The Goldington Street Gang

The Story of Unity Theatre: Sunday 10 June 2012

GSGThe Goldington Street Gang was performed by Age Exchange’s Intergenerational company to a full house including ex-Unity members, at John Ball School on Sunday 10 June 2012. It told the story of Unity Theatre through a combination of research, documents and personal reminiscence shared with Age Exchange by Warren Mitchell, Harry Landis and Rita Wagland. The early scenes created a picture of 1936 and the changes that were taking place in the world when Unity Theatre was born. Later scenes contained extracts from some of Unity’s most important shows such as Waiting For Lefty, Babes in the Wood, Whats Left and The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. These scenes were set against the personal stories of Unity members such as Harry Landis’ audition and work during the War, Warren Mitchell’s first performance at Unity and his memories of the sketch called Oklahokum from the post-war revue What’s Left. Rita Wagland had generously given a copy of a waltz written by her late husband Frank when he was 13 and it served as the background music to the story of how Rita and Frank had met at Unity.

The show was dedicated to Frank Wagland, whom Age Exchange had met at The Parker Centre Enfield in 2011 and who had sadly died later that year.

Comments

“After seeing The Goldington Street Gang I was reminded of the film and TV star Alfie Bass`s comments, ‘I can`t imagine anything more inspiring than creating a revue with a real purpose … It was special because it was collective’. This afternoon`s `entertainment` was special because it was collective and a special thanks to all the performers – it was an experience that reminded me what it was like for a street kid to be so inspired by revues, Music Hall and political panto!” Jack O’Connor, Unity Member

“Like the large audience for this event, I was absolutely delighted with the performance by a group whose ages ranged from about 9 to over 70 years of age. This was a piece which included historic events of world-shattering importance, such as The Battle of Cable Street, The Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, but also inter-weaved these with the story of Unity Theatre: how it originated in 1936 and presented key plays such as Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets, works by Bertholt Brecht and innovative projects like the `Living Newspaper`. We had original research from the group from their interviews with such luminaries as Harry Landis and Warren Mitchell whilst Rita Wagland spoke of the work and music by her husband Frank, who not only wrote music for Lionel Bart but also created original music and devised the very popular Unity Theatre Music Halls – to packed houses – up until the 1990`s.” Maureen Coman, Unity Vice Chair and Trustee

“I do know that my family and friends all enjoyed the production. I was so pleased to see you had such a good turnout. Congratulations to you and your cast for all the hard work that you put in.” Rita Wagland, Unity Member

 

 
The show was dedicated to Frank Wagland, whom Age Exchange had met at The Parker Centre Enfield in 2011 and who had sadly died later that year.

Unity Theatre began in England in the 1930s, a product of the growing left wing theatre movement. It was created to be a theatre for the working class and it premiered plays by writers like Bertolt Brecht, Sean O’Casey and Clifford Odets. Unity pioneered new ways of making theatre through devised work, music, improvisation and satire. During the war Unity continued to produce plays and entertained people in shelters and parks. Over the years the actors and writers associated with Unity have included Bill Owen, Alfie Bass, Harry Landis, David Kossoff, Una Brandon Jones. Warren Mitchell, Lionel Bart, Michael Gambon and Bob Hoskins among its members. It remains one of the most influential and important theatre movements in the 20th century British theatre.