Saturday, 27 February 2010

Otautau's Music and Theatre Days

At the moment, we are cataloguing old photographs which were transferred to the Otautau Museum Trust back in 2002 when the trust formed. These collections came from our predecessors - the Otautau Historical Society and the Otautau Local History Museum.

The first group of photographs that we've catalogued relate to music and theatre. We have pictures of the Otautau & District Pipe Band from 1940 to the 1960s; the Otautau Brass Band with one photo as early as 1906; a string ensemble of unknown name and origin; and two photos of the cast of The Magic Ruby, a 3-act operetta with children and adults. The play featured Hunter's Orchestra from Riverton. There were a few orchestras in Otautau's past but we have no photos of them. If you know anything about the Otautau Orchestra (a 6-member group), Jellyman's Orchestra and the Green Valley Orchestra, please let us know.

As for The Magic Ruby, a search on PapersPast reveals that it was performed in May 1922 in Otautau as well as Nightcaps. Words and music were written by C. K. Proctor who was probably a British playwright, and it is the story of how a magic ruby was stolen and found again. The setting is possibly India which was under British rule at the time. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Otautau Standard, 30 May 1922:

As Nelly O'Neill Miss Annie McDougall quite won the hearts of the audience as she acted her important part with a naturalness which carried its own charm, and her solos and duets were rendered with correctness and artistic expression. Harry Lisle, as portrayed by Roy McIvor, was probably the most exacting part in the play; he did not have the camouflage in make-up that assisted some of the others to get through difficult parts. The character was well sustained, and the part played with considerable merit. Seddon Harrington made a capital Major-General Bangs, and both singing and acting, fairly took the wind out of his friends of private life. The fascinating part of "Electra" [goddess of light] was well demonstrated by Miss Moira Renowden, whose costume and crown formed a dream. This actress was a little self-conscious at times, which rather detracted from the rhythm of the part, otherwise it was letter perfect and well sustained. Bob Liddell and Garnet McAnergney, as Patrick McGee and Ah Sin respectively, behind their "make-ups" had a good tie, and so had the audience enjoying their antics. Both carried out their duties acceptably. G Pearson, as "The Rajah," was a gorgeous personage, and brought to bear a dignity befitting his exalted station; he carried a difficult part with ease and acceptance. Rol. Walker, as "Raj," the bold bad spirit, had one of the most difficult parts in the play, and he did it well. It took a lot of energy and sustained effort and not a little histrionic ability to play the part, and the necessary vim and mystery were maintained to the end.

So it sounds like a great moment in Otautau theatre history - such as it was.

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