Virtually all scripts were handwritten and kept by the management. The actors were issued with ‘parts’. These were handwritten sheets from an exercise book, usually hand stitched together. Only the scenes in which the actor appeared were issued. Even then the complete text of the scene was not written out. Cues were given, so that the actor knew when to speak and move. In a scene between three or four characters there could be dialogue not involving the actor which was completely omitted. This was usual at that time in smaller shows. Repertory companies presenting standard published works could hire the required number of printed scripts from French’s or similar firms. But for smaller companies, presenting traditional plays, there was no established source for the text of shows like Maria Martin, Sweeney Todd or Burke and Hare. East Lynne and Uncle Tom’s Cabin would have been adapted from the ‘Penny Book’ printed version. ‘Dick’s Penny Books’ * circulated widely in Victorian and Edwardian times. They were useful to managements and probably a source of interest to members of the public who were theatrical enthusiasts unable to see either the London production or the touring versions of the latest sensation. There were also ‘Sixpenny books’ mainly for professional use.
There was no prompter in the Kinloch Players. In rep it was usually a poor terrified ASM sitting by the proscenium arch in the prompt corner, praying that no one would ‘dry’. There is a well known rep story of a sudden unexpected pause on stage and a brave ASM giving a good clear prompt. Nobody picked it up. The ASM repeated the prompt. Still nothing. The third time the prompt was even louder, when the leading man turned to the Prompt Corner and said, “Yes, dear, but who says it?” The Kinloch Players had no such luxury. You had to ad.lib. your way out of it until somebody managed to pick up the thread of the plot. Useful training, probably not taught at RADA.
See Further sources of information. David Drummond.
see also Superstitions