The Middle Watch
by Ian Hay & Stephen King-Hall, produced by Eric Hart
25 February 1939, Crofton Hall
We know little about The Middle Watch, other than that it was the Players’ third or possibly fourth performance, in February 1939, and was successful enough to encourage the more ambitious Hassan five months later.
With the Society still lacking a permanent home, the play was put on at the Crofton Halls and produced by Eric Hart. A curiously pompous review by one ‘FPR’ in an unidentified local paper seemed more concerned with the application of asterisks to theatre reviews than what was happening before his eyes, and probably left the director and cast (or ‘caste’ as he preferred to spell it) wondering ‘but what did you actually think of the show?’
Without doubt to modern eyes this would seem a quaint and possibly insulting farce concerning British service personnel abroad and predictably stereotyped foreigners, but for its time, when most of the audience would have never met anyone from outside the British Isles, it would have been a diverting evening’s entertainment. The reviewer in a rare moment of clarity described it as “a good result”.
Cast & Crew
Marine Ogg Teddy Hollands
Ah Fong TG Collins
Capt Randall KG Rugg
Fay Eaton Dorothy Orme
Nancy Hewitt Joyce Fleming
Cmdr Baddeley Vernon St Clair Tomalin
Charlotte Hopkinson Kathleen Hart
Adm Sir Hercules Hewitt Bill Loraine
Mary Carlton Gladys Hollands
Lady Hewitt Kathleen Curtis
An Able Seaman Jack Duffy
Capt Maitland Francis Paige
Cpl Duckett Colin George
Stage Manager Charles Nash
Music & Effects Ian Riach, Louis Walker
Properties W Moore
Producer Eric Hart
Chelsfield Village Hall Dramatic Society provided an extremely amusing evening last Saturday, and our thanks are due to the able cast who performed that ever popular farce, “The Middle Watch.” The British Navy rarely fails to supply a background in which the most unlikely events will occur. Moreover the unpretentious humour supplied by the Marines prevents the audience from whispering mono-syllabic doubts as to the possibility of certain scenes, and the play carefully avoids a superfluity of lingering embraces at which the more flippant are inclined to snigger. Altogether, “The Middle Watch” is an ideal play for amateurs, and the Chelsfield Village Hall ‘Dramatic Society performed it with distinction.
Should we choose to follow the example of the daily newspaper in their award of asterisks by the side of new plays and films according to their quality, and apply this method of criticism to the members of the caste, the Editor would presumably object to the extra printing required. Especially, say, in the case of T. G. Collins, playing the part of Ah Fong, a Chinese servant. The Chinese are supposed, on the whole, to be a silent race, at least in the presence of foreigners. When their mouths do open, there should issue forth words that echo the wisdom of Confucius. Ah Fong, although apparently a bore to his master, Capt. Maitland, was no exception. Unfortunately his wisdom was premature and his complacent acceptance of a situation in which two attractive ladies spend the night in the Captain’s cabin, did not always meet with approval. T. G. Collins gave expression to this complacency in both the way he spoke, the manner he moved, and in the divinely smug attitude he adopted when referring to the “prettee peecee ladees.”
Francis Paige acted the part of Capt. Maitland (R.N.) with confidence, and although his manner of speech was a little monotonous, perhaps it fitted his part as a reserved Naval Captain, whose bachelor seclusion was so rudely shattered by Gladys Hollands, playing the part of an American girl. The latter certainly deserves three or four asterisks for the manner in which she gave “the glad eye,” and one asterisk of admiration for the struggle she made to keep up an American accent. While on occasions she descended from Mae West to say Edith Evans, we can but admit that she “got her man,” and acted the rôle of a chaperon to the flighty Miss Fay Eaton played by Bunty Orme, who was forever pining for her “Bobo.”
Some of us were disappointed when Miss Charlotte Hopkinson disappeared down a hatchway and spent the night with some gyroscopical instruments in the engine room. Kathleen Hart certainly scored a winner in her portrayal of this elderly but determined spinster. Faithful to the end was Marine Ogg on “middle watch,” and whether with or without his boots, Teddy Hollands called forth several rounds of merriment, and assisted by Colin George (as Corporal Duckett) succeeding in compromising the most difficult situations. V. St. C. Tomalin acted with a natural assurance as Commander Baddely, and W. E. P. Loraine was a very indignant Admiral.
The rest of the caste were very able and included, K. G. Rugg (Capt. Randall), Joyce Fleming (Nancy Hewitt), Kathleen Curtis (Lady Hewitt) and Jack Duffy (an able Seaman).
Congratulations to the producer, E. Hart, who probably worked the hardest, and certainly obtained a good result.