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no. 352

Saturday, 12 June 2004

musical farcical comedy,
Trafalgar Square Theatre, London, 10 March 1894

Letty Lind

Letty Lind as Di Dalrymple in Go-Bang, Trafalgar Square, London, 1894

(photo: probably Alfred Ellis, London, 1894)

Go-Bang, a musical farcical comedy by Adrian Ross and music by Osmond Carr, was produced at the Trafalgar Square Theatre, London, on 10 March 1894. The cast included Harry Grattan, Arthur Playfair, George Grossmith jnr, Sidney Howard, Frederick Rosse, J.L. Shine, Jessie Bond, Agnes Hewitt, Adelaide Astor, Maggie Roberts and Letty Lind. The piece ran for 166 performances.

Venus, cast

A caricature of Harry Grattan as Jenkins and Letty Lind as Di Dalrymple
in Go-Bang, Trafalgar Square, London, 1894
(from Pick-Me-Up, London, Saturday, 21 April 1894, p.38)

'The introduction of the musical farcical comedy has been an event in the play-going world, and if the newest example is in any degree inferior to its forerunners, it is, at least, diverting throughout. No doubt, as times goes on, additions will be made here and there, especially as this could be done to almost any extent without the slightest fear of destroying the sequence of the story. For the story of Go-Bang is a modest trifle that would, I am sure, accommodate itself to any amount of altered conditions, to be obliging. Mr. Adrian Ross, the writer of the libretto, has a happy wit, and the display of a little more of that essential element sprinkled here and there, is no doubt a matter of time only.

There is certainly not very much of a plot
In the musical farce of Go-Bang,
But, as someone remarks in the course of the larks,
Here the plot "doesn't matter a hang!"
For the music is light, and the dresses are bright,
And the ladies are shapely and tall;
There is dancing and song, and the skirts aren't too long,
And there's frequently no skirt at all.

'As far as I was able to grasp the direction of the story, the Boojam of Go-Bang had come over to this country to find that he wasn't Boojam at all. If I may state my own personal feeling in the matter I must confess that it seems to me the prospect of being deprived of such a noisy title should be more of a matter of relief than otherwise to the unhappy wearer. It is fair to say, however, that the reigning Boojam submits to the force of circumstances with a very good grace, and returns to Go-Bang as prime minister to the new chief without even a tear of regret for vanished greatness. The Boojam's family name, evidently of oriental origin, is Dam Row. The author has preserved the name intact in all its native simplicity, though I think it would have been an advantage if a rough translation of it had been supplied for private use. When you come to read to the lady beside you the synopsis of the songs and the names of the singers, the abrupt announcement: "Chorus and Song (Dam Row)," doesn't sound altogether complimentary to the singer, and is, besides, liable to foster the unfounded suspicion that you are capable of profanity.
'The Boojam finds a difficulty in grasping the ways of our good old country. He appears to have been the guest at a West End club, where he was told some of the lighter narratives that float round the Stock Exchange when money is tight and one or two of the honourable members are drifting in a somewhat similar direction. He has heard a little rhyme to the effect that there was a young girl of Madras; and, as it has amused him very considerably indeed, he is most anxious to repeat it for the benefit of the ladies. He, however, can never get any farther than the first line; for at this point the ladies put up their fans and turn away. This proceeding necessarily proves two things, neither of which is in the highest degree desirable. One is that the rhyme must be a little irregular in its ethics; and the other is that the ladies must already know it by heart to be able to recognise it at such an early stage. Mrs. Grundy please copy.

Jessie Bond and J.L. Shine

left, Jessie Bond as Helen Tapeleigh and, right, J.L. Shine as Dam Row, Boojam of Go-Bang
in Go-Bang, Trafalgar Square, London, 1894

(photos: probably Alfred Ellis, London, 1894)

'Miss Letty Lind is quite a refreshing item in the piece which does threaten to limp now and again. To begin with, her song "Di, Di, Di," is one of the best written things in the whole book and her singing of it is playful and pretty to a degree. Letty is supposed to be a dance at the Variety Theatre, and the Boojam has fallen in love with her after seeing the performance, which would appear to have reminded him of the native skittishness of Go-Bang. He accordingly introduces her at a fashionable reception; and when the young lady is mildly admonished for having come without her mother, she protests that she used to bring a mother along, but they cost her five shillings a-week for afternoons only, and the expenditure was hardly warranted. Well, I don't know, I'm sure. I suppose it's all right.

With a knowing little smile you'll find her stating
That the gentlemen address her as their "Di,"
And declare it is most cruelly aggravating
That so nice a girl should be so very shy.
But when, later on, you come to see the spryness
Of her dancing, you will candidly admit
If she hadn't called attention to her shyness -
Well, you really would have hardly noticed it.

'Miss Lind has another well-written song, "The Chinee Dolly," which is cleverly rendered in fantastic costume. At the conclusion of her song the merry little lady breaks into a doll's dance; and as the dance is concluding she is so far able to forget her distressing shyness as to turn head over heels and roll gracefully off, prompt side. The action was so unexpected and so diverting that there was a liberal encore, and Letty came on and obliged a second time. The somersault however was not repeated, the lady merely tripping off with a dainty wave of the hand and a decorous wink. You see, by that time we were prepared, and all the opera glasses were resolutely levelled at the spot where the somersault would have been if it had been. But Letty wasn't going to give herself away like that.
''Mr Harry Grattan is a humble greengrocer, in whose favour the reining Boojam has been compelled to resign. The second act takes him to the Palace at Go-Bang, where it is expected he will be formally installed as Boojam. A good deal of fun is gout out of the Golden Umbrella under which all decrees are enacted. The umbrella being held over the new Boojam as a matter of courtesy, he finds himself married by mistake to three girls in as many minutes. Fortunately, it only becomes necessary to hustle them all under the umbrella again to pronounce the decree nisi; but it is easy to see that an umbrella of that kind would be a rather troublesome thing to have around in a moderately law-abiding community. A designing widow with such a weapon could strike terror into an entire county.
'I suppose it would be difficult to find a more prosaic subject in life than the sixpenny stamp required by the Commissioners of H.M. Inland Revenue in matters of agreement between contracting parties; and those of us who have experience of genially detestable duties in the City in respect of the minor consideration of bread and butter, have [probably] never imagined there was anything humorous or romantic in this trifling technicality. But that is where Mr. Adrian Ross gets ahead of us. He had written quite a merry little ditty on the subject; and one can only argue that a writer who can find inspiration in such a source will shortly be weaving a romance out of a copying-press or writing a comic song about the office pen-wiper.
'Mr. Arthur Playfair has a good deal to do as a red-tape official, and he is bustling about the stage most of the time, helping the fun along. Dam Row is played very carefully by Mr. J.L. Shine; and Miss Agnes Hewitt has a small part that might be developed with advantage. The costumes, especially in the second act, are pretty and imposing; and the dreamy oriental scenery is well depicted as it faces away in a very appropriately blue mountain far in the dim perspective. Go-Bang has all the ingredients of a success, and by this time it is, no doubt, shaping vigorously in that direction.'
(Jingle, Pick-Me-Up, London, Saturday, 21 April 1894, pp.38 and 39)

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Gladys Cooper

Gladys Cooper as she appeared in Havana,
Gaiety Theatre, London, 1908

(photo: Bassano, London, 1908)

A sample of John Culme's hand made greetings cards,
currently available at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The above greetings card and others like it have been made to celebrate Terence Pepper's current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, devoted to Bassano's early 20th Century photographs of theatrical celebrities. Images of Gabrielle Ray and Gladys Cooper are featured in the exhibition as are some of their contemporaries on the London stage, including Gertie Millar, Moya Mannering, Gaby Deslys, Olive May and Gina Palerme. The exhibition runs until 31 August.

A special CD entitled Gaiety Girls has been produced to coincide with the exhibition, available at the National Portrait Gallery bookshop and also direct from Tony Barker. With masterly transfers by Dominic Combe from rare original recordings, and twelve pages of sleeve notes by Patrick O'Connor, the CD comprises the following tracks:
Alice Delysia - I Know What I Want (1933)
Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale - Hold My Hand (1932)
Cicely Courtneidge and Harold French - A tiny flat in Soho Square (1927)
Dorothy Brown and Roy Royston - When I Waltz With You (1926)
Josť Collins and Kingsley Lark - The Last Waltz (1922)
Mamie Watson and Roy Royston - Japanese Duet (1920)
Marjorie Gordon - Tickle Toe (1918)
Ada Reeve - Is It Nothing To You? (1915)
Moya Mannering and Leslie Henson - Meet Me Around The Corner (1915)
Haidee de Rance and George Grossmith Jnr - They Didn't Believe Me (1915)
Connie Ediss - I Like To Have A Little Bit On (1911)
Olive May - The Lass With A Lasso (1911)
Gaby Deslys - Tout En Rose (1910)
Denise Orme and Arthur Grover - Swing Song (1906)
Delia Mason and Maurice Farkoa - My Portuguese Princess (1905)
Evie Greene - Try Again, Johnny (1902)
Ellaline Terriss - Gaiety Medley (1903).
The disc also includes the following unique recordings of broadcasts from the 1930s: Gertie Millar - Keep Off The Grass; Phyllis Dare and W. H. Berry - Let Me Introduce You To My Father; Ethel Levey - Ragtime Medley; and Evelyn Laye - The Call Of Life.

The National Portrait Gallery has also published a number of postcards for the occasion, taken from original Bassano negatives, which are available from the gallery's bookshop

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© John Culme, 2004