Love on the Dole 1935-2010: ‘Programmes Jealously Preserved’

In his memoir, There Was a Time (Cape, 1967), Greenwood spent considerable care describing his mother’s love of culture – poetry, reading, and music, especially opera – and how she gained access to these cultural experiences, despite being very poor during at least the first three decades of the twentieth century. I have talked elsewhere about her attitude to poetry and books, and her determination that despite very poor schooling Walter would also have access to the culture she saw as essential to sustain a proper life, as well perhaps as a doorway to an alternative world of hope, or even escape from Hanky Park. See The Autodidact’s Introduction to Love on the Dole: the Nelson Anthology of Modern Drama (1936)

At several points, Greenwood writes particularly about Elizabeth Greenwood’s love and knowledge of opera. While his father was alive, his barber’s shop at no 56 Ellor Street brought some welcome and varied cultural opportunities:

Playbills from the local theatres were displayed in our shop and, for this service, Father was given complimentary tickets. Those to do with music hall were his preserve; drama in any form and, above all, opera, grand or comic, was Mother’s. The record of her attendance of these over many years was kept in a cupboard drawer in the form of programmes jealously preserved (There was a Time, p. 59).

That memory dates from before 1912. After her husband’s early death in that year, Elizabeth Greenwood worked at various waitressing jobs in cafes and restaurants to make ends meet. In one of these venues used by Manchester University staff, she did not much benefit from tips, but, once the customers found out about her interests, she was regularly given local concert and opera tickets instead, and so was able to continue her passion, despite the family’s poverty (see There Was a Time, pp.139-40). A later chapter about Greenwood’s mother in the period around 1932 shows that twenty years later she was still preserving and adding to her programme collection, and treasuring programmes both as souvenirs of some of the most valuable experiences of her life, and as handy sources of knowledge about culture. Indeed, it is notable that they are added to the precious book-case which Elizabeth Greenwood has been left by her labour activist father:

My eye was caught by the Opera House programme lying atop yesterday’s Manchester Guardian, both of which my mother had brought home late last night … He [James Moleyns, a friend] shrugged and picked up the theatre programme. ‘I came home with your mother last night. She was full of the opera’. He waved the programme and grinned. ‘Another for the collection. Lord, look at them all!’ We looked at the tight-packed double row on the top shelf of the bookshelf. ‘Well,’ he said, whatever else she might have missed, she didn’t miss that’ (pp.243 and 245).

Programmes are indeed treasure-houses in several ways and many audience-members seem to have kept their programmes from various productions of Love on the Dole for many years. This article will explore a selection of theatre programmes for the play from 1935 up until 2010, focussing especially on their visual representations of Hanky Park, though also noting other kinds of knowledge about responses to Greenwood’s play which they preserve (all programme images are scanned by the author from his own collection).

The first programme is that of the first London production at the Garrick Theatre in January 1935. I have several copies of this, and they are quite often put up for sale on e-bay UK, which of course reflects the number of people who attended that first London production, but also reflects how many preserved the programme. In fact, this is quite a full programme, with ten illustrated features which make it somewhat like a magazine, justifying its calling itself ‘The Magazine Programme’ (title registered)’. Under this title is a little motto, ‘Always Enjoyed – Never Destroyed’, which clearly encourages audience members to preserve their programmes, advice which often seems to have been followed. Indeed, like a magazine, the contents altered from month to month so that it remained topical. In January the programme cost 6d, but I note that by April the price had been reduced to 3d, perhaps because of higher sales as the play began to establish a long run. Two of my copies were annotated by their owners in fountain pen (once they got home or at the theatre, I wonder?). One is dated ‘31/1/35’ and has the comment ‘A very impressive play very well performed’. (1) The other has some dates added, showing that its owner liked the play so much that she/he went to see it twice within a couple of months – once on the eighth and once on the eighteenth of March, 1935 (both evening performances). Perhaps both original owners had a book-shelf packed with programmes each annotated, or perhaps the treatment was only for selected plays which had made a strong impression? I have a third copy of this programme which I found inside a copy of the Cape edition of the play of Love on the Dole – both programme and edition are signed by Greenwood, so presumably the owner was keen to have an autographed souvenir of the experience of seeing the play at a performance where the author was present.

Annotated Garrick 1

LoD Garrick Programme twice dated

 

My next programme is from the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and is from a performance of Love on the Dole for ‘one week only’ in the week starting Monday, November 16th, 1936. The cover has a very similar design to that on the Garrick programme, but several differences to the rooves of the lower works sheds and differing numbers of windows suggest that it has been re-drawn (I wonder if permission was sought?). The title is also differently presented with a shaded font on the slant and an endorsement added: ‘The Greatest Human Play of Modern Times’, as well as an account of its origins, ‘from WALTER GREENWOOD’S Sensational Novel’. The ‘human’ perhaps signals that the play will be emotionally-engaging, while the word ‘sensational’ may imply unconventional content (perhaps violent or sexual?). The play was certainly seen as only suitable for adults, and I wonder if these two descriptions are advertising the play’s range of attractions in being moving and having adult content?

Shephers Bush LoD Programme

This is in fact a very different programme in other respects too – where ‘The Magazine Programme’ had twenty pages, as proudly advertised on the front cover, stapled together, this one has a mere four pages and is a single folded sheet. This one has no price displayed and I suspect was given away free, and perhaps as a flyer at previous weeks’ productions at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The contrasts tell us something important about the wide appeal of the play, since while the Garrick programme is what you would expect (perhaps plus) at a ‘legitimate’ West-End theatre, this one is for a venue which is a variety theatre. The Empire programme/ flyer’s role is perhaps more to bring the audience in than to provide a souvenir (and perhaps this audience would not be used to paying for information about an act). However, there is still much to treasure in the document, and its four pages are packed with material in their own style. We do not get a cast list, but we do get a carefully designed double-page spread which uses all its space to maximum effect. There are two photographs, three striking ‘headlines’ and a very concise account of the play, which is notably not a plot summary, but a much more involving statement of highlights, which give a clear sense of key characters and plot events, and their chronological order. I think ‘headlines’ is the right word, since this design surely draws on the techniques and layout of the modern popular newspaper readily to engage its likely audience. Beneath the three headlines is the ‘story’, also with its own sub-headlines, and the few remaining spaces are filled with essential information (the dates of performances) and witnesses to the play’s success provided by its record at the Garrick and then the Winter Garden and Hannen Swaffer’s endorsement. On the final page, we get a photo of Walter Greenwood to bring the author into the story and also further praise from reviewers. After seeing this flyer, how could you resist going to see this play at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire? One final thing to note is that the remaining programme for the year shown in the lower part of the page suggests that a play is not that regular an event at the Empire: other attractions include comedians, accordionists, bands, clowns, dancers and the seasonal pantomime.

Shepherds Bush inside pages

 

Shepherds Bush Back cover

So far, I do not have any programmes with specially designed covers from the nineteen-forties or fifties, so I need to leap to the nineteen-sixties and a Sheffield Playhouse programme from 1968.

Sheffield Play House LoD 1968

This has a cartoon style drawing signed Quentin Neill (whom I have not been able to trace so far). It depicts the world of the play, Hanky Park, as partly made of a bleak bare rectilinear brick building, and partly as a monstrous multi-human-headed organism. In this world, three human figures appear, two cloth-capped working-men sheltering in doorways on the ground floor, and a third, a dole clerk perhaps, is seated at a desk on the second storey, stamping a paper. The monstrous creature’s arms (or legs?) seem to hang from two holes at the sides of the building, while from another aperture in the top a neck protrudes, and quickly splits into five neck-tentacles, each topped by a head. Two heads are crowned with hats – a top hat, and a bowler, while one is distinguished by the cigar in its mouth. The remaining two heads are distinguished by grins, perhaps signifying superficial friendliness and deep untrustworthiness. These five heads together must represent the capitalist elite who benefit from Hanky Park, while the figures below represent the middle-class and working-class parts of the hierarchy. Perhaps the bowler-hatted head is Sam Grundy, the only member of Hanky Park’s upper rank of exploiters actually to appear in the play. The monster figures Hanky Park as system and its five heads captures the spirit if not the literal details of the novel’s description of those three grandees who profit from poverty ‘Sam Grundy, the gross street corner bookmaker, Alderman Ezekiah Grumpole, the money-lender proprietor of the Samaritan Clothing Club, Price the pawnbroker, each an institution’ (Penguin edition, p.24). Both novel and play certainly refer explicitly to Hanky Park as a system, as when Larry in the opening speech of the play, a political speech on the street outside the Hardcastle house, says:

And to find the cost of this present system you have only to look at our own lives and the lives of our parents and their parents. Labour never-ending, pawnshops, misery and dirt. No time for anything bright and beautiful. Grey depressing streets, mile after mile of them (Cape edition, 1935, pp.13-14).

The monstrous image of this programme in many ways captures that idea. Inside the programme there are two pages of commentary which link the play to economic and local Sheffield history, and to the fears of the present of 1968:

As this note is being written, the Star is on the news-stands headlining Sidney Greene’s forecast of 700,000 unemployed [nationally] by next spring … [in the Depression] in Sheffield and other industrial towns the figures were higher than the national average reaching from 30 to 50% of the working population. In 1931 the Sheffield total was 62,300, ten times the present figure for what was then a smaller city’ (unpaginated, but the eighth page).

There was very little unemployment in Britain for most of the sixties, but things began to look more worrying towards the end of the decade, as this unsigned commentary notes. Love on the Dole is about the thirties, but unemployment may not just be part of history.

 

My next programme is from the Nottingham Playhouse (July, 1970), when it premiered Love on the Dole as a musical (later renamed Hanky Park; book by Terry Hughes, music by Alan Fluck, lyrics by Robert Gray). The programme has a foreword by Greenwood himself, suggesting how younger people might relate to the show (discussed in ‘Walter Greenwood and the Delta Bombers’). The programme cover illustration is taken from the L.S. Lowry painting, Coming from the Mill (1930). Lowry’s paintings of Salford mill workers in the thirties might seem an obvious and good choice of material for book covers and other illustrative material for Love on the Dole, but in fact the Nottingham Playhouse were, as far as I can see, the first to connect the two Salford artists in this way. Almost exactly the same portion of Lowry’s painting (only the right hand portion) was also used on the dust-wrapper of the first German translation of Love on the Dole in 1983 (translation by Elga Abramowitz). I think the book cover was perhaps derived from the theatre programme, changing only the original’s black and pink colour scheme for a full-colour design based on the colours of Lowry’s painting (now on display at the Lowry gallery in Salford). (1) In both cases it seems a good and appropriate choice of cover (see image 19 under Walter Greenwood’s Dust-Wrappers and Covers 1933 to the present).

Nottingham Playhouse LoD 1970

 

The next programme is for the play Hanky Park, adapted for stage by Greenwood himself from his 1967 memoir, There Was a Time (this was distinct from the musical version of Love on the Dole called by the same title). This was a production by Greenwood’s friend Bernard Miles at his own Mermaid Theatre in London in 1971, and the London premiere.

Mermaid Programme 1971

This cover chooses a period photograph of what looks like an unemployed and dejected man, together with two children, the boy clutching, as if it is his most precious possession, a presumably empty margarine box. This matches the interior design of the programme, which also uses period photographs of Salford and of Greenwood’s parents, as well as two extracts from the novel of Love on the Dole, and some original autobiographical pieces by Greenwood written for the programme (see ‘Three New Autobiographical Pieces by Walter Greenwood’). This particular copy has also been made into a souvenir by its owner (Kevin?), who has collected two autographs, presumably at the stage door. These are the signatures of Sally Miles, who played Annie Boarder, and Penny Ryder, who played her daughter, Hettie Boarder. Annie Boarder is an important character in There Was a Time, the Greenwood’s ever helpful neighbour, who bears some resemblance to Mrs Bull in Love on the Dole, but is a much less ambiguous helper. Annie Boarder has a hard life living in persistent poverty and losing both husband and son in the Great War. Hettie is her surviving child and not satisfied with her job in a laundry is desperate to go on the stage, which she succeeds at in the short term.

Signed Mermaid Programme 1971

 

 

The Crewe Theatre Company put on a production of Love on the Dole in October 1975 and chose a cover making use of a strong contrast between colour and monochrome to portray Hanky Park. The orange and yellow striped sunburst pattern is presumably the world of natural light of which Hanky Park is not part – there everything is grey, dark or blank. This image might be broadly inspired by Act II, Scene 2 of the play when Sally and Larry walking on the moors can see the sunset over Hanky Park through the city’s ‘foul smoke’ (Cape edition, 1934 p.76).

Crewe LoD 1975

The Meridian Theatre Company and Oldham Coliseum programme from 1996 used a photograph of the actors playing Sally and Larry taken in a surviving alley behind housing like that of Hanky Park (or inserted into a period photograph?).

Meridian LoD 1996

 

Finally, here is the programme for the one production of Love on the Dole I have so far seen – put on by the Octagon Theatre in Bolton in 2010. I enjoyed it very much and thought it an excellent production with a very good cast. The programme articles inside provide a very full and useful context for the play, and an article by Ray Speakman, the teacher and Birmingham Youth Theatre founder, who edited the Heinemann Education edition of the play of Love on the Dole (1986). However, it is my least favourite programme cover! It is a period photograph of a happy, well-dressed, girl skipping, and I can’t see that this does speak to the play. I shall hope for new Love on the Dole productions and programmes to covet and preserve in my turn.

Bolton Octagon LoD 2010

NOTE.

Note 1. For a small scale reproduction of the whole painting see its Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_from_the_Mill