Scenery and lighting 2
Table and chair covers, plain or chinz for ‘posh’, were used to disguise card tables and ordinary kitchen chairs. A brass table lamp with a shade was also ‘posh’. Two card tables with a long draped cloth and four brass candlesticks and a cross was a church alter for ‘In a monastery garden’. A low bench with the same cover became a bier for the sleeping Snow White.
In the traditional plays, Maria Martin, etc., a ‘full set’ would usually be followed by a ‘frontcloth’. This was a set of curtains set about four feet back from the ‘housetabs’. The ‘frontcloth’ or ‘Number Twos’ were completely plain and could represent any location, interior or exterior. If necessary the text would set the location. Curtain rings attached to the top of the curtains and threaded through rope allowed them to be opened and closed by a simple system of drawstrings.
In the company’s early years the lighting consisted of simple battens of wood with lamp holders, in two circuits, one with the main lighting, the second with coloured bulbs. Around 1943 a simple liquid dimmer was made and used successfully. By 1946 three standard dimmers were bought from Strand Electric and in 1948 professional battens able to take coloured ‘gellies’ were added. There was a front batten immediately behind the house tabs, one upstage to light the backcloth and footlights. On rare occasions, in the early days in the more remote halls there was no electricity. Oil lamps were used, shaded from the audience by sheets of tin which also acted as reflectors. Tilley lamps and Alladin lamps were more powerful, but harsh, versions of oil lighting.
In the late forties and early fifties the Perth Theatre Company toured the Highlands and Islands in the Summer, when their theatre had a resident ‘Summer Show’, a revue presented by a different management. They also sent out a Spring Tour to the Orkney and Shetland Islands. A winter tour of ‘The Hasty Heart’ based in Perth in the early 1950’s was a one-off. The cast included Edward Woodward, Gordon Jackson and the author of this website. They used small versions of theatre sets with flats, etc. Technically they toured and fitted up their scenery in town and village halls, but they would have been insulted if anyone had referred to them as a ‘fit-up’.