Harbour Theatre - mainly for former members

1990  The 90's were a strange time at HAC. There was a lack of new, keen blood coming through, both in our group and HAC in general, and there wasn't the same enthusiasm as before. People and things were changing, as they are bound to do. Many in the membership wanted to do other things . Public taste was changing. The way HAC was being run more and more by outside bodies was also changing and increasing. The place just didn't feel like 'ours' anymore, and although inevitable, that hurt a bit. As time went on, I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking that we maybe had seen our best years. However, we plodded on , and there were still many good things to come. 

Mar: The Birds by Aristophanes, a co-production with St Michael's Academy, translated/adapted/dir. Ian Dickson.

Having said all that stuff above, 1990 was a bumper year, beginning with this huge co-production. Mounted with the help of a grant from Strathclyde Regional Council as part of a culture initiative of the time, it had a nightly cast and crew of more than fifty five, by far the biggest ever. The play dates from Ancient Greece, 414 BC to be exact, and details the birds' interaction between the worlds of humans and Gods and their home in Cloudcuckooland, hence the expression. 









The photos above show the poster and the cast. Since I don't know most of them, I've no intention of trying to name them, so you can sort yourselves out! 

A bird on a wire, ha ha! This photo shows Caroline Monagle flying, or rather, dangling. The tech crew cut an enormous hole in the ceiling and installed a winch. I'm amazed that the plaster still hasn't fallen off! Caroline came floating down (very slowly) from the theatre attic in her part as Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow. The winch was a bit clackety and ratchety, but the effect was wonderful! She was wearing a flying harness, which was to come in useful in later shows. Others had a go in it, but not me, partly because of comments about the rafters not being able to take the weight. Ha ha, very funny. 


June: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, dir. Jean Park

 A press photo of the cast. On the stairs, David Glover, Zander Conway, Chris Gorman, Anthony Hume. Standing background L-R Vivienne Clarke, Sheila Campbell, Eric Park, Jim Greer, Pat, Craig Atkins, Martin Smith, Graeme Robertson, Iain silver, Rosemaary Murdoch, Gary Linstead, Jason McCartan, Karrie Giles, Frank O'Neill. In front Ross McLachlan, Carrie Wilson.


The opening scene, showing the two-storey set.

Frank is giving the "Two households, both alike in dignity" speech.




Ross and Carrie were young teenagers, pretty much the same ages as their characters. Guess what's being said here?

I really wish we'd dressed the lighting bars and hidden the cables a bit better!

Graeme Robertson used his Macbeth experience and his training at drama college to choreograph the sword fights, with advice from our professional actor friend Sandy Morton. Again, they were pretty realistic and thrilled the audience. As far as I remember, there were no near accidents this time!

Again, the show ran for a  whole week, though audience numbers weren't quite as good as our previous Shakespeare epics.   



Sept: Still Life by John Byrne, dir. Christine Stanley


Still Life was the culmination of a dream for Christine. It was the last of the Slab Boys trilogy, and detailed how the lives of the characters had changed in the intervening 10 years in Act I and five more in Act II. The set, the corner of a cemetery, was arguably the best we've ever had. What you're seeing in the pictures was real - grass, stones, crumbling stone wall, weeds, an old bench, bushes, dirt. I even contributed a small tree! The audience entered along a gravel path, past a rusting iron gate. Those in the front row rested their feet on grass.

Building the set was relatively easy. We covered the whole of the floor area in thick plastic, then just added rough turf, building on top of that. A small mound was con-structed, as part of the action involved a workman digging a hole. We used daylight bulbs to keep the grass fresh, and the environment was so well-balanced, some weeds actually grew taller over the course of the ten days or so the set was in place! A few bugs were seen, but we carefully kept quiet about that. We, or rather Colin Stewart, had to water the grass and the gravel every day, to keep dust down. Everyone remarked on the damp musty smell, but that was part of the decaying image we wanted. 

Graeme and Donald were still in place, as was Craig, this time playing the ghost of wee Hector! Jim Greer made a return as Jack Hogg, now the owner of a men's clothes shop, but Juilie was not able to reprise Lucille, so Caroline Monagle replaced her. Graeme's character Phil was now a down-at-heel artist, and Donald's Spanky Farrel had become a successful rock guitarist, so he bored Phil with stories of touring the world. He would refer to "playing football with Rod, man". Phil would reply, "Rodman?", or he'd describe "hangin' out wi Kris". "Kris who?" . "Kris Kris*******stofferson, who else?", which is how he's still referred to in our house! 

Doing these three plays a year apart and with more or less the same cast (and crew!) was an incredible acheivement for amateurs, as indeed were all three sets. Christne was rightly proud and grateful, and I agree with her.


Dec: The Friendly Dragon by Stephen Entwhistle and Iain Silver, dir. Stephen Entwhistle




















These are the only two photos I have. On the left is Carrie as Princess Penelope, during her big solo number. On the right is Frank as Baron Alvin von Vile, gloating and cackling because Puff the dragon has grabbed the princess with his prehensile tail, and is pulling her up, very slowing on the rackety clackety winch, to his lair in the theatre attic!

Puff was a dragon who was forced to be evil by the Baron, who held control over the village. But love won through in the end, and the Princess managed to convince everyone that Puff was not fierce at all, but friendly and cuddly. Hmmm, wonder how she found that out, trapped alone in his lair. . . . for days on end . . . . completely at his mercy . . . . . . (The villagers revolted and rescued her! )  Anyway, the Baron was defeated and arrested, or eaten, can't remember now, and everybody else lived happily ever after. An original story by Stephen and Iain, with a big cast and crew to match.


Mar: Abigail's Party by Mike Leigh, dir. Jim Tannock.


June: Bessie the Kilwinning Witch and How the Puddlie-Doodlie Got Its Name both for Cunninghame Arts Festivals, dir, by Leslie Melville and the cast. 

I was involved with both these shows but neither particularly sticks in the memory. Leslie had put an article in the local Press, asking for scripts about local events, and these were the two best. To our shame, I can't remember who the authors were.

The Puddlie-Doodlie (spellings vary) is a ford in the river Irvine, just upstream of the Mall, and is reputedly the site of a massacre of English troops by William Wallace. I have a vague memory of me and others dressed in armour staging a battle with big swords on the grass outside the Trinity church, and trying to shout dialogue as well!


Sept: Beyond the Cringe compiled/written/dir. by Isabelle Murdoch and the cast.

This music and sketch show marked a bit of a watershed for Harbour Theatre. Clearly, we had run out of steam a bit, as like in June, there had been no nominations for plays. However, wanting to do 'something', we gathered together a few published sketches and resurrected previously-popular ideas. Leslie Melville also came up with a few suggestions and routines, based on his years in Variety. Thank goodness also for Harvie Smith, who played a few tunes on guitar, partly to give us time to change costume, partly to round out the programme, but also because he was worthy of showcasing! The Gong Show was revived, as were The Ghoulidhs, always a favourite, but this time without Rod and Pat. I think we made up a daft story about why they were no longer in the band - bricklaying abroad, or something. Derek also did his party piece, the Rev I.M. Jolly, and luckily, I was able to supply the proper Late Call music!


Dec: The Wizard of Oz, written/dir. by Rosemary Philips

 L-R Craig Atkins, Jason McCartan, Carrie Wilson.    The Wizard was a bit of a blockbuster. Based on the film, and using many of its songs, Rosemary rewrote it to suit our talents and space restrictions. I have quite a few pictures but none of the whole cast, so I chose these two for good reasons. This one is a good closeup of some of the fantastic costumes made by Joanna Branch, Sharon Davis, Isabel Duff and Rosemary.  Without these great costumes, the show would have been a much poorer affair. Of particular note is Jason's metal codpiece, which some female members of the audience couldn't take their eyes off! (you know who you are) Jason loved the attention. 

This photo shows the main set, the start of the Yellow Brick Road, made by Joanna gluing hundreds of thin pieces of hardboard to the stage. Even after they were removed, you could still clearly see the marks until the whole floor was recovered in the renovation of 2004 ! Joanna, whom we unashamedly credit as giving a start in stage design, went on to be part of the Art Department on "Saving Private Ryan" just seven years later.

On the balcony and stairs are the Flowers and the Munchkins, too numerous to mention. On the stage L-R is Isabelle Murdoch, Jason, Carrie, Jim Greer and Craig.

A credit in the programme is "Tree, Iain Ronald".  This was a magic tree, it moved its branches (arms) and reacted to the other characters. Given his experience with various Panto animals, Iain was inside, but could see virtually nothing, and could only just move by shuffling. Of course, he had to be guided on and off. On night at the end of a scene, he was supposed to be led off by the cast, but they forgot, and left him alone on stage. He quickly realised what had happened, so the poor soul began to try to find his own way off, but got disorientated quickly, and just kept bumping into the set, which the audience couldn't help but find funny. Eventually though, he was rescued by Stage Management.

At the end of the run, the set was being struck. Things were returned, put into storage, or binned, but it was realised that Iain's tree was just too big to bin. Rather than take it to the dump, SM David Murdoch decided to take it outside and burn it, and it easily caught fire, of course, being made of cardboard. Not part of the equation though, was the fact that it had been painted and coloured with layers and layers of enamel spray paint. The flames grew higher. And higher. And higher, until they reached the height of the Marina Inn roof next door. Just as David began to think this maybe wasn't such a good idea after all, the Fire Brigade arrived. Boy, did a red-faced David have some explaining to do! (Risk assessment? What's that?) 


Mar: Rookery Nook by Ben Travers, dir. Isabel Duff



June:The Lion in Winter by James Goldman, dir Christine Stanley



Some of the cast. L-R David Jamieson, Charles Clarke, Craig Atkins, Gary Linstead, Caroline Monagle.




This photo is a wider view of the as yet unfinished set by, amongst others, Joanna Branch and her sister Fiona. They created the illusion of a stone-flagged floor with more hardboard pieces. Fiona also made the wonderful costumes. The atmos-phere of a 12th century castle was completed by covering the stage with straw! Smoking was completely banned of course, but there were still naked flames on stage. Aaargh! Fortunately lots of fire extinguishers were standing by and there were no accidents. The play was about Henry II of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. I seem to remember that the million pound question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was about that precise fact, so we could all have answered it!


Dec: Aladdin adapted by Isabel Duff from original script by Andy Baird, dir. Isabel Duff





The cast. Standing L-R Gillian Gallacher, Sheila Campbell, Isabelle Murdoch, Derek Murdoch, Carrie Wilson, Craig Atkins, Denise Cook, David Jamieson, Robbie Taylor, 'Rover'. Kneeling Jason McCartan, Vivienne Clarke.


This photo gives a better view of the great set. the Branch sisters Joanna and Fiona were again involved with this show, but this time they even brought along youngest sister Sue!

Director Isabel hit on the great idea of using the resources of her P7 class from Glebe Primary, by having three teams of her pupils as Villagers and Chorus in the show or manning front-of-house for the usual ten-show run, taking the pressure of us a bit. This had huge advantages. 1 - it gave the kids a chance to act in a 'real' theatre under professional standards. 2 - it filled up the stage. 3 - it filled up the seats, as parents and families all wanted to come to see their little darlings. One of her teacher colleagues also acted as Musical Director, solving the problem of teaching the songs to the kids.


Mar: The Happy Journey by Thornton Wilder, dir. Sheila Campbell and Between Mouthfuls by Alan Aykbourn, dir. Alan Long.

Another Thornton Wilder play, again dealing with small town America of the early 20th century, and again using the Stage Manager character to link different parts of the story.

The Aykbourn play was directed by Australian Alan Long, a visiting exchange teacher at Isabel Duff's Glebe Primary School. Alan knew the play, having seen it in Oz, and it was kinda cool to have a 'foreigner' involved closely with our productions. Alan also got involved in the Trades movement, and still keeps in touch via Eric Park.

In this comedy play set in a restaurant was Iain Ronald, with a background, non-speaking part as the chef. He was only required to appear occasionally at the "serving hatch", taking orders and giving out plates of food. His singular appearance and demeanor though, added to the comedy, so we built up his part with simple devices like having him with a fag in his mouth, silently 'arguing' with David Jamieson as the waiter, and just being generally a bit 'uncouth'. It was hilarious, and every time he appeared, I couldn't keep my eyes off him. As a result, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who had not much idea what the play was about!


May: Mother Figure by Alan Aykbourn, dir. by Pat Baird for Project Theatre.


Pat was studying for an English degree at the time. Part of the course was the option to direct a short play, so she chose this from the same volume of one-act Aykbourn plays as Between Mouthfuls. Running for just one performance only, her tutors were in the audience. Pat knew the cast were playing to their strengths, so there were no worries as to their abilities.

She passed. 




L-R Isabelle Murdoch, Caroline Monagle.

Being stage manager, I had to find a room full of furniture and dressing so, not for the first time, we stripped the living room. Even the curtains and plants were ours !



June: Murder in Company by Philip King and John Boland, dir. Isabel Duff.













This was right up our street - a murder mystery, with an amateur drama company setting!

Can't remember who got murdered, but David Jamieson played the Stage Manager, who at the end had to get very angry and violent. The normally mild-mannered David went through an incredible transformation, and it was a bit scary, as this was side of David we'd never seen before!


Oct: Albert by Richard Harris, dir. Gaye Dillon. The Patient by Agatha Christie, dir. David Glover. Gosforth's Fete by Alan Aykbourn, dir. Isabelle Murdoch 

 This was the only time we did a Triple Bill of plays, and our only Agatha Christie play. As amateur drama societies go, that must be something of a record, only doing one of her plays in 34 years!

Gosforth's Fete was taken from the same volume of one-act Aykbourn plays as Between Mouthfuls and Mother Figure, so we sure got our money's worth out of that! Above left is Derek Murdoch in his guise as an angry Scout leader in 'Gosforth's' . Doesn't he look just like Officer Crabtree, the one who says 'Good Moaning' in Allo Allo? Next to him is Gerry Welsh as the Vicar in the same show. He really looks the part as well! I wasn't much in the mood for fun in these plays, so these are about the only photos I took. 


Dec: Beauty and the Beast by Trudy West, dir. Isabel Duff.


Nobody had offered to write a Panto, so for the first time, we had to buy the script. I wasn't involved, so I don't have much of a memory of it. 'Rosemary' appears to have been some sort of Pantomime animal, with the experienced Iain Ronald up front! By the looks of the cast and crew credits, there's been a heavy Glebe Primary input again.


Mar: See You Tomorrow by Frank Bickery, dir. Gerry Welsh for Two Guys & A Girl


Apr: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, dir. Andy Baird for Kaleidoscope Theatre Company

A particularly handsome cast.  L-R Graeme Robertson, Carole Cassidy, Isabelle Murdoch, Donald Munro.

The slab boys - sorry, Graeme and Donald, approached me  to join Kaleidocscope to direct this classic American play. I was about to leave STV, so the invitation came at exactly the right time. We were a new, professional company, who, using our experiences at HAC were aiming our sights high. We still had the vital part of Laura to cast, and nearly got Natalie Robb, whom Graeme and I knew from High Road, and who later went on to great acclaim in The Bill. But she couldn't commit, so Donald suggested Carole, whom he'd worked with before, and she fitted perfectly into the difficult role. We played at HAC first, of course, and a couple of other gigs, one even in a 'real' theatre, Greenock Arts Guild. But that was it, and I can't remember now exactly why we didn't do any more. However, we had a lot of fun and laughs - I'll always remember Graeme and Donald warming up in the dressing room by going through old Two Ronnies sketches. It was a good show, if I do say so myself, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I'll always be most proud of this and 'Our Town'.


June: Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekov, dir. Christine Stanley for the Cunninghame Arts Festival.


A marvellous set, designed and built by committee!

Did we really cover the whole stage with laminate flooring?






Oct: The Orchestra by Jean Anouilh, dir. Ian Dickson




 I can't remember much about this. Neither can Pat and she was in it!

She does remember miming to music using cardboard instruments, the great hairstyles and the great costumes!








Dec: Three Cheers For Father Christmas by Chris Doveton, dir. Gemma Ramsay, co-production with The Society.

Not what you could call a Harbour Theatre production per se, however, it was the official HAC Xmas show of that year, and Donald Munro and David Jamieson were involved, so that counts. My memory is that HAC's contribution was fairly minimal, but I may be wrong, in which case I apologise, as I wasn't directly involved. I believe audiences received it very well, though.


Mar: The Sailmaker by Alan Spence, dir. Derek Murdoch (also touring dates for CDC's Outreach programme)

The cast. Back L-R Paul Welsh, Derek Murdoch. Front, George Miller, Gerry Welsh.

This was a contemporary work by a working Scottish writer, set in Glasgow shipbuilding community in the 60's, and we should have done more of that genre.





June: Don't Blame It On The Boots by NJ Warburton, dir. Rosemary Philips and The Bald Prima Donna by Eugene Ionesco, dir. Sheila Campbell. 


Dec: The Adventures of Dick McWhittington written/dir. Andy Baird 



Unbelievably, for a play wot I wrote, I have no photos or programme, and actually can't remember much about it or even who was in it!

Anybody help?

The plot only vaguely followed the original story (hey I'm not daft) but still had traditional Panto ingredients. Maybe if I dig out the script, I'll remember more!





Mar: Burns and Blisters, written/compiled/dir by the cast

Another bar show.


June: A Collier's Tuesday Tea and Streuth! by authors too numerous to mention, dirs. Andy Baird and Sheila Campbell respectively.


  Most of the 'Collier's' cast. L-R Frank O'Neill, Iain Ronald, Sina Meinusch, Derek Murdoch Jnr. Dorothy Mackie, Pat, Lynsey Murdoch. You can't really tell here, but the cast is actually holding up the table.




Most of the Streuth! cast. L-R Dorothy Mackie, Edmund Gaw, Derek Murdoch, Frank O'Neill, Doreen Chrichton, Garry MacCallum, Derek Jnr. Note the terrible 'corpse' ! 



 These two short one-acters, in the style of Michael Green's 'Coarse' theatre, were our second foray into the genre, not meaning where the language is coarse (that was usually kept to rehearsals!), but where things are meant to go wrong deliberately and some bad acting is required (see Moby Dick and Henry X Pt VII).

'Collier's' was a spoof of DH Lawrence, so everyone had a Yorkshire accent. I gave a visiting German student teacher Sina Meinusch a part, after explaining it carefully to her, and she tried her best with the strange dialect. She failed of course, but the combination of Yorkshire and German was hilarious, and absolutely in the Coarse tradition. Try it for yourself! An old friend, the Harbour Theatre Wheelchair made its last ever appearance in this show, being used by Iain Ronald, who had probably his biggest speaking part.

The plot was irrelevant, something along the lines of hard times and 'Trooble at t'pit'. The accents were surprisingly good, maybe even too good! New face Dorothy Mackie was a real comedy find! At the end, the table whose legs fell off one by one, collapsed on cue, something of a great feat of skill by the cast who had to control its gradual disintegration. There's a version of it on YouTube here

'Streuth!' was a takeoff of the murder mystery 'Sleuth', set in a country manor house, and inhabited by stock characters - the Major, his idiot son, a police Inspector, the corpse, the Vicar, etc. Strangely, there was no butler, so he didn't do it. Again, there's a version of it on YouTube here

The two plays were pretty short, so rather than short-change the audience, we filled the gap with musical items. Stage Manager Andrea Fyffe, in her alter ego of part-time cabaret singer Coco, sang something moody. Frank O'Neill gave a show-stopping performance of New York New York, and Edmund Gaw sang something too. If you were paying attention, you would have seen Edmund appear briefly in the heats of the last series of Britain's Got Talent.


Sept: Showtime Tribute, devised/dir. by June McGuire

 Blimey, a Harbour Theatre dance show? Ah but, dear reader, the difference here was that it was choreographed by a professional dancer, and despite including some members who would cheerfully admit to not kowing their left from their right, was actually very good! There's a lot of names here I don't recognise, so undoubtedly they were brought in to make us look good.


Dec: Jack and the Beanstalk by Frank O'Neill, dir. Rosemary Philips.  

 How ironic - our first and our last panto. . . . . .  


No productions.

I think it was this year I started to write a Panto, and put an article in the local press asking for volunteers, but there weren't enough to cast it, so it remained unfinished.


June: The Steamie by Tony Roper, dir Jean Park.


L-R Simone Lucas, Isabel Duff, Moira Magarrell, Christine Cripps.

There had been no activity at all in 1997, but enough of us were determined not to see Harbour Theatre die, so in one last attempt to get things moving again, Jean came up with this perhaps most famous of modern Scottish plays, which she was able to cast partly by way of another newspaper article. Simone was an aspiring Kilwinning actress, and, hallelujah, could sing. Moira came from Stewarton Drama Group and WAS Mrs Culfeathers. Most of the rest of the cast and crew was made up of Jean's friends and family! I knew the show well of course, having worked on the TV version some ten years previously. We knew it would be popular, and booked it for four nights. We nearly got killed in the rush for tickets. Indeed, people were still enquiring about them after the run had ended. Immediately, we realised we'd hit a rich seam, so decided to repeat it the following year, this time as a Xmas show. The cast and crew was made to promise they'd be available!


Dec: The Steamie by Tony Roper, dir. Jean Park

L-R standing. Simone, Eileen Ballantyne, Jean, Steven Cripps, Christine, Moira. Seated Pat, Denise Morton.

Steamie Time soon came along. We'd  stored the set and as many props as possible, and rehear-sals went well, everybody slipping easily into their parts. The cast and crew was the same as before, with a few exceptions - Paul Welsh replaced me on sound, and Alex Morrison replaced Robbie Hurst as ASM. Rae Millar wasn't available, so there just was one less customer. In the final days of rehearsal, though, we were hit with a bombshell. Isabel's bad back problem had returned, and there was no way she could have done the show. As most of the tickets were already booked, the old theatrical adage came into force - The Show Must Go On!. With something like three days notice, Jean got the head down and learned the part - what a trouper!

One memory I will always have about plays at HAC was that, since the floor the audience walked in on was the same level as the stage, some would occasionally wander around the set, just being nosey. Also, if people had seats on the front row furthest from the door, they would often just walk straight across the set. This happened once DURING a Panto when a guy had to take a couple of kids to the loo!! I even caught somebody looking through a set of drawers once, so I used to put rude notices in them, just in case it happened again. (What were they going to do - complain?) Anticipating well-meaning 'interference' like that, we pre-rigged a joke. On the front of the sink in the photo is a number label, 58. On all the others sinks, the labels were securely attached, but this one, we left hanging on one nail. Sure enough, nearly every night somebody in the front row couldn't resist trying to put it back in place, to 'fix' it!


 And that was it, the last show after 34 years.

When it became clear there would be no place for an amateur group such as ours in the 21st Century HAC, we met as Harbour Theatre one last time in 2003, officially closed Harbour Theatre, and raised a glass to ourselves in the bar.

We'd had tons of laughs, and had made some lasting friendships. Many of us had grown up (and grey!) with each other. Some friends are no longer with us to share this nostalgia, so we've had tears too. People had fallen out and had made up again, people had met and married, some had broken up. I am proud of our achievements and the professional standards we worked to.  All of you will always have my thanks and admiration.  

Our shows were good - the worst that could be said of any one of them was 'adequate'. 

A few were, in fact, outstanding, and you will have your favourites.


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