Dram Soc in the Early 1960s – Andrew Kitchen

Dram Soc in the Early 1960s – Andrew Kitchen

Greetings from the USA:

As a former Dram Soc member, I was interested to read the history of Bedlam. The following excerpt addresses the years of my participation:

“The EUTC was first known as the Edinburgh University Drama Society, or Dram Soc for short. Dram Soc was known for its occasional performances and for its more occasional parties. The society didn’t have a permanent home, and although active, did not stage many productions.”

Here are a few of my memories. I remember that 1 Buccleuch Place was the Dram Soc home in those days. Maybe it wasn’t permanent, but it was where some parties were held, and where the wardrobe was kept. As I remember, Carola Brown (now Hicks) was wardrobe mistress in 1961-2.

As far as activities were concerned, perhaps there was not as much going on then as there is now, but I seem to remember that we put on at least one full length play each term, plus a slate of one acts. A production was typically presented as part of the Fringe and, at least while I was active, a group of us formed a travelling company that toured the Highlands in the summer. We used the Adam Theatre for most of our productions, it wasn’t ideal because the backstage was very cramped, but it was centrally located near the New Quad.

The Dram Soc party scene was pretty active. While most parties were held in the flats of Dram Soc members rather than at Buccleuch Place, the guests were typically the diehard core of the society. In fact the Dram Soc was considered a rather disreputable crew by the more conservative members of the university community. One of my American friends, Judith Randels (who later became my wife), was warned against associating with such unsavoury characters. Needless to say, she became a member, and directed an excellent production of Elliot’s “Sweeney Agonistes” (Spring 1962, I believe).

I have partial memories of other productions (the dates are guesses, I might be off by a year on some of them):

Danton’s Death (1960-61)
Director – Richard (Dick) Stevens
Philip de Grouchy played Robespierre. I had a minor part in this big monster of a play, but I don’t remember who else was in it

Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (Summer, 1961)
I can’t remember the names of most of the cast members, now. Neil Colombe played Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Carola Brown was Olivia, and I was Feste. Keith Howell was also involved. (This was a production that toured through the Highands that summer, along with a one act play – Frye’s “A Phoenix too Frequent”. We got ourselves free publicity from the Scottish Daily Mail when we were approached by a reporter while performing near Loch Oich. There had been a report of a monster sighted in the Loch. The reporter came to us and said, “Did you have anything to do with this (Hint, hint!)”. The props people obliged by creating a mock-up of a serpent out of paper and wire. We got a full page spread in the Mail, but the whole thing back fired: the locals were not at all happy that we would make fun of their local fauna.)

The Dumb Waiter, Pinter (1961-62)
I played Ben and Neil Colombe was Gus. It was directed by Patrick Brooks.
(This one went to the 1961-62 British Universities Drama Festival in Bristol – I think that was what it was called. We were than invited to the University of Wales at Aberystwyth to give another performance later in the year. We were really “hot” that night and got a standing ovation. A pity we weren’t on top of our form for the festival, we might have won in the one act play section. As it was, in the discussion after the festival performance, Pinter, who attended the play was very complimentary. We actually got to meet him and talk to him later that day.)

The Birthday Party, Pinter (1961-62)
Philip de Grouchy was in it; Director – Richard (Dick) Stevens
(This one should have gone to the same festival. Dick Stevens’ production was amazing: funny, yet very disturbing and dark, and the acting ensemble was excellent, not a weak note in the whole thing. It was a tragedy that the local reviewer, the drama critic for the “Scotsman” I think (don’t remember his name), was rather cool toward it. There was another production at the festival that was just plain awful – it upset me so to see the injustice of it all.)

Julius Caesar, Shakespeare (1961-62)
I’m pretty sure that Philip de Grouchy was Cassius. I played Caesar. Neil Colombe was in it. Patrick Brooks directed.
(I remember that Neil gave himself a roman hair style, but cut the front so short that he had to “paint” hair on his forehead with a makeup pencil for the performances. We got ox blood from the local abattoir for the murder scene, because we weren’t satisfied with the appearance of the fake stuff. I remember that the murderers, while washing their hands in my blood, made every attempt to tickle me back to life. After the first night, my bloody toga was reused as my shroud, while its replacement was washed everyday for the murder scene – lying under days-old ox blood for the duration of Mark Anthony’s speech is not something I’d recommend to the squeamish.)

Dock Brief, Mortimer (1962, I think)
(I gave a rather weak performance as the lawyer in this production. I don’t remember who was the prisoner, or who directed it. It was not anything I am proud of, it was poorly rehearsed and I didn’t really know my lines. I know that Dick Stevens was not impressed, but his wife was very sweet to me and told me how much she’d enjoyed it.)

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