Friday, 4 December 2009

Saville Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue WC2 (now Odeon Covent Garden)

Now to the bookends of Gilbert Bayes's great frieze, just round the corners in Stacey Street (left) and St Giles' Passage (right). Here Bayes places the stars of the only plays he mentions by name - George Bernard Shaw's St Joan, and Khaki. The figures are ushered in by angels holding back curtains.
After a try-out in New York, St Joan was staged in London in 1924. The star was Sybil Thorndyke, and the figure on the frieze has Sybil's square jaw.
Khaki, staged in 1924, was a vehicle for Ernie Lotinga, a music hall comic whose stock character was an everyman called Josser. In the play, Josser is in the Army on the Western Front, outwitting everyone, including his officers, the French and the Germans with his quick and cunning mind. Lotinga went on to make a series of films as Josser.
The attack on the officer corps attracted the unfavourable attention of the Lord Chamberlain, who insisted on substantial changes before it could be staged, as outlined in Great War Fiction.
The common thread is socialism and pacifism. No wonder these panels are safely round the corner, where everyone will miss them.


ChrisP said...

George Simmer emails:
Dear Chris,
Thanks for your intriguing comment on my blog. I've walked past that cinema goodness knows how many times, and never looked at the frieze.
I'm amazed and delighted that Ernie Lotinga is commemorated in sculpture. I knew that 'Khaki' was popular, and that it was a play he revived, but I didn't realise that it was regarded as quite so emblematic of its time.
If the frieze was made in 1931, that wwas around the time when Lotinga became a film star. Very much a verbal comedian, he didn't do much in the silent period, but with the coming of sound made a large number of movies, mostly based on the popular farces with thich he had been touring the country. In 1932 he made 'Josser in the Army', which I think must be a version of 'Khaki'. Almost all his films seem to be lost. The British Film Institute have prints of some which are too fragile to be shown, and just one extract that is available as a viewing copy. It's 'Acci-dental Damage', a jolly farce about going to the dentist. The extract stops just as things start to get manic, though.
All the best,
-- George Simmers's research blog is at:

Hels said...

I was trying to think of who/what Gilbert Bayes' style reminded me of. Have a look at Charles Jagger
1.First Battle of Ypres, 1918
2. Cambrai Monument in Louverval, 1928 and
3. Scandal Relief, 1930

Bayes' work has a flat, stylised, Deco'ish look, I think. And I also like his subject matter, coming soon after the end of the War to End All Wars.

Art and Architecture, mainly

ChrisP said...

I'm a big fan of Jagger, and I have a work of his in the pipeline for posting. Watch this space!