An Ayrshire Arts Archive ~ Arts Groups and Venues

Craigie College of Education : A Dramatic History ~ 1964 - 1988

Drama and Theatre at Craigie College of Education, Ayr (1964-1969).

The Assembly Hall

The Assembly Hall was basically a typical school hall of the period. The auditorium had a large, flat, highly polished floor. Linked seating had to be put out for an audience and those at the back had a poor view. It was surrounded by large windows that could never be satisfactorily blacked out.

The proscenium stage, at the far end, was raised by about four feet from the auditorium level. Its floor too was highly polished and there was no back-stage access from stage left to stage right. Portable steps gave access to the stage from the auditorium.

We soon constructed a series of collapsible rostra to make an apron stage in front of the proscenium. The wing space on each side was very cramped. Flying provision was just sufficient to hide the overhead lights behind cloth borders and there was a full set of stage curtains. Also suspended from the stage ceiling was a boxed, rolled-up, projection screen for a portable cine projector. Access to lights, both over the stage and from front-of-house, was provided by a Tall-o-Scope ladder. This was a useful piece of equipment which we used, from time to time, in all three of our venues. Stage lighting was controlled from a bank of large sliding resister dimmers on stage right. The sound system was sited on a small raised platform in the right wing, over the lighting controls, and reached by a fixed ladder. There was a gramophone turntable and a reel-to-reel tape deck. Column loudspeakers were situated on either side of the proscenium arch. Changing facilities were shared with the nearby College gymnasium.

Despite these constraints we mounted the following productions there:

1964 The Christmas Story Carl Orff
1965 The Fan Carlo Goldoni (translated by Henry B. Fuller)
1966 The Women of Troy Euripides (translated by Philip Vellacott)
1967 The Way of the World
William Congreve
  Noye's Fludde
(performed in a local church)
Benjamin Britten
1968 Blood Wedding
Garcia Lorca
  Bastien and Bastienne
1969 The Beggar's Opera John Gay

The Fan was our first full-length play. One feature of this production provides an interesting historical context. We used a translation that had never before been played in a public performance in a British theatre. I had to send a copy to the Lord Chamberlain to be licensed. Theatrical censorship in Britain was abolished in the following year. Hugh Ramsay’s ingenious sets were an important feature of these early productions.

The Women of Troy and The Way of the World were distinguished by two remarkable performances by student Marlene Rae who was a profoundly moving Hecabe and an hilarious Lady Wishfort. I think I am right in saying that The Beggar's Opera was our first production where there was no cross-dressing at all. By this time we had three yearly cohorts containing male students. Harry Beeby was a splendid Peachum in partnership with Ken Brice’s Lockit and the highwaymen and whores were all students apart from Geoff Dixon, who played Macheath. The orchestra occupied much of the auditorium space around the apron stage. It was well attended, but the large audiences complained that it was difficult to see from the back of the hall. I suspect that they were looking forward to the new theatre almost as much as we were.

Throughout these early years the Assembly Hall was also used for visiting companies. I remember an exciting programme given by a touring group from the Royal Ballet.

David J F Crouch (BA, MA, DPhil, Diploma in Drama in Education)
York, 2010

Beggars opera 1
Craigie College Drama Group. The Beggar's Opera by John Gay performed in the Assembly Hall, 1969.   magnify

The Fan

Craigie College Drama Group. The Fan by Carlo Goldoni performed in the Assembly Hall, 1965. magnify

Images from David J F Crouch (personal collection)

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Creative Ayrshire acknowledges the assistance of David J F Crouch (BA, MA, DPhil, Diploma in Drama in Education), Carolyn O'Hara, Ken Walker, Mike Bailey,  Barbara Crouch and the Librarian UWS for the provision of material for this section of the website. 

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