This would have been ‘Show Week’ at Watson’s. It was to have been Les Misérables and such was the anticipation, at least one prominent Edinburgh couple were re-organising their crowded diaries back in December, so that they could be in our Assembly Hall in June, to watch the story of Jean Valjean unfold.
However, we have accounts and some photos of previous productions to look back on.
At George Watson’s Ladies College in George Square, the House Shakespeare Competition took a scene from one of the plays to be performed by each house. In 1949 it was the trial scene from The Merchant of Venice and in 1967, the first scene from King Lear.
The fiftieth anniversary of the founding of GWLC was marked in 1921 by each house, Falconhall, Greyfriars, Lauriston and Melville acting three scenes representing the School in 1871, 1921 and 1971. Lauriston predicted that ‘young ladies’ in 1971 would be playing Rugby and ‘looking very happy and by no means unattractive.’
Falconhall, who were to win this first House Drama Competition had a girl from 1921 being taken first back in time to a very boring sewing class in 1871 then forward to 1971 to a ‘very free and easy lesson’ where visitors from Mars are ‘quietly studying by themselves.’ However, the girl is accused of carrying infectious germs by a horrified mistress and hurriedly returns to her present day.
Plays such as The Lady’s Not for Burning by Christopher Fry were put on at the Church Hill Theatre in 1956, less than ten years after it had been written. It was considered to be quite a controversial choice of the forward-looking teacher, Miss Carnon who directed it.
In 1961, Dorothy Sayers’ version of Dr Faustus, The Devil to Pay was performed in the Little Theatre at the Pleasance.
Meanwhile at the Boys’ School, plays by Shakespeare, Sheridan and Shaw all featured strongly during the 1950s and 60s. Sheriff’s Journey’s End, staged in the Assembly Hall in 1955, with its all- male cast was a popular choice for boys’ schools like Watson’s was then.
However, there were a good number of excellent reviews for boys taking on female roles as they would have done when Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Eric Anderson as Portia in the 1951 production of The Merchant of Venice was praised for being ‘clear-spoken and effective.’
By 1968 and the second production of Murder in the Cathedral by T.S.Eliot staged at Watson’s that decade, girls from George Square were playing the Chorus of the Women of Canterbury although not thanked in the same terms as GWLC was for ‘providing ‘Two lovely ladies for the female parts’ in another production of Dr Faustus in 1966.
There must be so many stories to be told by people who were involved in productions whilst they were at School. There must be many more photos too. Whose career plans were changed by their involvement in music and drama whilst they were at Watson’s? We’d love to hear from you all.