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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 402

updated
Saturday, 28 May 2005

The Island King,
Adelphi Theatre, London, 10 October 1922,
starring W.H. Berry, with Peter Gawthorne, Conway Dixon,
George Bishop, Louie Pounds, Nancie Lovat, Dorothy Shale, et al

W.H. Berry and dancers

W.H. Berry as Chief Petty Officer Hopkins ('Oppy)
and dancers as the Girls of the South Sea Island of Etaria, in
The Island King, Adelphi Theatre, London, 10 October 1922

(photo: ? The Stage Photo Co, London, 1922)

The Island King, a musical comedy in three acts written by Peter Gawthorne, with music by Harold Garstin, directed by E. Lyall Swete and choreographed by Phyllis Bedells, was produced at the Adelphi Theatre, London, on 10 October 1922. The piece ran for 160 performances. For further information, see Kurt Gänzl, The British Musical Theatre, The Macmillan Press Ltd, Houndmills and London, 1986, vol. II, pp.195 and 196.

Peter Gawthorne


Peter Gawthorne, who wrote the book and the lyrics for
The Island King, Adelphi Theatre, London, 10 October 1922,
in which he played the part of Prince Kara Gypopolus of Etaria

(photo: ? The Stage Photo Co, London, 1922)

(photos: unknown, USA, circa 1905)

THE ISLAND KING
The Story of the Play
Told by
H.C.G. Stevens

'A riverside club house. One of those jolly little places up Thames, where beflannelled, handsome - men - are - slightly-sunburnt Leanders meander after their heroine Heros . . . . and where - to judge, at any rate, from the number of witers in the Gorlington specimen under notice - you have to push the boat out in more senses than one.
'Talking of the Gorlington waiters: the gentleman with the chain of office is the chief among them - not the local Mayor.
'The riverside club house. That's where the story of The Island King has its first telling. And we know right at the outset that the telling will be a "nice" one; for almost the first entrance is that of the Rural Dean, accompanied by the Curate of one of the riverside churches, where, it will be recalled from last summer's Press, all riverside club people make, on Sunday afternoons, a very special point of congregating.
'The Baynham family - General Sir George (retired list), père [played by Alfred Clark]; Lady George, mère [Louie Pounds]; Mary (by no means like her contrary namesale, though she sings very kindly of her at a later stage), fille [Nancie Lovat] - the Baynham family has undoubtedly the possession of a family "season," for we find it at the Gorlington club house in a body . . . . and soon we meet is beauteous guest, the Princess Poppala of Etaria [Dorothy Shale], who, it appears, has travelled all the way from her South Sea island home to reclaim the truant affections of her betrothed, Prince Karan Gypopolus [Peter Gawthorne].
'Mary and Poppala have had a sculling match - Poppala found it far jollier than the skulling she was accustomed to in - but no; we later learn that the Etarians are a very harmless people - as harmless as our veg-etarians . . . . Mary and Poppala have had a sculling match, and Mary has won.
'This introduces her sweetheart, Jack [George Bishop], as jolly a sailor as ever wasn't "ploughed" for Dartmouth - and introduces him jollier still, because in the victory he was scope for extra admiration.
'But, sailorlike, he cannot fail to observe that there is a novel kind of beauty in the South Sea Poppala, vanquished though she be . . . . and as - well, Karan Gypopolus, also by now arrived upon the scene, things there is nothing like the English beauty of Mary Baynham; wherefore is there the prospect, anything but remote, of a general upheaval.

Nancie Lovat


Nancie Lovat as Mary Baynham in
The Island King, Adelphi Theatre, London, 10 October 1922

(photo: ? The Stage Photo Co, London, 1922)

'An open quarrel between the two young men is, in fact, the immediate result . . . .
'But now comes 'Oppy [W.H. Berry]. 'Oppy puts a new complexion on the game entirely - fortunately not his own complexion, one that his old "bottle-ism" trouble has given him.
''Oppy is Robert Hopkins, Chief Petty Officer Robert Hopkins. He is Jack's body-servant - his fidus Achates, his simper idem, and, as it were (when there's any trouble on), his quid pro quo.
'Here's where the new complexion gets put on. 'Oppy, you see, once went to Etaria. Some years ago he was more or less stranded there - one reason by the story of The Island King is told at the Royal Adelphi Theatre [in the Strand] - and, what's more, was the recipient of a very especially warm welcome from a dusky maiden, a maiden whom, introductions being regarded as somewhat superfluous ceremonies in the Island, he had just "picked up" and christened "Coppernosed Connie" . . . but a maiden who was, 'Oppy now gathers (not to his embarrassment, sailors haven't any), none other than Poppola!
Now the complexion's beginning to change - not only the game's, but Poppala's, even whose duskiness lets in a decided blush when she meets her long lost "Admiral," (It is evident that 'Oppy gave himself airs in the South Seas.)
'This Karan Gypopolus. What of him?
'Let it be said at once that his old father, the King of Etaria, has always been selfish and for a long time residing in Paris, where his selfishness has proved a particularly useful quality.
'So selfish has the King become that he has "cut off" K.G. with the Etarian equivalent for four dozen farthings . . . . and K.G., full of revenge, now leads a double life, paying periodical visits to the Island, disguised in a heavy beard, to proclaim himself a piratical buccaneer called Captain Jackson, behave like an American income tax collector behaves (if we see our films aright) . . . . and, incidentally, despoil the wretched natives of their hoards of precious pearls . . . going back, the treasures safely disposed about his person, to resume his far from creditable life of gaiety in England.
'But Destiny has laid a trap. Destiny has indeed laid a trap. Through the instrumentality of the resourceful 'Oppy, K.G. is ensnared, and ensnared in manner well worthiest of the best anit-villainy traditions.
'Jack, you see, as the result of a rash wager made by this Kara Gypopolus (here again it is a sculling match, and it is regretfully to be recorded that 'Oppy is tempted to "make a book" about it, luring the Rural Dean and the Curate into a sixpenny one-to-three between them) - Jack becomes the owner of Etraria, the old gentleman in Paris having meanwhile died.

Dorothy Shale


Dorothy Shale as Princess Poppala of Etaria in
The Island King, Adelphi Theatre, London, 10 October 1922

(photo: ? The Stage Photo Co, London, 1922)

'Intent on one last "scoop," K.G. prepares to leave at once for this Jackson business. He might have said, after the manner of the former Prime Minister of another country, "My Beard is on My Chin." (For it was largely the beard that used to frighten those Etarians - a strangely unbeavered race . . . . .
'But 'Oppy sees the scheme - at the moment, following another "bottle-ism" bout, he might very easily have seen two schemes - and reveals it to Poppala. Poppala says, in effect, "Page, fetch me a Handley" . . . . and off they go, getting to the South Seas first.
'The others follow in another aeroplane . . . . and we follow too.
'Etaria. Who could describe it? Who but a poet could describe it? Who but a poet, with his "sea-girt something, set in a something something . . . . where the something, water-lilies something on the dew-steeped something else"? None could. By you and me Etaria must just remain the beautiful indescribable.
'Suffice it that we are there, just when Etarian dancers dance, when Etarian everybody vies with Etarian everybody else to make us, for the first time in our life, do the Dreadful Thing - want to find out how we can abandon our British citizenship and become Etarians too.
'We are there. 'Oppy is King. Only a locum temens King - but King for all that . . . . and a happy King . . . . until the Jackson business begains.
'Then - well; it cannot be denied that 'Oppy is taken rather unawares. Jackson arrives four minutes before the scheduled time . . . . . and with Jackson is a gang of gentler-confederates from-the-gunboat-lying-out-
in-the-bay-there- that-can-blow-you-and-your-
beastly-island- to-blazes-if-I-choose.
'The second aeroplane arrives - Mary, masquerading as a boy mechanic, has accompanied Jack, who has utterly failed to recognise her - and then a steam yacht, with landing party and everything else complete - complete for the permanent undoing of all the wickednesses, wickednesses whose only justification has been that they have contributed to make the story of The Island King as thrilling and romantic as it is.
'Jack, of course, takes over the crown . . . . but soon he abdicates in favour of 'Oppy I . . . . . and 'Oppy I., with loveliest "Coppernosed Con-sort" by his side, reigns in Etaria and peace for no end of a long time . . . .'
(The Royal Adelphi Pictorial - The Island King, published by Adams Bros. & Shardlow Ltd, London, [1922])

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