The History Of Gang Show
Gang Show is an amateur theatrical performance where the cast is made up of serving youth members of Scouts and Guides. The aim of the show is to give young people in Scouting and Guiding the opportunity to develop performance skills and to perform in a close to professional theatrical environment under the auspices of the Performing Arts Section of Scouting. Backstage personnel are in either Movements or former Gang members who have returned to follow their childrens dreams, or are volunteer helpers.
Gang Show started in London in 1932 by the late Ralph Reader C.B.E., M.B.E., who wrote many songs and sketches that are still performed aound the world today. During World War 2 Gang Shows became troop entertainment, organised by Ralph Reader as the R.A.F. Gang Show and had such notaries as Dick Emery, Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock and Norrie Paramour amongst the cast. London Gang Show's final curtain was in 1974 and Ralph passed away in 1982. Gang Shows are performed throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., Netherlands and South Africa.
When the Gang Show started in London in 1932, Ralph decided that the cast should be organised as a Scout Troop; a successful arrangement which still persists in a most Shows today. Members of the first Gang Show Troop wanted an identifying feature, with somebody deciding on a scarlet scarf. The scarlet scarf has become a worldwide symbol of Gang Shows, and to distinguish one show from another, an insignia in gold thread incorporating the show's name, is embroided into the point of the scarf.
It is said that a Gang Show is performed somewhere in the world every night due to the spread of the popularity of this type of performing by young amateur people.
Early Gang Shows in South Australia were performed in:
•1944 at Pt Augusta
•1946 in Adelaide as part of the "Welcome Home" celebrations for troops returning from overseas after World War 2
•1956 Mt Gambier – the first S.A. Gang Show to have a Vice Regal performance
•1957 Jubilee Gang Show at St Peter's College – to celebrate 50 years of Scouting
•1958 Mt Gambier
Adelaide Gang Show (AGS)
AGS was born after a meeting between the late Henry Rymill (Chief Commissioner of Scouts for S.A.) and the late John Hardy. Rehearsals began in May 1961 and the Show opened at the Unley Town Hall in August 1961. The producer was John Hardy, who continued in this role until 1990. From 1961 to 1978 AGS was performed at the Unley Town Hall and the season was traditionally 14 weeks of rehearsals with a 2 week rehearsal and 10 performance season in the theatre. In 1979 AGS moved to the Scott Theatre, on the University of S.A. campus in the city, and still performs there today. (One season was performed at Her Majesty's Theatre in 2000.) AGS has had five talented Producers since 1961 – John Hardy, Ron Clarke, Dennis Ankor, Rod Klau and Darran Swain.
•Over the 50 years of AGS production 3,500 people have been involved, this number includes Cast and Back Stage personnel – electricians, wardrobe/costumes, orchestra, catering, sound, front of house, etc.
•The early Cast consisted of only boys until 1971 when girls - Scouts, Venturers and Guides - were admitted. Prior to this females could only be in back stage areas, such as administration, make up, wardrobe/costumes and front of house usherettes and then only with strict rules.
•Casts have varied from 95 to 130 and all who appear on stage have to have make up applied – imagine having to put eye liner on between 190 to 260 eyes. Each face also has a foundation base applied and in some cases this has to be applied 3 times per performance because a member may be a clown, a tiger or lion, and then still appear in the opening and finale of the Show.
•Cast and Crew numbers vary and have been as high as 300 and today we have around 250.
•Our Properties folk have the task of supplying hand props which can be anything from a chainsaw to a pizza and in most cases not one but up to 10 or 20!
•There is between 120 to 150 changes in scenery and corresponding lighting and audio sounds during each Show.
•About 75 chickens are consumed for the meal between the matinee and final performance shows.
•Hundreds of litres of tea, coffee and cordial are poured during the rehearsal and performances.
•The construction people do not use nails, but thousands of air staples.
•Stage scenery uses approximately 100 litres of acrylic paint in all colours, each year.
•Audio supply 18 hand held individual microphones and 12 headset microphones.
•The Audio Visual Department typically generates 80Gb of Data for inclusion in the show.
•There are also many kilometres of electrical and audio leads to ensure the cast, crew and audience get the effects and sound required.
• Phil Reed, Mick Allnutt, Steve Lane and other AGS tchnical folk have assisted in major events such as the 150th of SA, Clipsal 500, Grand Prix, Womad, Schutzenfest, the Under the Stars Series of concerts and Carols By Candlelight, for a number of years.
•In 1994, 95 & 96 we supplied & installed the Xmas Trees in Rundle Mall, they were built at the AGS workshop in the Islington Rail Yard.
•Many Adelaide Festival of Arts and Fringe Festival venues also have AGS Staff involved in them.
Interesting people who started in AGS
•Keith Conlon – radio and TV personality
•Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith ( with Keith Conlon were the "Wesley Three")
•John Bannon – former S.A. Premier
•Michael Lewis – principal with the Australian Opera Company
•Politicians – Andrew Southcott and Mark Brindal
•Phil Reed – lighting technician for many years who also assisted in many major events and concerts for international stars and celebrities.
•Mick Allnutt – also a lighting technician who started with AGS as an apprentice electrician and now works for a company that lights up the Clipsal 500 and other major events and concerts with international stars and celebrities.
•Steve Lane - also a lighting technician who started with AGS and is now the Audio Visual technician for the Show. Steve, like Phil and Mick works for the company that lights up the Clipsal 500 and other major events and concerts with international stars and celebrities.
•In the 1980s and 1990s AGS supplied nearly all the extra staff a private company needed to function (9 or 12 from memory mostly lighting department) so many AGS Crew have received a start or taste of professional theatre with the interesting fact that we were a few of the only people in Adelaide that could drive the Carbon Arc Followspots at Thebarton Theatre
•Phil, Mick and Steve and others assisted in such concerts as U2, Robbie Williams, Andre Rieu, Pink Floyd, Kylie Minogue, Kelly Clarkson, Eagles, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Elton John & Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, INXS, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, John Farnham, Brian Adams, Green Day, Black Eye Peas to name a few)
•Grant Reed – a cast member back in the 1980's who is now a cruise entertainment director for the Disney Cruise ships in the U.S.A.
In 2010 we had two families that have 3 generations in AGS:
•Joan Pike started in 1979 in Wardrobe/Costumes, her daughter Vikki van Heerde (Production Secretary) and her daughter Hannah van Heerde (cast)
•Dave Morgan (1964) and wife, Anne Morgan both in Wardrobe/Costumes, their son Lance and daughter Karen both have their children in the Show. Lance's son Sam (cast) Karen's daughter Stacey (Make up) and son Chris (Stage crew)
•Many families have second generations within the Show and this has happened throughout the 50 years of production, ie John Bannon was a cast member in 1961 and his father was the set designer and scenery painter.
•The largest family contribution has been the Swain Family with the late Daphne (costumes seamstress) and the late Eric along with Bryndis (cast and choreographer), Kevin, Alarick, Lester, Mostyn, the late Gareth (all cast) and Darran (cast and current Producer)
Trivia and anecdotes•Ask any of the cast and crew who performed at the Unley Town Hall about the Loft crew and their culinary skills. The smell of raisin toast (cooked outside on the roof!) was mouth watering.
•Ask the crew about the late Roxy, the Scott Theatre technician who cooked his bacon and eggs on the overhead lights in the roof.
•The Bordertown Gangster trip where the trailer of scenery decided to leave the bus about 2kms before a scheduled stop. When the trailer was found it had crashed through a diesel bowser, luckily no one was hurt.
•Some unusual cast members – a cat, a pig and Sam the carpet python – all invested with the red GS scarf.
•Insufficient power in the hall for the show that was staged at Wilmington. Quick way around that - tap into the power from the street light.
•Special trains to Broken Hill in 1971, 1976 and 1980 - hooked to a slow moving freight train.
•1976 AGS is the only Australian Gang Show to have performed in 3 states – Mildura (Vic), Broken Hill (NSW) and our own season in Adelaide.
•1971 – having to push start a 80 seater bus on a Pt Lincoln trip – not once but twice!
•Former State Governor, the late Sir Edric Bastyan, is the only Governor to earn a red GS scarf. Sir Edric attended the Vice Regal performance on a Thursday night and informed Henry Rymill he enjoyed the Show so much he wanted to perform with the cast. Sir Edric and Henry performed in a couple of items during the matinee performance – thus Sir Edric truly earned his red GS scarf.
•AGS was ask and performed in the Adelaide Tattoo at Glenelg for 3 years. AGS also provide stage crew for the event.
•AGS has been involved with the Credit Union Xmas Pageant for the past 12 years and provides approximately 110 personnel every year. AGS provides 6 clowns, 16 participates (Colour Me Swirlies), as well as Change Room Security, Pageant Marshalls, Child Minders, Prop Marshalls, Accessories, Couriers, Lane Marshalls, Float Marshalls, Pageant Director's Secretary, Photographers and Video Camera Operators, Stage Crew, and a Stage Manager. However, we also assist with other jobs on the day as required by the Pageant Manager. AGS also assist on the Friday before Pageant day and loads and upload trucks ready for the big day, we also assist with packing up after the pageant on the Saturday afternoon. It's a huge weekend but also a fun weekend.
•During the 2000 final night performance at Her Majesty's Theatre the Sydney Olympic Torch was run across the stage, during the Finale – causing instantaneous and thunderous applause from the audience as this was the actual day the Olympic Torch Relay was run through the suburbs and City of Adelaide.
•AGS has produced every Gang Show at all Jamborees in Adelaide. In 2004 at the AJ2004 (Adelaide Jamboree) AGS created and produced the opening and closing ceremonies, with a cast of over 300 and crew of over 200 for each ceremony. The cast and crew were from other Gang Shows and Showtimes around Australia.
•AGS has performed all over the state and interstate - Wilmington, Maitland, Port Pirie, Waikerie, Loxton, Pt Lincoln, Kingscote, Bordertown, Mt Gambier, Mildura, Whyalla, Broken Hill, Murray Bridge. Tailem Bend Noarlunga and Angaston. Some of these towns and cities being host to AGS on more than one occasion.
•ALL Scout Chief Commissioners, from Henry Rymill to John Derbyshire, have earned their red scarf by performing during the Saturday afternoon matinees.
Compiled by Chris Platten
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