History of Company shows
The 130th Glasgow Company, The Boys’ Brigade first experimented with a “show” in the 1970’s. An evening of fund-raising for the blind was planned and “Café Noir” took the format of a light meal being served to parents and friends at candle-lit tables around the church hall interspersed with musical, cabaret-style items.
In 1976 and 1978, “The Munchkin’s Garden” and “Fingals Cave-In”, were short musical plays which were performed after the audience had enjoyed a three course meal. The stage area in the centre of the hall was made from the tops of table tennis tables placed on top of dozens of milk crates. The performers were senior Boys and younger ones with a bit of talent. The other Boys from the Company worked behind the scenes or were waiters.
By 1980, the Company’s staff included John Cammidge, a BBC cameraman who had access to microphones, lighting, a professional mixing desk and speakers, and Gregor Anderson, a teacher who had access to scenery and props. The shows could now be staged to a much higher standard. That year, “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind” was produced with great use of lighting and sound effects.
1982 saw “Hi Noon!”, a tale set in a wild-west saloon with an evil rancher trying to take over someone’s land. The saloon also had musical performers – a barber shop quartet and even Can-Can dancers. Laurel and Hardy performed “On The Trail of The Lonesome Pine” and Fairy Nuff performed “Wandrin’ Star”.
The format continued in 1984 with “A Fistful of Splonders” set in Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest. The hall was decked in army camouflage to create a forest effect and, by then, almost every Boy in the Company had a part on stage. There was even a song parody with the musical accompaniment being provided by someone who was a music teacher.
1986 saw “Roman In The Gloamin’” with murderous Caledonians taking on Julius Caesar. Scenery was borrowed from a city centre department store and the hall had Roman columns and statues. The stage was constructed with BBC rostra and the show finished with an audience sing-a-long to some more musical parodies written by the BB Staff.
In 1988, “Caper Ceilidh” was staged over two evenings. The first night’s tickets were sold at a lower price for the show only while the second night included the meal. A haunted Scottish castle with two feuding families, sword dancers, a coach load of tourists and an evil tax inspector singing “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” were all included.
In 1990, the decision was made to discontinue the meal and to use the actual church hall stage and curtains. Seating was in theatrical rows and the WWII Colditz castle drama “Where Seagulls Dare” raised funds for deaf children. British and German uniforms were hired from a shop in the city centre. ‘Vera Lynn’ performed and a group of Boys with plastic instruments mimed to a Glen Miller number.
1992’s “A Space Oddity” had aliens landing in Glasgow where they encountered Rab C. Nesbitt, Taggart, The Broons, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs and even members of the Royal Family. As in War Of The Worlds, the aliens were defeated by a simple earthly substance – this time it was Irn-Bru – and the show raised money for the Motor Neurone Trust.
In 1994, “Hi Noon!” was re-worked and extended as “Dunces With Wolves” (with cabaret from ‘Tammy Wynette’, a rambling Country & Western singer and ‘Elvis’) and, in 1996, “A Fistful of Splonders” was re-worked as “Sherwood Shenanigans”. Robin & Marion duetted in “Something Stupid” and the merry men performed as Take That. The Town Crier narrated and read out topical news items.
What was to be the last show was 1998’s re-working of “Roman In The Gloamin’” as “Chariots For Hire”. Julius Caesar was duly murdered but Sherlock Holmes was somehow brought in to solve the crime. The interval had an audience-participation game of “Play Your Cards Right”.
Latterly, every Boy in the Company was involved and appeared on stage. Obviously, the older or more talented ones got the main parts and singing roles but every Boy gained great experience from performing in public. The Staff manfully directed, worked the sound and lights, painted scenery and stage-managed. Jokes from the shows (some of which the younger Boys did not even understand) became Company catch-phrases and are still remembered fondly by those who took part.
Cystic Fibrosis, TEAR Fund, the Blind Society, the Motor Neurone Trust, Scottish Cot Death Trust, Scottish Deaf Children and the Association for Restricted Growth in Children have all been supported through these events and representatives from these charities were sometimes able to attend the show to see our efforts and to be presented with a cheque at the end of the evening.