Neil Ziegar and Brian Dunnigan have distinguished careers in TV and Film. The late Ian Charleson (National Theatre and in Oscar winning films Ghandi and Chariots of Fire) is listed in the Stage Crew for Becket.
Crawfurd Adamson went on to become a noted figurative artist with paintings exhibited at MOMA in New York and the Fleming Collection in London.
The underlined names are of the prefects who appear in the Where Are They Now page on the !966-1967 Prefects .
If you have memories of the Dramatic Society, please leave a comment below, or you can use our contact form if you wish to contribute an article or photographs.
On a topical note, the British Museum will have an exhibition on Thomas Becket from 20th May to 22nd August 2021
The Othello production in 1964, was on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare birth.
The Dumb Waiter and The Fire Raisers
According to the January 1964 edition of Schola Regia – The Christmas plays were “The Fire raisers” by Max Fisch, produced by Robin Cook, and “The Dumb Waiter” by Harold Pinter, produced by Stewart McDougall. Chris Halliburton, David Robb and John Melville were in the cast of the “Dumb Waiter”.
Robin Cook served as Foreign Secretary from 1997 until 2001.
If you were involved with any of these plays or have any memorabilia from these plays or any others please get in touch with us.
Feedback received from Stuart Card who “well remembers painting the flats for The Dumb Waiter in a basement in Regent terrace… whilst having ‘a sly fag’.”
Johnny Melville comments in full below and has kindly supplied some programs. He was also in a production of Zoo Story and directed the late Ian Charleson in “What The Butler Saw” which was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival.
Just the Job and Authors of Mischief
More programs and photos from previous years are in the Drama at the Royal High 1948 to 1950 page
Simon Card comments
I remember those events almost as if they were yesterday ! As assistant stage manager (assisting Mr Malkin !)… ah the smell of the greasepaint and the roar (?) of the crowd!
Thank you and Chris for sharing these memories…
Brean Hammond comments
I wanted to add a few reminiscences to the recent posting by Chris Halliburton. I don’t know if he remembers me, but I certainly remember him. The opening of that 1964 production of Othello is etched on my memory. I recall Chris and John Whitworth striding onto the stage, Chris’s perfectly-constructed oafish and vacuous walk and expression as he said ‘Tush, never tell me, I take it much unkindly, / That thou, who hast had my purse / As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this’. Hector MacIver chose me as producer’s assistant for that production and it was what began for me a lifelong interest in drama and theatre. During the riot scene, when Cassio is drawn into the brawl by Iago, the stage direction calls for a bell to be sounded. It was my job to sound that bell. Every night, however, the noise was so loud that I missed my cue and had to be set upon by irate stage hands and violently suppressed.
I had a minor role in Anouilh’s Beckett and what I recall most vividly from backstage in that production was the poker game. Niall Longmuir, I recall, had to knock the door and enter at one point. But he was engrossed in the poker game and I heard him say ‘Oh, I am so lucky today’. ‘Not so lucky, Niall’, I said suavely. ‘Why?’ ‘Because you’re supposed to be onstage’. Cards everywhere. Confusion.
The first significant role I can recall getting was in a short play called The Bespoke Overcoat, by Wolf Mankowitz. I was in a Pinter play – I think A Slight Ache, not Dumb Waiter – and in the fullness of time became President of the Dramatic Society. Our play in my final year was called One More River by Beverly Cross – a David Campbell production and considerably racy. David had initiated contact with James Gillespie’s girls school and with them we did The Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt. Again, this was a courageous choice of an avant-garde play that didn’t, shall we say, wear its meaning on its face. I played Einstein. The RHS Dramatic Society had no difficulty in attracting speakers: those I recall were Ronnie Corbett and Richard Eyre.
For me, the Dramatic Society was the platform to an academic career in which theatre and drama have always been a prominent part. I directed the staff and undergraduate productions at the University of Liverpool. And as a scholar, perhaps my most significant achievement is the bringing to notice and editing for the Arden Shakespeare series a ‘lost’ Shakespeare play called Double Falsehood (based on a story in Don Quixote). Al Senter asked me to talk about that one year at the RHS FP dinner but the arrangements didn’t fall into place. Perhaps another time.
I hope this is a useful supplement to what is already on the site.
With best wishes.